Tag: business

Business isn’t easy. Generally, when I look back at how much work it has taken to get a business off the ground, I wonder if I had known what I know now if I would still be willing to put in all that work all over again.

I’m not sure if transforming a business is easier than starting one, but it’s a painful process and getting started can be daunting. Lucky for you, this blog post came along at just the right time and will help organize your mind around all the soul-crushing work you have to do. 

You’re welcome. 

Attract Better People 

Are you looking for the same sorts of people in all the same spots your competitors are? Analyze the way you are searching for help. Are you using language and incentives that make it clear to the top 1% in your field that you are the best place to work in your industry?  

Do you hire only for experience? or do you hire for mindset and core attributes and train for skill?

Clarify your message

What do you offer and what truly sets you apart from your competition? Don’t give generic answers; if the answers you give to these questions is the same as ANY of your competitors, then it’s back to the drawing board.

Once you have it clear make sure all of your employees can recite it backward in their sleep while underwater in a bathtub (no not literally).  

Train your employees regularly

How often do you train your employees? If the answer isn’t on the tip of your tongue then you don’t have a good answer. Anything less than once a week isn’t enough. Habits are about repetition. An emailed memo will not change the behavior and habits of your team. Get out there and train, do role-playing and do it all over again next week. 

I confess that the very BEST training in our business happens when we hop in the truck and ride around with our people, often we as leaders are the ones getting the training. 

Track your key numbers 

First, you need to know your key numbers. For years, baseball scouts thought that RBI and defensive stats were among the best indicators of baseball success. Turns out they were wrong. Billy Beane, GM of the Oakland A’s found that on-base percentage was the most valuable number, so he began choosing players and training to that metric instead of the others. Guess what? They started winning.  

For HVAC we find that callback rate, customer satisfaction or net promoter score and billable per hour are some of the best field metrics.

For the overall business, you need to always be clear on your cash and you net value (cash + receivables – payables) as well as keeping a close eye on net profit and overhead %. 

Prepare for a rainy day

Take all of your business expenses for 3 months and add them up. Do you have that much liquid cash in the bank? If not, start saving retained earnings until you hit that level of reserves. You never know what tomorrow holds and the businesses that last have enough cash to weather a storm. 

Learn from your customers

Start by taking customer surveys, but not the way big companies do it. Instead, create a list of 2-5 questions and call your best customers once a year and check in on how they feel you are doing. Some great questions are:

  1. “When was the closest time you have come to using another provider?” 
  2.  “What service or product do you wish we offered that we currently don’t?”.   

Get better at sales 

Sales is both overrated and underrated, simultaneously. Overrated because what most people think of as “selling” is an antique remnant of the cigar-smoking, back-slapping, used car salesman model. Sales aren’t pressuring customers to buy stuff by a few dudes with the “gift of gab”. 

Sales is something all employees need to be doing with every customer by discovering their needs, fears, and desires and then providing them with solutions for which they pay you. Sales is both elegantly simple and ridiculously difficult as it requires the lost art of listening. 

The good news is that once you accomplish these 7 hideously daunting tasks you will have a business you can truly write home about…. If you still have the energy. 

— Bryan

When working in a business with people, you have two options:

1. Become bitter as you experience people and life and issues
2. Grow from experiencing people and life and issues.

 

I’m not proud to say it, but I realize now that when I started my business and had bad experiences, I would run to option #1. and start building a wall between people and myself. Every difficult situation would bring me to my wall and I’d add another row of bricks.

It happens. We get taken advantage of, our expectations are completely dashed and unmet, we lose money, our ego is crushed, etc.

Often times money was never the issue for me, but it was more a matter of emotional heartache and inconvenience. 

A quick example: In the early stages of starting our family business I had a commercial customer where I was installing air conditioners within cell phone tower equipment rooms. Every job made money, but frustration would build with last minute changes on their part. We’d make special trips to get different supplies to help meet their demands, and I sensed in myself that I was building my wall higher and having thoughts like: “I will not work with these types of jobs in the future”

I see now that I was putting an emotional limit on myself and was simply-unwilling to grow.

Instead of focusing on the fact that I had an opportunity to expand and broaden both my experience and customer base, I was shrinking my horizon by committing to only approach things that I was comfortable with and things that I naturally enjoyed doing.

While I didn’t give up entirely on insane projects, I would often be heard saying to a customer, “We aren’t taking on that type of project at this time” or to the office personnel I’d say, “Nope, I’m not going to deal with the difficulty of that type of customer.”

Somehow I felt as if I was being a strong leader by being willing to “Just say no.” 

I was fooling myself. Instead of allowing circumstances to be an opportunity to grow, I was allowing circumstances to control my behavior.

What changed for me was coming to realize that I spent too much time judging motives and allowing the behavior of others to affect how I looked at my business and purpose.

As time passed I came to see that I could keep on the way I was going, but I wanted more. I wanted to expand myself, I wanted to see that others’ crazy wasn’t so terrible after all. In fact, I too have a form of crazy; it just looks different than someone else’s.

Why not choose to work together and support one another instead of creating walls of indifference? Find enough common ground to make it a win/win situation.

While I would still say there are times to say “no” to a job or a potential customer, it’s based off of different reasons than what I had before. It might be “No, I can’t make money on this job,” or “My employees just don’t have the skills and/or equipment to handle this problem,” or “The scope of work is way too vague for me to bid on this,” instead of the old “This is new and unfamiliar. I’m not doing this!”

In summary:

  • Find opportunities in difficulties
  • Shed fears and embrace new things
  • Find common ground with others and don’t judge their motives
  • People are crazy, and so are you
  • Valuing others will genuinely grow you as an individual, and as a business


What is an experience where you’ve had to deal with heartache, but can still see it as an area of growth?

 

 

This is a business article I wrote several years ago. No hard hitting tech tips but I still hope you find it beneficial.


“What would you do if you had a time machine.” It’s a question that came up at least 17 times in your first week of 6th grade, answered with the typical “Kill Hitler” and “See dinosaurs” answers. It can be more than a juvenile question if you apply it to your business.

So. Time machine. What would you do?

The rules are that you only get to go back 10 years and in this time machine you can only go back and give yourself business advice. No stock picking or lottery numbers you cheater! that would destroy the space-time continuum!

I wouldn’t go back and instill new skills. Skills can only be developed over time and no amount of information can make you better at something when you don’t have the hours at the grindstone.  I wouldn’t even try to prevent myself from making mistakes, as they are the catalysts for growth in the business.

 

So here are the things I would encourage myself to do differently if I could go back 10 years.  

 

Stop working in isolation

When I first started in business I kept my head down and worked. It made sense to me; there was so much to do and very few people to help me. What I didn’t understand at the time was that insulating myself caused me to become unproductive over time and helped to maintain the false reality that I was the only person willing and able to get the work done.

Over the past years, a wealth of experienced, trustworthy advisors have helped me develop and challenge my thinking in ways that I wouldn’t have imagined in my early days. Resources like business courses, mentorships and mastermind groups have allowed me to see how other people have solved my very same problems.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that “Doing the work” is critical, but it’s easy to get stuck there when you’re a one-person band. Make sure you are building in support right from the get-go.

 

Open up to possibilities

The idea of specialization was strong in me when I first started. I wanted to be clear on what I/we did and DID NOT do so that I wouldn’t lose focus. It’s interesting because in general this trait is a good thing, but the way I practiced it was shutting down opportunities before they even had a chance to take root.

“Don’t respond with negativity.” Your eyes may have just glazed over,  but that was me. My response was always “My concern is…” or “That can’t work because…” Choose responses like “That sounds very interesting” and “Tell me more about that”. By allowing the conversation to proceed without adding in negative comments I have found that we get great opportunities without over-committing.  

 

Stop Being Defensive

I used to be DEFENSIVE about my business. I took every comment and criticism to heart. I still struggle with this, but it helps to know that most people react based on what’s going on inside of them. People are generally not aware of their own “why” let alone yours, and in most cases, they won’t even listen if you tell them. Let them criticize. Respond with an “I can see where you’re coming from,” and let it go.

If I am less concerned about “What I did wrong” and instead I focus on the relationship with the other person: how I can be present with them, serve them, and learn from them. Show you care about a person more than defending yourself, and there is a much better chance that a negative experience turns positive.

At the end of the day, if something doesn’t work out, I know two things: brushing over an offense is almost never as bad as my defensive self would want me to believe it will be, and not correcting the other person will at minimum work out better than if I had let my defensive self “HANDLE” the situation.

If you could go back in time, what would you do differently in your career?  

You may not know this, but the HVAC School podcast began before the website. When I started the podcast I never intended to create a website but there was more demand for quick tech tips than the podcast could hold so we started hvacrschool.com

In the same way, I never set out to create a podcast network but here we are. I find that there are more topics than I can fit into one site or podcast so the Blue Collar Roots Network is born to allow other really smart people do what they do best. You can still hear the HVAC School podcast in all the usual spots and it will publish just as often, with all the same great types of HVAC/R training topics, but here are some new options for you.

Building HVAC science is a podcast by Trutech Tool CEO Bill Spohn. The show covers building diagnosis, test and balance, advanced measurement, design and many other important topics to the trade. The latest episode is on IAQ and you can listen HERE. You can also listen and subscribe here.

Service Business Mastery is an in-depth look at what it takes to run a successful service business by successful business owners and managers. The latest episode is on dealing with negative reviews online. You can also listen and subscribe here.

The Tools Pros podcast goes deep into all of the tools of the trade with honest reviews, as well as general discussion about uses and applications for tools. The latest episode is on tool bags and vehicle organization. You can also listen and subscribe here. 

 

— Bryan

 

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