Mike Abrashoff, former U.S. Navy Captain
Originally published: 06.01.16 by Terry Tanker
This past weekend, I watched a bit more television than usual due to our mid-May weather. In between a few peeks of sunshine, it rained a lot, snowed a little and hailed a bit. I caught one of our family's favorite movies, "Meet Joe Black." Bill Parish (Anthony Hopkins) is a rich newspaper publisher who meets Death (Brad Pitt), but not before Hopkins shows him around for a week. Hopkins gives a speech at his 65th birthday party and reminisces, "65 years … don't they go by in a blink?"
Those words struck me, knowing that over the last several months we've been preparing to publish our anniversary issue this month. Indeed, 10 years have gone by in a blink.
We spent the first 25 years as HVACR News, a news and product tabloid. The vision for this publication, however, was something new and different — a publication focused on business management. And so, with the help of Jim McDermott, Ron Smith, Ruth King, Mike Coyne, Theo Etzel, Tonya Vinas, Guy Kawasaki and many others, the magazine was re-launched in June of 2006 as HVACR Business. This month, we celebrate our 35th year in business and the 10th anniversary
I re-read the initial business plan I wrote back then, and several themes were consistent throughout. First, have fun. I've always thought work isn't really work if you're having fun — more like a hobby that pays dividends each month.
Next, find and retain good people to help deliver a great product. Our product is simple — great business management content that helps contractors manage their businesses better. And finally, show advertisers how our content attracts the best, most influential contractors in the country.
We hammered away on the fundamentals of running a business. The building blocks owners needed to ensure they built strong profitable companies. More contractors than I care to remember didn't have a written business plan or website back when we first started.
A Publisher's Page I wrote in September of 2006 (Have a Bone to Pick? — Diagram It) offered the model for a one-page business plan created by Professor Kaoru Ishikawa, a Japanese quality control statistician. The "fishbone diagram" has been available on our website in Word, Excel and PowerPoint, and has been downloaded more than 25,000 times.
Many of those same readers now demand more and more complex and advanced business content.
I've received some great notes, letters and emails over the years yet one has always stuck with me and has helped guide our editorial direction.
A contractor owner from Florida, who had a highly successful firm, had just finished reading a series of articles we had published on company culture. He told me his company "used to be" the firm at which everyone wanted to work. But, success had removed him from many of the day-to-day tasks and they were struggling to find the talent needed. After finishing our series, he understood why.
His firm had become more about numbers than people — something he promised he was personally going to change. That particular series was centered on the basics of building a great company culture, something his company had now lost. His advice to me — don't get away from writing about the basics; no matter how successful you become, you always need them.
As a result, to this day we always have a mix of basic, intermediate and advance business articles in each issue.
One of the editorial cornerstones we developed was our Tops in Trucks Fleet Design Contest. Through research, we knew contractors' fleets were viewed with many different lenses. Some saw them simply as a depreciable asset, some a necessary part of the service equation, yet others saw their fleet — no matter the size — as their single best and brightest marketing tool.
One of those — our first contest winner, Carmine Galletta — was certainly a leader and on the cutting edge with the design he developed for his fleet. I interviewed Carmine in September of 2007 for our 20 Questions column, and had the pleasure of interviewing him again for this month's issue (pg. 30). We caught up on how his business has grown, how business has changed the last 10 years on Long Island and how his fleet design has evolved to keep pace.
Over the years, we've had hundreds and hundreds of entries and more than 30 Tops in Trucks winners and runners up. Looking back, designs have changed too — they've become more professional, and we'd like to think our contest has played a big part in that.
Finally, thank you for being a subscriber and for being part of the "fun" we publish each month for you.
Terry Tanker has more than 25 years of experience in the advertising and publishing industries. In addition to his experience in advertising and publishing, Terry has worked closely with numerous industry-related associations over the years including AHRI, AMCA and ABMA. He currently serves on the board of NATE (North American Technicians Excellence Association). He has also served on the Board of Directors for the American Boiler Manufactures Association (ABMA) and as chairman for both the Associates Committee and the Marketing Communications Committee.