Investing in Your Business

Originally published
Originally published: 12/1/2008

Building a team of dependable personnel, offering a reliable product, and performing your services in a consistently trustworthy way will quickly separate you from the pack. 

When we think of “equity” the first thing that comes to mind is the “equity” in our homes. Wisely purchasing and reinvesting into a home, we can typically expect to build this equity and, over time, make a profit on our homes. However, this is also true with investing into the quality of a product or business to create more profit.

Bay Furnace, has been successfully in business since 1944 and is currently on its third generation of ownership. Primarily residential, we’ve worked with several generations of families. How does a company maintain that kind of customer loyalty? It’s not by being the cheapest game in town. That will only get you week-to-week success.

To become truly successful and profitable, you must earn the customer’s trust. A customer will buy from someone they trust; often, with less consideration on price than you think.

How do you earn that trust? Here are a few areas that, with small investments, will prove to add value.

You must always be evaluating your employees. In his book, “Get Marvinized! The Professional’s Guide to Sales Success,” Marvin E. Montgomery, a successful and well-published sales consultant, says “You’re company is only as good as the weakest employee.” He suggests you should “have zero tolerance with employees that are detrimental to business.” And “always be hiring.” Sounds tough, but in a referral based business we can’t afford to scare away prospective customers.

In another book, Marvin recommends that we “inspect what we expect”. Call customers back, have questionnaires and do “ride-alongs” with your staff. Make sure they’re “treating every customer like she was your boss’ mom.”

It’s a fact. Surround yourself with qualified, dependable staff and the production output increases exponentially.

The best way to recruit and keep quality personnel is to communicate with your employees. Ask service technicians and installers for their opinions on business issues, designs and customer relations — when applicable. Feeling more involved in the big picture of a business always makes one feel like a player in the business, and there’s no monetary amount that can match that.

Also, recognize good work. Let a person know when they’ve done a good job and thank people for their hard work. You cannot put a dollar figure on a wellplaced “atta boy.”

Try to promote from within — this encourages employees to focus on developmental goals. Pair these things with good pay, benefits, incentives, training and increasing responsibility, and you’ll find yourself building a strong team of highly qualified people.

More than thirty years ago we chose to align with a trusted manufacturer. The reason is simple, we work primarily with families who tend to stay in their houses for long periods of time. We wanted a brand behind us that had dependability and longevity, a company that not only we could trust, but that our customers would also trust.

As a company you’ll want to offer a product that not only proves to be high quality, but also backs you up in other ways, for example, technical support, advanced training and availability. Other aspects of a high-quality product might be marketing assistance, co-op dollars for your fleet and for advertising, and customer assistance with financing.

You also need to have people in place that are highly skilled at working with the particular brand you choose.

Being a sheet metal fabrication company, we feel that we have an edge on our competition because our owner is a third generation fabricator, and quite frankly, he’s one of the best in the industry. You should be able to say the same about your people. For a successful business like ours, it pays to have people who know how to properly evaluate, size, fabricate, and install the ductwork for proper air distribution. Qualified and highly skilled employees will help to quickly separate your company from your competition, and it will increase the equity of your business.

It’s been said that if you do a good job, customers will tell five of their friends and associates. On the other hand, if you do a poor job, they’ll tell fifteen of their friends and associates and will make it a much better story.

A good product installed or repaired by a good technician means very little if the performance of the company throughout the experience is flawed in some other way. You’ll add to your equity by being referred by those whose trust you’ve earned.

Nobody is perfect. Be forthcoming with a customer if mistakes are made. You look much better if you approach a customer with any problems, rather than them finding out later. Nobody expects perfection all the time, but if there’s trust, your customer will always do business with just you.

Develop, Share a Mission

Our mission statement, “The right people, doing the right things, for the right reasons – every time,” defines how we’ve gotten from 1944 through today, and how we feel we can continue to be “equitable” for the next sixty-four years. All of our employees know the mission, and those words are visible throughout our company.

It takes time to become a quality company in any business. Whether the economic times are lean or fat, the equity you build through the quality you strive for will make the difference between being just another hvacr guy, and being the company that everyone knows and with who they want to do business.

Paul Dooney is the project manager and Bay Furnace in Cleveland, Ohio. The family-owned company specializes in the sale, service, replacement, and installation of furnaces, air conditioners, heating and cooling accessories, Unico systems, hot water tanks, UV lights, humidifiers, boilers, heat pumps, air cleaners and thermostats.

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