Think you can’t afford it? Here’s why you can’t afford not to train.
When you think about investing in your business, you probably envision upgrading your facilities, purchasing new equipment, and buying new vehicles. All too often, hvacr contractors overlook investing in their most valuable commodity — their employees.
When I discuss training with hvacr contractors, they usually say something like, “I can’t afford training.” Yet, research estimates that 70% of all hvacr equipment installed during the last decade has inadequate airflow; 67% has been improperly charged; and 72% of the systems are oversized. In the end, lack of appropriate training has cost contractors and their customers millions of dollars on wasted energy.
This is not a sustainable business model. If you aren’t training today, don’t expect a profitable tomorrow. Here are five reasons why:
- Equipment is only as good as the quality of the installation. Years ago, mechanical equipment functioned in such a way that one could figure out the program by being clever. With energy costs rising, our industry sought to maximize the performance efficiency of hvacr equipment by advancing from the electro-mechanical age into the digital age of sealed systems. Being clever is no longer good enough. Proper technician training is the only method by which we can meet the challenges of installing and servicing modern hvacr systems.
- Perception is reality. Does the technician match the perceived company image your company is trying to promote? Today’s contractors are not selling just a product; they are selling an image. If the technician is not trained in customer service skills or is technically lacking, the customer will know it, remember it, and tell everyone else about it. The power of a good experience goes a long way. Word of mouth is still the strongest — and in some cases the most effective — form of advertising. It is essential that companies invest in their image to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
- Training can increase your bottom line. Homeowners and businesses are concerned with today’s rising energy costs. Programs focusing on energy auditing can teach your employees to perform detailed inspections that lead to cost-effective energy solutions that can improve a building’s energy efficiency. These recommendations will sell new equipment that the owner would not otherwise consider, and in the end increases your bottom line. This will happen, though, only if you properly train your technicians. When customers purchase new equipment, they often want to know why the new equipment costs more than their old equipment. The obvious explanations are system sizing, proper charging, and airflow. However, how many technicians know how to perform a combustion analysis when installing a new gas furnace? A common phrase is “the flame was blue, and I did my job.” Teaching proper combustion analysis can save the consumer money and prevent unneeded litigation for the contractor. (Combustion analysis means taking the time to verify that the air fuel ration is set to manufacturer’s specifications. This sounds straightforward, yet it is a seldom occurrence that a technician performs one. Why? Lack of training!) Also, improper air fuel ratios lead to a system not being as efficient as specified by the manufacturer. In addition, a lack of a combustion analysis can lead to carbon monoxide being released. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas, often referred to as the silent killer.
- New regulations require ongoing education. New government regulations that address energy efficiency and environmental concerns will dramatically change the type of equipment contractors will work on in the next few years. Gordon Holness, past president of ASHRAE, states that this will take the need for training to a higher level.
- Training makes employees more valuable. Training your employees will reduce the number of callbacks you receive, making your business more profitable. You will be making more revenue per employee and achieving a higher ROI on hard assets such as equipment and trucks. Education needs to be perpetual and not just something offered in the slow months.
Training opportunities are abundant in today’s marketplace — through your local wholesale distribution network, community colleges, trade schools, webinars, and other resources. Contractors can also offer in-house training, allowing them to tailor training to their specific needs. A variety of publications, software, and other resources are available as packaged modular training programs.
There is an old saying: You can be penny wise and dollar foolish. Poorly trained employees can cost your company far more than training itself. As the hvacr industry enters the second decade of the 21st century, challenges will multiply. You can meet these challenges with a proper staff-development program that includes year-round training of your employees.
Make certain your most important asset — your employees — can take part in your plans to increase business in the years to come.
Thomas M. Tebbe is National Programs Director for HVAC Excellence, a not-forprofit organization that provides validation programs for students, technicians, teachers, and hvacr programs. He is a former hvacr contractor and retired director and educator with the Louisiana Community and Technical College System.
Contact Tom at 1-877-394-5268