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3 Challenges That Aren’t Going Away

Originally published
Originally published: 10/1/2012

I run a business, just as you do, so I know how hard it is to keep the engine running each day. I also know how easy it is to focus too much on the engine and not enough on where you are headed. That’s a mistake.

If you spend time thinking strategically about your business’ future — Congratulations! You could be making another mistake, though, if you aren’t considering “big picture” trends that will affect your future. Customer surveys and economic outlooks are important, but larger changes are underway that will alter how contractors work forever. There are many of these, but here are three that I’ve been thinking about.

Wacky Weather:

This past summer was one of the three hottest for the United States in the past 60 years, and huge patches of the country suffered drought conditions until late summer.
At the same time, damaging floods are becoming more commonplace, and contractors in normally dry places such as Palm Springs, Calif., are responding to complaints about high humidity. Last winter, some parts of the North had barely any snow, while some cities in the West struggled with unusually heavy snowfall.

Whether you buy into global warming or not, you can’t deny that the United States is having disruptive weather. This can be good news for contractors that are prepared to respond quickly with the proper tools and equipment to keep clients comfortable as they sweat out steamier summers and seek out warmth in winter. Maybe this means developing a new type of service or selling a new category of equipment. What’s your strategy for capturing new market share as your customers’ needs change due to weather inconsistency?

“Smart” Tools and Equipment:

Heating-and-cooling equipment is getting “smarter,” meaning data is being integrated into its operations in order to keep systems running most efficiently. Not only is this happening with equipment, but it’s also happening across the entire energy sector.

While the “smart” grid will take a long time to build nationwide, individual utilities are already installing smart meters, and many thermostats now come with “smart” features that enable consumers and businesses to measure their energy consumption and/or better manage how much energy heating and cooling consumes.

All of these changes are beneficial, but they also complicate things. Technicians, sales people, and customer service representatives need to understand how these new technologies work, what problems customers will encounter when using them, and how best to respond when customers call for help.

Lack of Bodies and Brains:

Multiple organizations are predicting that the skilled labor shortage plaguing the United States will only get worse – much worse. Not only will there be fewer working-age people as the Baby Boomers retire, many of those remaining in the workforce will lack the technical training that modern HVACR contracting firms need. If you don’t have this problem already, don’t worry, it’s coming your way.

If training and ongoing recruitment are not something regularly discussed at management meetings, then they need to be added to the agenda. Finding good, properly trained employees should not be left to chance or last-minute planning when a vacancy opens.

Your employees can make or break you in this business because word-of-mouth remains such a powerful part of reputation management in home services. Even if you think you have great employees, strive to make them better. Invest in training. Set aggressive goals. Promote collaborative thinking and encourage input on how to do things better.

These three trends aren’t stopping, and they shouldn’t stop you. Now that the busy summer has ended, I encourage each of you to think about how your business has been or will be impacted by these bigpicture changes. Be prepared to take advantage of the new opportunities they bring along with the challenges that accompany them.

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