Managing Editor, Heather Langone, sat down with Aaron Salow, CEO and co-founder of XOi Technologies, a complete curb-to-curb communication tool for techs. We discussed the connection between people and equipment, training, and the future of HVACR technology.
1. Since you are in Nashville, is there a place you go to unwind, that is quintessential Nashville?
Love Circle – a huge hill that overlooks the city. Once, after a big fundraiser with my co-founders, we sat there together and celebrated with a case of beer, taking it all in, while overlooking the city.
2. What is your opinion of virtual reality training?
Phenomenal. It’s cost-effective and appeals to Gen Z, those born between 1997 and 2012. We’re announcing a big partnership soon that will create more full-picture solutions for techs where they can learn in-classroom or via virtual training.
3. What was the impetus for starting a software company specifically designed for field services?
I grew up across the street from my grandparent’s farm in rural Michigan, an area predominantly about farming, manufacturing, and construction. Growing up in that bubble, where you were proud of a hard day’s work with your hands, was great. The impetus emanates from that foundation.
4. Who is your biggest influence, living or deceased?
Easy – my dad. Whether in business or as a husband, or a father, his lessons reverberate still. Be servant-hearted. Be kind. As a parent, I trust these lessons will stick with my kids, because they stuck with me.
5. If you could pick your dream dinner guest, who would it be and why?
Mike Rowe, not only because he does the blue-collar dirty jobs, the micro foundation stuff, which ties in, but he is fascinating and intelligent. And, we have a lot in common.
6. What tops your list of planned achievements for XOi in 2023?
There are big, flashy deals from a revenue perspective – the ones that get everyone's attention. But I am most proud of one of the smallest deals, our partnership with the United Association. It’s the kind of work that represents more of what I want to do in 2023. Last spring, we announced that the United Association will be leveraging XOi to validate infield training for over 300 training centers for HVAC techs across North America. It validates all the hard work.
7. If software like yours is one solution to help combat the labor shortage issue, what is another way that might help owners recruit top candidates?
Generation Z is accustomed to a more virtual learning style. We are serving a Tik-Tok generation where 27-second videos are the attention span. Adopt a recruiting solution that acknowledges this learning style.
8. What is the mission of XOi technologies?
The mission of XOi is to empower a world in which people and equipment are connected. And we aim to be the best workplace in the industry.
9. What has been the biggest challenge you have faced?
As is true of most of the bests in life, people are the best part of being in business but are also challenging. When things work, there's no better feeling than working with people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives to accomplish a goal.
10. What have been the most important strides in 2022?
Continuing to fortify our leadership team. We have continued to add people smarter than us. Watching this growth phase has been gratifying. Also, we released our Journeyman product, a dream of mine since day one. The premier Journeyman™ Platform is a product that delivers field service professionals a first-to-market solution that drives operational efficiency and identifies untapped revenue opportunities. It delivers insight through smart diagnostic solutions directly from any workflow in XOi Vision, data reporting, and live on-the-job virtual support and training.
11. Did the Pandemic affect your company?
We were terrified at first. But we accelerated growth which says a lot about the trust we’d already built. I don’t have a crystal ball, but the core things that made us a good field service business sustained us.
12. Without giving away trade secrets, where do you see the future of technology in HVACR?
Again, it will come down to the connection between people technicians, and equipment. The skilled trades, supply chains, or any uber model – or multisided platform business model with an interface to connect teams and customers – or IoT. All these things will shift once that connection starts to become more ubiquitous.
13. If someone is still operating the business on paper, what advice would you suggest to transition?
According to the latest data, 40-45% of contractors are still on pen and pad. About a year ago, it was 50%. It's crept down, but we still meet hundred-million-dollar annual revenue businesses operating on pen and pad. I’d say, set a good foundation. Create a culture that accepts good logic and be prepared to provide the why. Operate within a culture where your people accept, well-structured, well-thought-out reasons. If not then address this before transitioning.
14. What are the trending topics you are hearing lately from HVACR clients?
I hear about parts and equipment challenges and finding good people. The other trend is a move toward performance-based contracts.
15. If you could give the owner of an HVACR company one piece of advice, what would it be?
It goes back to the culture of things including change management. More than catering the occasional potluck dinner, understand things like the difference between continuous use versus episodic use tools – one that a technician finds value in using daily versus one used sporadically. Creating better change management means knowing how the culture and change affect the team.
16. Your company places focus on training at your company, does it give XOi an advantage over other software competitors?
Absolutely. We work with technicians’ NPS (Net Promoter Score) versus executive NPS and talk about it weekly. Our mantra is, ‘We put ourselves in our technician's work boots.’ Understanding the technician’s experience is our number one core value.
17. What do you think the biggest obstacles to recruiting and training are?
Not knowing the company culture and a lack of focus on workforce development. To offset obstacles, create a path to career development for recruits. Offer a clear path of how to move up at every interval with the expectations set from day one and a strategy. Then the recruit has a vision and can see the possibilities.
18. How involved are you with consumer feedback (good or critical), if at all?
Like most good founders, I will see a thousand positives, and at the first negative, I’ll think, ‘We need to fix this.’ We review NPS comments and customer Quarterly Business Review (QBR) feedback weekly. It drives decision-making significantly. I’m very involved.
19. Is there ever a world where you would advise the owner against upgrading their technology?
Absolutely. Before upgrading, address culture and change management first. Then look at continuous versus episodic. Make sure these uses are adding value for admins, technicians, and customers.
20. Assuming XOI is still in the space, describe the future of HVACR technology and software in 2028.
It's probably an evolution of the discussion around the connection between people and equipment. For XOi, I’d love to see full conversational AI interacting with technicians, whether through a visual combination of things, or the ability to converse fully with a tech to solve problems.
Heather Langone is Managing Editor at HVACR Business Magazine. To send comments and inquiries please email firstname.lastname@example.org