News - Resource
In my experience, contractors in the home performance field usually try to throw a wide marketing net to reach customers. They set up Google AdWords to target heating and cooling, insulation, and energy audit keywords because those seem like the only options. As Mike Rogers said “Don’t expect the words “home performance” to make your phone ring.”
Recently, California has made great progress in setting and charting a course toward ambitious energy and climate goals. There is, however, one huge regulatory and political roadblock that’s creating a barrier to achieving greater savings by blocking one of our most promising technologies: heat pumps.
For years the HVAC industry has relied on repeat visits to existing customers to generate new business. The service contract model is well tested and used by many because it works. The idea is pretty simple - sell annual service contracts to your customers and then check in on them twice a year to make sure their systems are in top operating condition. Most contractors visit their clients before the heating season and before the cooling season. Typically a technician performs routine services such as replacing filters and cleaning leaves and other debris out of the air conditioner’s outdoor unit.
I recently met up for lunch with a colleague of mine who owns a home performance company. He told me that his five-year plan is to either sell his company or start a franchise. I was happy to hear that he has a long-term plan, but when I started asking questions about his business I saw that there was a classic flaw in his plan.
The nature of this flaw became apparent when he was interrupted 5 or 6 times by phone calls and texts from staff and clients during our one hour lunch. I asked him if his phone was always that busy. He said that he was responding to issues and putting out fires non-stop throughout his day. “It’s probably the worst part of my job” he lamented.
Getting the right systems in place can turn a chaotic and inefficient work environment into a thriving business that runs like a well-oiled machine.
Early on when your operation is small, it’s tempting to think you and your staff can handle everything informally. But as soon as your business begins to grow, things can get unwieldy fast. On the other hand, some business owners are tempted to test every new piece of automation software under the sun, which can end up wasting more time and money than it saves.
Where’s the balance? Here is what I’ve learned from our business.
As with other client businesses, when it comes to making it as a contractor, professionalism is everything. Rightly or wrongly, as a contractor, clients will judge you not just on the quality of your work, but on the overall impression, you leave with them.
Fortunately, some simple changes can make a big difference in how clients view you and improve your bottom line.
If you are like most contractors, insurance is something you think about once a year at renewal time. That's what I did for years until I had a rude awakening. After a workers compensation audit, I was left with a $140,000 bill because we had a stronger year than forecasted.
Why had I not seen it coming? Why didn't my insurance broker warn me of the possibility? When I asked my broker, she was apologetic but offered a lot of too-little-too-late advice. I started looking for a new insurance broker.
We started as an insulation company and then added HVAC. Once we got those services down, we slowly added new measures to our home performance toolkit to help increase job size and smooth out seasonality. Here are some of the ones that worked for us, and some of the ones that we struggled with.1. Solar PV
Solar is one of the easiest measures to add to your home performance offerings. Unlike home performance, selling and installing solar PV is much more straightforward.
I hear a lot of passion in our industry for building performance and doing good work. Most people get into this industry with a construction background rather than a business background. I came into it from the opposite direction, with a passion for the cause and a lot of business experience, but no construction experience. So what I think I can provide are my thoughts on the business side of running a construction company.
Specifically, I’m going to share some insights into our sales process. Whether you are a one-man shop or a larger operation, I think giving ample attention to the sales process is critical to the success and growth of any company.