Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Words of Encouragement

Approximately two years ago the United States Navy issued a solicitation for innovative ideas on how to decrease the size of heat exchangers on mobile equipment. The solicitation was titled: “N091-074 High Velocity Compact Cooling Coils” and eventually funded several heat exchanger proposals from companies located in the United States. Our company was one of many that submitted proposals who were not selected.

As in any endeavor, being passed by a selection committee is never a fun experience. For everyone receiving a gold, silver, or bronze medal on stage there are multitudes of hard working and dedicated athletes who will go home figuratively empty handed. When this happens, it can be hard to go back to an 8-5 job and make sense out of it all. For solicitation opportunities such as the Department of Defense there are no funds or consolation prizes for entries not selected, so it can seem at times that all of the investment and energy poured into a project is wasted if you are not chosen for funding. I’d like to talk a little about what happens the morning after, because, if you are a contractor you will invest time and energy into projects that never receive compensation, compensation that is in short term profits in the bank.

I am a itinerate engineer who becomes visible to the customers of Four Seasons Heating and Cooling on most days from eight to five. Besides moonlighting as an engineer, I have also dabbled as a part-time HVAC-R instructor teaching heating and cooling at a local community college. However, for my eight to five day-job I wear the heating and cooling salesman hat and find myself bidding on jobs the selection committee will at times award to someone else. No gold, no silver, just a gas tank that’s a little less full. And as many know, who have wore the hat of business owner, salesman, and technician, time wasted on a bid that ends up at someone else’s doorstep can be extremely frustrating. So what can we learn from these seemingly wasted investments of time and energy? I believe there is a great deal and here is some simple advice:

1- Focus on what your good at:

Is there something that relates to your particular microcosm of HVAC-R that you are considered an expert in? This day and age it is particularly hard to be an expert at everything. There are just too many disciplines within our field. Don’t be fooled into thinking you have to be the best at everything. Remember, most who become great at what they do focus on one small area of their discipline. Tom Brady is a great quarterback, however, he would probably not start on the defensive line. Sorry Brady fans.

Are you good at restaurant refrigeration? Concentrate your energies there and leverage your satisfied customers as references. If you seek to meet your customers needs doing what your good at then you will have laid the first foundation for a successful business, a happy customer who will tell others.

2- When possible choose customers and projects that enhance your skills:

Is there a pattern of displaced or unfruitful time investment? Try focusing your marketing dollar toward customers and projects that will be a good match for your services. Are you the king or queen of low price repair but have little patience for the customer who spends a lot of money on projects that are nit-picky in nature? Do you thrive in an environment where massaging every last detail of an installation is important? You will be happier working on jobs that fit your personality type and this will be evident to your customer. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes, would you want to hire someone who dislikes the type of work they are doing or someone who’s job closely mirrors their disposition?

3- Lastly, Use past failures to fine tune your approach:

Every area of our life can be improved on; especially areas you are already good at. If you are drawn to restaurant refrigeration then seek to become an expert at it. Be careful about resting on your laurels. Stay informed about past and present industry standards for repair and installation. Be ready to answer the customer that wants to know about energy recovery systems for their marketplace but don’t loose sight of the fundamentals of refrigeration such as the refrigeration cycle and superheat. In short stay informed and develop sound technical habits. Customers who watch (and they are) will take note of your proficiency and knowledge and will store your card in a safe and accessible spot. That’s usually the spot where the last HVAC company’s card was filed. And almost as important, make sure you smile on the job site. If you’re not enjoying your work can you expect your customer to enjoy having you involved in their project?

Randy Koch

Four Seasons Heating and Cooling Inc.
1000 Clear Lake Road
Grass Lake, MI 49240


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