Get on board or become a relic

LEED, follow, or fall waaaayyyy behind! We're at a crossroads where one is the progression of technology blending into ever-increasing efficiencies

YORK, PA. — LEED, follow, or fall waaaayyyy behind! We're at a crossroads where one is the progression of technology blending into ever-increasing efficiencies while the other is what was in our immediate past, that being simple, but low-efficiency appliances. Time was all a tech needed to determine what was wrong with a flashlight, four-way screwdriver, and a pair of pliers. The thought that you wouldn't be able to restore someone's heat in the middle of the night was not a concern because everything could be bypassed and/or replaced with just a few components.

Today, we keep more than a dozen portable heaters on hand because the components are, for the most part, now incorporated onto a PC-board that's esoteric to that one individual model. We service all brands, so stocking a thousand different PC-boards is not an option and the ones we did stock (in the beginning of this transition) were quickly obsolete. I have thousands of dollars tied up in old-model PC-boards that will never be used.

I felt much as Michael Gray does now at one time. But, it was painfully obvious that not getting on board the progress train was a sure-fire way to become a relic. It's been a wild ride, at times, but I made sure that my firm and my employees remained at the front, or as it's better known, the bleeding edge of technological advances.

Have we occasionally taken it on the chin? You betcha. But we've also scored many victories by sifting through the myriad choices. By having done so for decades, we were positioned well to weather this economic storm. Customers do spend more when they can clearly see the value — both short- and long-term — when it's presented to them in clearly understood terms. But, it's not possible to be in a position to give them that crystal-clear information unless you actively pursue the training. Without proper training, dabbling with high-tech, high-efficiency appliances can and will be a nightmare — a very expensive nightmare.

Lois [Yates] and I talked about this over the weekend and we clearly recall a number of firms that faded into the twilight by taking a similar stance to Michael's. She, being the bean counter who keeps me financially in-check, noted that they committed financial suicide by devaluing their businesses. Where once they had a business they could have sold, they ended up with nothing to sell but worn out tools and trucks that no one wanted.

I've also been thinking about how my commitment to staying abreast of technology and training has affected our reputation and customer-base. I've been told on more than a few occasions that we are expensive, but well worth the added expense because we're also known for doing the job right while reducing our customers' energy bills dramatically. It took decades to build that current reputation, but it could be wiped out in just a few short years if I suddenly decided I was going to opt-out from the efforts to remain current with technology and its steady march forward.

I also do not promote our proposals with the "green" label. There's been so much green-washing that using the label tends to flush out polarized feelings and I'm trying to sell the work on its own merits. The only green we discuss is the amount of green the new appliances will not be draining from their wallets. In the same respect, I never broach the "global warming" subject unless the customers bring it up first and only if they've stated their position as believers or non-believers. Both subjects are like bringing up religion or politics — a sure-fire way to polarize and divide the audience. I'll get our customers as "green" as they want, but let them define which shade of green suits their needs, wants and budget. After all, it's their green and their green to spend, not mine. My sales are listening-based and flexible.

Here's a case in point. I had a tankless sales call recently with a large property management firm that I really didn't expect to spend money. It was hardly what you'd expect to be a global warming green themed call. However, pre-conceived notions can cause deaf, dumb, and blindness to cloud one's judgment, so an open mind and ears are best utilized.

We're in the boiler room staring at two older tank-style gas water heaters when she says, “I'm into being green and firmly believe in global warming.” So, she wants a 98% tankless, not the 82% model. Mind you, she also said, "I'm no tree-hugger, though, just want to be as green as possible." Now I know how to respond.

Turns out she lives above the office in this urban row home and mentions she's planning on installing solar. That leads to my pitch for thermal and PV. She wants PV — wants to completely offset her electric bill, which turns out to be a 20 kW system that will be required. Suddenly, I'm no longer looking at a $4,300 sales call — I'm staring down the barrel of a $150,000 sales call! She has the cash in the bank and did not bat an eye.

All I had to do was listen and offer the solutions she is seeking.

Don't know if you caught the newswire story, but the ozone hole has shrunk to its smallest yet and is expected to close within a few decades. This was attributed to the bans on CFC refrigerants, so hooray for all of us who invested heavily to stay current with those changes and then followed through by following the new guidelines. That is, if you're one of those who believe the science behind the stats and believe our own behavior has an impact on the global environment that is within our reach to affect one way or the other.

DAVE YATES, PRESIDENT
F.W. BEHLER INC.