NASHVILLE, TENN. — Contractors attending Comfortech 2014, held Sept. 9 - 11, in Nashville, Tenn., were privy to the critical steps they must take in order to run the most successful business possible. During the three days in Nashville, contractors attended a multitude of education sessions, networking and social events, including the famous Comfortech Extravaganza, a robust trade show, featuring the latest products and technology displayed by the biggest manufacturers in the industry, and much more.
Keynote Speaker Robin Crow, author of “Evolve or Die,” and Dark Horse Recording, opened up Comfortech 2014 with a memorable presentation about change and running a successful business. Crow shared the critical steps owners can take that will revitalize their businesses. He pointed out that business growth cannot be sustained if it remains in its present form; businesses and organizations must position themselves to be constant innovators, able to adapt to and embrace change.
“You need to think multi-dimensional,” Crow told the audience. “Far too often leaders become distracted from ‘Mission Critical’ functions. The Mission Critical functions are to manage change, create customer loyalty, and develop a culture of passion.”
To manage change contractors must realize that the new normal is constant change. “People naturally resist change,” said Crow. “We are afraid of uncertainty; adapting to change is a creative process, and progress is not possible without change.”
To create customer loyalty a contractor must figure out what to do to create that loyalty. “You should figure out what you can do to accelerate sales,” said Crow. “You should always exceed expectations of the customer and care about the customer. As a contractor, ask yourself how do you make the customer feel? This is key. What will they remember about you is most important. When people trust you they will buy from you. You need to do it right the first time!”
To create a culture of passion a contractor must surround themselves with brilliance. “Hire enthusiastic people,” said Crow. “You also need to clean house — if there are people holding back the company, you need to let them go. There are great people out there that want to work at a company like yours. It’s also important to celebrate the good things that are happening at your company and to your employees.”
Crow also told Comfortech 2014 attendees that his one-word strategy is to “persevere.”
“No matter what is going on in your business you need to put one foot in front of the other every day,” said Crow. “You also need to capitalize on the ‘lucky breaks.’ You need to shout out these lucky breaks to the world.
“Lastly, think big,” Crow told the audience. “Your employees want to be part of something big. If you think big it will inspire your customers and employees!”
Throughout the keynote presentation, which was sponsored by Mitsubishi Electric Heating & Cooling, Crowe, a recording artist, awed the audience by playing songs on his different guitars.
Earlier the same day, Weldon Long, author of the NY Times bestseller, “The Power of Consistency” and HVAC industry expert, spoke about Breaking Through to the Other Side of Adversity: How to Prosper and Grow your Business in the Face of any Challenge.
During this session, Long discussed his personal experience of overcoming prison, poverty and struggle to grow a residential HVAC company with over $20,000,000 in sales during the “Great Recession” that began in 2007. In fact, in 2009, his HVAC company was selected by Inc Magazine as one of the fastest growing privately held companies in America.
Session attendees learned about creating a powerful Prosperity Plan for life and business; how to generate sales and business success on a consistent basis; how to achieve business growth in the face of any adversity; how to get laser focused on personal and professional goals; how to execute on personal and professional goals on a consistent basis; and how to simplify and organize daily responsibilities.
Long discussed the importance of “putting first things first,” using Steve R. Covey’s Time Management Grid as an example of what contractors should be focusing on.
“When so much time is spent putting out fires, we are not utilizing time management,” explained Long. “You need to make sure you are working on the priorities. When you do this you will have fewer fires to put out.”
Long also discussed the sale process, comparing it to walking down a hallway with the customer. “There are escape routes the customer uses, such as wanting to get other bids, needing to think about it, looking into other brands and looking for a cheaper price,” said Long.
Long explained that old-school sales is when money is brought up at the end of the sales process, and usually when this happens it’s too late. “You need to close the escape routes the customer wants to use while you are going down the hallway with them. Don’t get hung up on closing a sale, instead focus on a conclusion instead. If you take care of the process the results will happen.”
The following day, Greg McAfee, contracting business owner, spoke about creating success with the right strategic plan. McAfee shared his insights on the importance of having a strategy plan and using it. He says many contractors go through the motions of creating one, then they put it in a drawer and never look at it again.
McAfee reviewed four ideas on how to create a strategy that includes setting real goals and the importance of having a single strategy to help achieve those goals; the importance of team involvement in creating a strategy and how to get employees on-board; keeping the strategy on track and moving forward; and what can happen when a business chooses not to have a strategic plan.
“When creating goals you must know what you really want to do; what do you want to be known for,” said McAfee. “You need to make this very clear and understandable; and then figure out what you must do to create this success.
"I tell people all the time to write down their business and personal goals,” added McAfee. “They need to figure out what they are passionate about; and what must be done to create success.”
McAfee said that some plans don’t work because the owner doesn’t know what they want out of their business, short or long term; the owner is not in sync with their business; expectations are not set; and plans that are not reviewed go nowhere – they die.
“You need to know your business and your team,” said McAfee. “When you set expectations for a team it empowers them and the team can be accountable."
According to McAfee, these questions are most important to answer when creating a strategic plan:
- Why should my business continue?
- What do I plan to accomplish, and is it worth it?
- What do we do that matters? How do we know it matters?
- Is what I’m doing getting me where I want to be?
- What keeps me up at night?
- Another important business aspect contractors need to focus on is recruiting.
During the session, Relentless Recruiting: Find, Hire, and Keep the Best Co-Workers, David Heimer, COO of Service Roundtable, discussed why finding, hiring and keeping the right people is crucial.
He also discussed how to build a recruiting pipeline, attract the kind of employees a contractor should want, and keep those employees for years.
“To grow you need more people,” said Heimer. “Turnover is very expensive; with turnover there is a loss of revenue, plus, other items are affected like overtime, quality control, productivity, etc. And then you have to consider the time spent to interview, do reference checks, etc. All of this takes time for the hiring manager.
“People are scared to fire or they hire too quickly,” added Heimer. “It’s important to hire slowly and fire quickly.”
According to Heimer, if you are having difficulty finding good people to hire, these are good questions to ask yourself:
Are you recruiting everyone? Are you willing to pay for relocation? Regarding relocation, it’s important to note that there are all different ways you can relocate someone.
Are you paying enough? Many people in the industry are very skilled and you need to expect to pay for these skilled employees.
Are you using social media to recruit? If not this is something you should start doing, and it’s a great way to use your own network.
Fun, charity, sponsorship
Besides attending educational sessions and the Comfortech Expo, where the latest products that help drive business and boost profitability were showcased, contractors had a blast networking at the Welcome Reception presented by Emerson Climate Technologies Tuesday night and Comfortech Extravaganza at Honky Tonk Central.
During Comfortech, iMarket Solutions decided to donate to a good cause. As a partner/vendor for Quality Service Contractors (QSC) for about 4 years, the company decided to sponsor the Challenge Air charity.
“QSC has sponsored this organization for years,” said Nadia Romeo, president of iMarket Solutions. “Instead of giving away trinkets at the show, we wanted to donate to a good cause. And as a proud vendor of QSC we decided to sponsor this organization.”
For every “Ask The Expert” question iMarket Solutions got at its booth regarding various marketing subjects, the company donated $50 to Challenge Air.
“During Comfortech we were able to raise $2,000 for this charity,” explained Romeo. “In February of 2015, Challenge Air will have an event in San Diego and the iMarket team will be volunteering at the event that day. The money that we raised will be spent on this event.”
For more information about Challenge Air, go to http://www.challengeair.com
On Sept. 11, the last day of Comfortech 2014, the special keynote closing event featured Lt. Col. Robert Darling, telling his story of what he experienced firsthand on Sept. 11, 2001.
He discussed everything he experienced that day as he took on the task of liaison between the vice president, national security advisor and the Pentagon.
Attendees took in everything Darling had to say about all the events that unfolded on the day that we all will never forget. He spoke specifically about the decisions Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and others made in order to protect the country on that infamous day.
Go to www.Contractormag.com for more Comfortech 2014 coverage.