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Where are the women in the plumbing and HVAC business?

Sept. 16, 2014
I got an eye-opener this past week when I attended Beth Dobkin's and Vickie LaPlant's seminar on hiring women technicians. How'd you like trying to raise a couple kids on minimum wage? Knowledge is no longer King — action is. Think about it. Do something!  

I just returned from Comfortech in beautiful and exciting Nashville, Tennessee. I've been involved, in one form or another, in our subcontracting industry for 50+ years and my head's spinning with all the new, information and opportunities I discovered during this week.

My focus has been on helping newer or smaller companies get started on the road to success. That means somewhere along the line you've got to “pull the trigger,” do something, anything, to begin the process of change. Many of the obstacles you face may seem insurmountable, but they're not. They just appear that way, so you don't do nuthin'! Of course, the answer always is, start your change or growth with small, manageable steps.

One of the biggest challenges I hear is, “Where do I find employees?” In my last article, I discussed the possibility of checkin' out some of the industry elders, but I got an eye-opener this past week when I attended Beth Dobkin's and Vickie LaPlant's seminar on hiring women technicians. Beth's a former contracting business owner and a Quality Service Contractor business coach; Vickie's been training contractors since she went to work for Lennox a while ago, and she’s a Service Round Table Advisory Board Leader (along with her equally astute husband, John), and unarguably one of the leaders of “Women in HVAC.” If you don't think this idea is possible or profitable, then keep your mind closed and stop reading now.

Of course, the big outfits can advertise for women technicians, but how 'bout the outfit without a big hiring budget? How do we start? Look around is all it takes. Be aware of who's waiting on you, or, better yet, who's giving you great service when you buy anything. Barristas, grocery clerks, sales associates, wait-persons are mostly underpaid wage-slaves, and many are great employees! All you have to do is hand 'em your card and ask if they'd like a great high-paying job.

If you don't think this is possible or profitable, then keep your mind closed.

—Ed O'Connell

Single moms were singled out by Beth and Vickie — how'd you like trying to raise a couple kids on minimum wage? What about married women augmenting a family income? Both scenarios have advantages and disadvantages. One of the biggest advantages is 80+% of your clients are women. There seem to be very few disadvantages, but one of the questions that did come up was how do single moms handle being on call.

The obvious answer is that you could plan ahead, and if they were making an above-average income, they could have sitters, or even standby sitters, available to help, or they could switch schedules with other employees. Married women have — or should have — built in kid-watchers, usually called “husbands,” so being on-call shouldn't be much of a problem for them (Ha!).

So there it is again, folks — an easy, affordable, simple way to grow your company. Those of us who want to take a few chances will take action. Those of us who want to keep on bitchin' will do that also. The former will grow and prosper, the latter will stagnate and languish.

Here's some contact info in case you think this idea is out in space somewhere. Both of these women are Cracker Jack smart and tough, so I'm almost positive they'll be more'n pleased to give you more information (as will I, if you'd like to contact me): Beth Dobkin, QSC Business Coach, [email protected]. Vickie LaPlant, Service Nation Alliance Business Advisory Board leader ... oh, hell, just Google Vickie for her info:

Here's one last nugget I picked up at Comfortech I'd like to pass on: Knowledge is no longer King — not even close — because we all carry that knowledge around in our pockets, purses, or on our hips 24/7.

No, Knowledge is no longer King — action is. Think about it. Do something! At the very least, notice who's serving you, and maybe wonder if that great service is something you'd like in your company. If you're not sure how to approach the opposite gender give me a holler. I was a Weight Watcher Leader for a couple-three years ... and I ain't shy around women-folk.

Good luck.

Ol’ Ed

Ed O'Connell is the founder emeritus of O'Connell Plumbing Inc. He is the subcontracting business coach for smaller contractors and a Service Round Table Coach. He can be reached in Auburn, California, at home/office: 530/878-5273 or at [email protected].

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