Contracting Business spent a few minutes chatting with Randy Seaman, president of Seaman's A/C, a $6 million Design/Build mechanical firm in Grand Rapids, MI, to find out more about the pressing issues facing his business and the commercial contracting community. Here's what he had to say:
Contracting Business: What is the biggest challenge currently facing commercial contractors?
Randy Seaman: The economy. Despite how successful a company has been, I can't think of a mechanical that hasn't been affected to some degree by the downturn in the economy.
It's been a trickle-down effect. The economy has affected our customers, which in turn, has affected all of us. Budget constraints dictate what our customers -- general contractors and building owners and managers alike -- can and can't do. For instance, at one time you had 100 companies competing for 100 jobs. Now you have the same 100 companies competing for 50 jobs.
CB: So how do you not just survive, but thrive during harder times?
RS: The best means of survival is to maintain your high standards of customer service and workmanship. Lowering your quality and standards just to compete with companies doing mediocre work isn't the answer.
When the economy does pick up -- and we are seeing signs of this happening already -- your name and reputation will set you even further apart from your customers.
Also, try not to cut major employee benefits. Your associates are working just as hard, if not harder, than ever. It's even more important to keep up the camaraderie and team spirit because there is less work. Reassure them that times will get better.
CB: What is the greatest challenge facing your company in particular?
RS: Selling the intangible concept of high quality to new customers can be a challenge. Once you have the job, it becomes even easier to demonstrate the value of your work.
Therefore, educating your customers is essential. Show examples of past successful projects. If customers have the necessary tools and information, their decision will be based on value. Otherwise, it will be based on price.
CB: What do you see in the future for commercial HVACR?
RS: There's an exciting time ahead. I think we'll continue to see new technology that allows us to make our customers even more comfortable and save them more money.
In addition, there's a new breed of building owners and managers who are increasingly in tune with the latest in technology and want to take advantage of high-tech, energy-saving equipment.
CB: What's the best thing about being a part of this industry?
RS: The diversity. You can go anywhere, do anything, and touch so many different lives and facets of the industry. The more you learn, the harder you work, the more you can do. The possibilities are limitless.
CB: What advice would you give to someone considering starting his or her own HVACR business?
RS: Don't forget to work on your business, not just in your business. In an ever-changing, fast-paced industry, you sometimes have to stand back and look at how things are changing around you.
Stick with high quality, be the best, be professional, even if it's a hard road at times. Never lose your integrity. Finally, be fair to your customers and your employees. In the end, this is what will help you succeed.