A very good friend of mine and a columnist for this magazine has a saying that he uses to urge contractors to keep themselves on the cutting edge. That saying is “Evolve or die!” Obviously I’m talking about Charlie Greer. This saying isn’t new — Greer has been using it for years, but this month it strikes a chord for me, especially when I think about the current state of the economy.
I recently spoke with a contractor in Michigan who told me that his company is so busy right now that he sees this as one of the best Spring seasons in a long time. What’s interesting about this is that Michigan has been suffering economically for a lot longer than the rest of the country.
On HVAC-Talk.com, there is a lot of chatter about the recession, the rising costs of gasoline and heating fuels, and the resulting difficulties in getting residential and commercial consumers to part with their hard earned dollars to service and maintain their mechanical systems.
Interestingly, a lot of that chatter isn’t negative — it’s contractors asking their fellows for tips and hints on how to make the most of these times.
In one thread on HVAC-Talk, the discussion involves a contractor asking about whether to lower his prices and keep his people working, or keep prices high and risk going out of business. Interesting question. What’s more interesting are the responses — the advice ranged from re-evaluating all overhead and expenses and asking employees for ideas on cost cutting, to using spreadsheet tools to analyze the impact of lowering prices. Other contractors asked the questioner hard questions like, how do you justify raising prices back up when the economy gets better once you’ve lowered them?
There are hundreds of threads where contractors are asking for help and getting it from their peers. During the last recession, such discussions were fairly rare.
I chalk this trend up to one thing: changes in attitude. The idea of NOT participating in a recession isn’t new, but it’s practice is usually rare.
Evolve or die.
Sure, there are folks hurting because the current conditions make it harder to sell service and replacement (forget about new construction). But with the advent of faster, more reliable communications methods, people in dire situations can find help and are more willing to ask for it than ever before.
And this evolution in practice involves much more than deciding how to keep your business in business. It involves how to make MORE money in tough times.
Adams Hudson addresses this in his article, “Recession? It Doesn’t Affect Everyone (page 82).” He talks about the importance of recognizing that most Americans still have homes, despite the mortgage and construction crises, and many of those homes need comfort updates. He cites that there are more wealthy Americans today than ever before, and that creates opportunities for you.
Evolve or die. Sometimes this means just looking at the world in a different way.
In this month’s The Rant (page 96), Matt Michel takes an out-of-the-box look at the global warming issue. His answer to global warming is, “Sell more air conditioning!” And then he presents a solar case that challenges the popular belief that Planet Earth is warming with interesting facts that show we may actually be cooling down. Problem? No way, he says — just sell more heating!
And even if the economy is negatively impacting your business, that doesn’t mean you can’t find a way to keep your company healthy. It may mean learning how to be better at managing the financial aspects of the business. That’s where Michael Bohinc’s article, “Are You Financially Literate?” (page 56), can help.
Evolution isn’t easy. It takes creativity, stamina, intelligence, inquisitiveness, and guts. It requires an attitude to seek help when you need to, and to make the best use of all the resources available to you — on line, in print, and in person. Thank you goes out to Charlie Greer for nicely summing all this up with his catch phrase.
Choose to evolve! Welcome to the evolution revolution.