HVAC: Is the "A" for Apathy?

HVAC: Is the "A" for Apathy?

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has one million members. Now that's participation.

That's clout. When potential screwy laws could affect realtors, the legislation undoubtedly bangs up against the wall that is the NAR lobby.


Following a recent speech, I was asked, "What's a bigger problem, industry ignorance or apathy?" I answered, "I don't know and I don't care."

All kidding aside, apathy is likely the bigger issue. With the plethora of HVAC training and educational resources available, ignorance can only persist in the presence of apathy.

Apathy is revealed in the paltry support offered by contractors to industry associations. Trade association membership should be at least two or three times current levels. The contractors who actively support the industry through their trade association can testify to the value of membership.

Such involvement isn't a one-way street. Become active in a trade association and you'll rub shoulders with the best and the brightest in the industry. The most successful are usually the most willing to give of themselves. Or, is that backwards? What do they know that others don't?

Forget "involvement" when it comes to HVAC. We can't even get people to do the minimum and "join." Less than 5% of contractors belong to a trade association. Most have never even heard of the leading trade associations. That's scary!

Low levels of association participation are risky. If you wonder how screwy laws and regulations get passed, my guess is you're not involved in a trade association. Bad legislation results when good people (i.e., you) don't care enough to work to prevent it.

Compare HVAC to real estate. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has one million members. Now that's participation. That's clout. When potential screwy laws could affect realtors, the legislation undoubtedly bangs up against the wall that is the NAR lobby.

Industry apathy goes well beyond trade associations. Manufacturers and distributors beg, bribe, and cajole their dealers to show up at meetings and participate in training programs.

Territory managers spin their wheels trying to get contractors to undertake basic business building activities designed to help the contractors prosper. It's the lack of contractor marketing initiative that spurred the creation of manufacturer group advertising programs and other forms of "checkbook marketing" in the first place (i.e., "All you have to do is write a check and I'll take it from there").

Consultants throughout the industry gripe about how tough it is to get contractors to act. "I'm up late at night worrying about his business while he's sleeping like a baby," groused one prominent consultant. "I care more than he does."

The contractor's apathy is an indirect result of his very ignorance. He doesn't know what he doesn't know. He doesn't know what's possible. Too many contractors settle. While it's hard work to prosper in HVAC, it's relatively easy to get by. Almost any contractor can manage to scratch out a meager living; sustaining, but not prospering; surviving, but not thriving.

The contractor settles for less than he might because he doesn't realize how much is almost within his grasp. He could reach it if he would only stretch just . . . a . . . little . . . more.

When he doesn't realize what's possible, the contractor is apathetic. After all, if the future is the same as his paltry present, why should he care? When he doesn't care, the contractor never seeks to learn what's possible. While ignorance requires the presence of apathy, apathy exists because of ignorance.

The antidote to industry apathy and ignorance is enthused and informed contractors. That's you! Drag a peer to a trade association meeting. Pass along a particularly good article from Contracting Business. Refer a peer to an industry group. The industry changes one contractor at a time.

While this is a great industry, there's room for improvement; lots of room. Improvement will only come when you reach out to other contractors and show them what's possible. As the truly successful know, the more you give, the more you seem to receive.

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