To Prosper or Not — It's Your Call

Nov. 1, 2010
Decide to prosper and you will. Can it be that simple? Can prosperity be a decision? If prosperity is not a decision, the actions that lead to prosperity certainly reflect a decision (or series of decisions). It all starts with the right frame of mind.

Decide to prosper and you will. Can it be that simple? Can prosperity be a decision? If prosperity is not a decision, the actions that lead to prosperity certainly reflect a decision (or series of decisions). It all starts with the right frame of mind.

"It really is a mindset," says Ben Stark from Stark Air in Hurst, TX. "The general consensus among contractors is, 'We're cutting back because of the economy.' Well, I'm moving forward."

And Stark Air is moving forward. Already successful, Ben's volume is up nearly 20% in 2010. Even better, his profit margins are 20% higher. More dollars are flowing into his company, and Stark is keeping a larger share of each one.

It's hard to pinpoint any one reason for Stark Air's growth. He credits a combination of factors, including expansion of his sales force, more focused marketing efforts, increased television advertising, new truck wraps, and more.

Stark isn't alone. Corey Hickmann's Comfort Matters in Hanover, MN, is up 29% in 2010, with margins 7% better than a year ago. Comfort Matters is a 2010 Quality Home Comfort Award winner.

"My suppliers like talking with me," claims Hickman. "They tell me I'm one of the few contractors who's not whining about conditions."

While his competitors have sold themselves on the idea that conditions are horrible, Hickman convinced himself that business is there for the taking — it just requires some effort and investment.

"We definitely increased marketing this year," Corey says. "We increased it by 40% in terms of dollars spent. Without a doubt, that's the number one reason we're doing better."

Steve Miles, with Jerry Kelly Heating and Air Conditioning in St. Charles, MO, is experiencing back-to-back record years. Sales are up 37%. Margins are 34% higher.

The reason?

"We got aggressive and doubled down on our advertising, and are going for it," Steve says.

This approach helped Jerry Kelly grow 29% last year. This year's growth results from more than aggressive marketing.

"We're open seven days a week, 12 hours a day," Miles explains. "The extra growth is equal to the extra days open." The Jerry Kelly company was the 2006 Residential Contractor of the Year.

As stunning as Stark, Hickman, and Miles' growth has been, it pales in comparison to John Price, with Aloha Aire in Texarkana, TX. Aloha's service and replacement business is up a staggering 116% compared to 2009. Margins are up 88%. Then again, 2009 was a great year for the company.

Price benefitted from competitive retrenchments as storied contractors closed their doors. Others cut benefits. Price is hiring, adding space, and generally taking business and employees from timid, pessimistic competitors.

He credits his performance this year to "Listening to Ken Goodrich at the New Orleans Roundtable." In his talk, Goodrich described how he grew from $0 to over $100 million in sales.

Price adds, "I realized that he's not that much different than I am. We both started with no money and no credit. It took setting some goals and working toward achieving them. That was the spark that lit the fire."

Aloha Air expanded geographically. Price hired a top-shelf general manager from outside the industry, who didn’t know growth like this was impossible. He brought his managers to Service Roundtable meetings to inspire them. And, Price acknowledges, "The summer participated." Texarkana was hot.

"We chose not to participate in the recession. You hear doom and gloom with 90% of the people you talk to. We refuse to listen and will grow."

"It's amazing," Price says, "How much change you can have in your life and in the lives of those around you with positive attitudes."

All four go out of their way to associate with industry winners. They participate in industry meetings. They come to HVAC Comfortech and attend Service Roundtable meetings. They feed off each other and contractors with similar mindsets. Then, they take action. They are cutting edge in their marketing and business practices. Each is growing while competitors implode.

The contractors cited above are experiencing a business expansion. Before their companies experienced the expansion, each contractor experienced it in their minds. They believed it was possible and made a conscious decision to make it happen. They decided to prosper and did. How about you?

Matt Michel is CEO of the Service Roundtable. For more information call toll free 877.262.3341, visit, email at [email protected] or connect through Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter.

About the Author

Matt Michel | Chief Executive Officer

Matt Michel was a co-founder and CEO of the Service Roundtable ( The Service Roundtable is an organization founded to help contractors improve their sales, marketing, operations, and profitability. The Service Nation Alliance is a part of this overall organization. Matt was inducted into the Contracting Business HVAC Hall of Fame in 2015. He is now an author and rancher.