How Are You Doing?

Last November, I wrote an editorial entitled, "Get Ready for the Perfect Storm". In it, I talked about the three key factors that impacted our economy, and how those "negative" events actually created a perfect storm of opportunity in the HVACR industry.

The key point was that for those contractors who invested in their growth, who committed to marketing, differentiation, training, and delivering first-rate service, the impending storm had opportunity written all over it.

With regard to the economy itself, we're still in the early stages of recession turnaround. Some still say that the economy is weak, and that the financial crises impacting other nations around the world could push us back into a recession.

So far, that hasn't happened.

According to Bloomberg Business Week (, the index of U.S. leading indicators rose in August more than forecasted, signaling the economy will keep expanding through early 2011.

The housing market remains weak — Bloomberg reports sales of existing homes rose in August to the second-lowest level on record. Purchases of existing houses are on the rise, climbing to a 4.13 million annual pace — second only to July’s 3.84 million rate as the weakest in a decade's worth of data.

The Bloomberg article also quotes the Fed Open Market Committee as saying, "the pace of economic recovery is likely to be modest in the near term."

This news seems dim, but other indicators are positive, with consumer spending on the rise, according to the U.S. Commerce Dept. And that seems to be the case with HVAC contractors around the country.

Economist Brian Beaulieu told Nexstar® Network member contractors during the group's Super Meeting in Austin, TX, in September to borrow and spend as much money as they can in 2011, in preparation for an upswing in the economy in 2012.

He told contractors to create a competitive advantage by identifying what they do well that customers value, and do more of it.

"If you're busy today, your major concern should be that you're not prepared for how busy you’re going to get," he said.

"We'll see recovery in 2011; 2012 is going to be stronger than 2010, and we'll continue to see growth for the first half of 2013," Beaulieu predicted.

In St. Charles, MO, Steve Miles of Jerry Kelly Heating and Air Conditioning, says that by investing heavily in advertising and marketing, his company experienced record sales growth in both 2009 and 2010. Record growth in this economy? Just ask Steve.

Then, there's Alan Givens, president of Parrish Services, Inc. Givens has always been a proponent of investing in the business, and actually made the move to using social media and his website to do the bulk of his advertising and promotion.

In 2009 his company grew from $5.2 million to $9.6 million in gross sales, and this year he says he's well on track to hit the $12 million mark. He plans to triple his training budget in 2011, and says the key to his success is in measurement and metrics. Nowhere in his comments does the word recession even enter the conversation.

Another perspective on the perfect storm of opportunity came to light during the Service Roundtable (SRT) meeting in Las Vegas in late October. It was there that SRT CEO Matt Michel introduced the next evolution in the organization, with the establishment of Service Nation Alliance. The purpose: to help contractors add value to their companies by creating common systems, make better use of technology, and provide the ability for contractors to expand geographically, via regional and/or national roll-up ventures.

The Alliance has the components of a national peer-to-peer advisory group, a best-practices development organization, and educational forum, all geared toward helping HVAC contractors increase the value of their companies, providing a method for retirement or expansion.

These are just some examples of how the perfect storm of opportunity presents itself, even in an economic environment that's still recovering. Whether you invest in your success through marketing, technology, education, or some combination of all three, your future is yours to control.

So, how are you doing?

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