Let’s Take this Industry to the Next Level

Maybe it’s the heat! No, I haven’t forgotten what industry we’re in. As I write this, it’s July — hotter than hell — and I am prickly. No other word for it.

The month of July is about patriotism and community — a time to think about the opportunities we’ve been given, about the sacrifices others made to ensure those opportunities. It’s a time to be grateful that, through no act of our own, we were lucky enough to be born in America. It’s time to think about giving back.

In a new book, titled Private Empire (primarily aboutmega-corporation Exxon Mobile), Pulitzer Prize-winning author and New Yorker magazine staff writer Steve Coll, makes an interesting statement that applies to all businesses about the responsibilities of companies.

He writes, “Corporate responsibility usually touches on at least four areas: a corporation’s obligation to employees; its obligations to communities where it operates; environmental performance; and political influence strategy.”

The HVACR industry gets high marks on many of these and I am proud to be a part of it. As with most high marks, however, a few seem to get the high marks that carry the rest of us.

Responsibility to employees. Today, most contractors really do understand that the best way to fulfill their responsibility as owners is to make a profit. Profits allow you to invest in your company and employees. In fact, it’s not only a responsibility, it’s an obligation.

Responsibility to community. Many contractors, distributors, and manufacturers do a great job of giving back to their local communities through a wide range of programs. These wonderful, charitable endeavors are so positive for business that we even have a name for it — affinity marketing.

Responsibility to environmental performance. Since our entire industry is focused on environmental performance, it goes without saying that this industry is doing its part to reduce energy consumption for the good of our customers, communities, and environment.

Responsibility to political influence strategy. Our industry trade associations work hard in Washington for us. Work with these associations in your community to fulfill your responsibility in this area. Don’t forget to vote and encourage all your employees to vote.

Responsibility to your industry and the people in it. Here’s where I get prickly. First, to the person who wrote in response to my May column about hiring women service technicians (bit.ly/J9rZrG) that women aren’t willing to get dirty and can’t physically handle it, open up your mind.

In reading the June issue of Contracting Business.com that featured interviews with 14 top executives from leading manufacturers, distributors, and contractors, only one was a woman. There were no Latinos, Hispanics, or African Americans. Doesn’t the industry have a responsibility to open ourselves to the perspectives, talents, and ideas that different genders and ethnicities have to offer? We need more diversity.

Second, as president of the board of the Joseph Groh Foundation — a foundation whose sole mission is to provide the means for a productive life to anyone associated with the HVACR and plumbing contracting industry who had a life altering disease or accident — I’m appalled by our industry’s unwillingness to give back to its own. As with every generalization, there are exceptions. To the special companies and people who have given so much to the foundation to help others — thank you! You know who you are.

At HVAC Comfortech 2011, the foundation asked companies to donate from $1 to $10 for each of its employees. The good news: We raised approximately $10,000 that has already been spent on a truck renovation to accommodate a wheelchair and a bathroom remodel. The bad news: Of all the companies present at Comfortech, only 22 stepped up and made that $10,000 contribution. And unlike affinity marketing, these companies truly gave not expecting anything in return. Their customers will probably never know. They gave to their industry; they gave for their employees.

So this September, look for the Joseph Groh Foundation at Mechanical Systems Week in Chicago and be one of the companies that gives, not expecting anything in return. Our goal is to be prepared so that we’re available to you or your employees if, god forbid, you need the foundation’s help.

Thoughtfully consider what your company responsibilities are and look for opportunities to give back to our wonderful industry and the thousands of people it employs. And yes, I am truly grateful for the heat of July — otherwise how would I justify the mint juleps!

Vicki LaPlant has been working with HVAC contractors for the past 30 years as a trainer and consultant. She is expert in helping people work better together for greater success. In addition, she is a founding member and president of the board of the Joseph Groh foundation. Vicki is a longtime Contracting Business.com editorial advisory board member and can be reached by email at [email protected], or by phone at 903/786-6262.

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