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Mars, Venus and the HVACR Industry


As of this year, I have been in the industry for 30 years and I am going to pretend that those 30 years of experience (not 1 year repeated 30 times) give me the right to tell you what I think. This column will not be a rant like Matt’s column because even with 30 years of experience no one can rant quite like Matt.

However, it will provide me the opportunity to talk about tough issues relating to men and women in the industry. Several years ago, John Gray, a doctor, wrote a book titled Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. It was an instant best seller about the difference in the way that men and women think, act, react, feel and communicate so much so that at times it seems they are from different planets - thus the name for the book and this column. Combine those differences with the fast-paced, technical complexity of our industry and you have a universe ripe for difficult working situations.

Vicki LaPlant

I promise this will not be an Ann Lander’s psychology or romance advice column (unless office romance is a hot topic), but I will not avoid sensitive subjects. Topics may include sexual harassment, husbands and wives working together, fair pay for the same job, fathers and daughters working together, a woman dispatcher getting respect from technicians, how technicians should talk to Mrs. Homeowner, office politics. And most importantly, in a time of a less-than-adequate skilled labor pool (meaning candidates with a customer service attitude as well as technical expertise), why are there still as few women in this industry as when I started in 1979?

Part of what will make this column work will be hearing from you. Please write and tell me the issues that you have confronted in the industry. I want to hear both from women and men. For example as a woman: do you think opportunities are not presented to you in this technical industry simply because of your gender? How do you and your spouse leave the office at the office and home at home? Give me specific situations and how you dealt with it.

As a man, for example: do you think women in your office don’t get respect because of their provocative attire? Have you ever considered hiring a woman for an outside salesperson or a technician? Why not? Why you find it difficult to work for a woman boss? Again specific reasons or examples.

I told you sensitive subjects.

In addition to situations between women and men in the work place, I will also write about successful marketing and sales strategies as it relates to women.

How can you appeal to that Venusian planet that women come from? What women want to know and don’t want to know about your company and products? Do your mailings and web-sites draw in women viewers? What type of referral program works best with women, the natural referral machine? (We prefer to call our referral efforts on your behalf networking not gossiping.)

I will share information gained from working with successful contractors, but I want to hear from you on this subject as well. What have you tried in an effort to more effectively reach women? Document what worked with the numbers to prove it or what didn’t work and your thoughts on why not.

And don’t go getting all proprietary on me. In my experience, the difference between the successful contractor and the unsuccessful contractor in the industry is not how good the idea is, but whether or not it ever gets implemented. So don’t be protective of some good idea because you don’t want your competitors to know about it. Don’t worry they probably won’t read this column anyway. After all someone from Venus is writing it!

Start those issues, complaints and difficult situations coming. Send me your story at [email protected].

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