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So Your Child Wants To Be A Contractor ...

Jan. 9, 2013
Service Roundtable CEO Matt Michel Rants about what business owners need to say to their children who want to come into the HVACR business and be successful.

I have two beautiful daughters, but neither one of them is interested in becoming a contractor. However, if one or both were interested, this is what I’d say to them:

Apologize for price, not quality. Charge a little more and do the job right. You only have to apologize for price once, but you will apologize for quality forever.

Get social. People are interacting in new ways with social media. If you don’t join them, you’re not part of the conversation.

Eat lunch with “centers of influence.” You have to eat. Why not eat with community leaders at your local Lions Club, Rotary, or other groups?

Offer solar. This is a business-plus that most contractors overlook. The same is true for generators, geothermal, etc.

Watch your image. You sell intangibles, which are invisible. People pre-judge you based on the tangibles they can see. Your trucks, your people, your uniforms, your marketing, your social media, and your website should consistently present a positive, professional image.

Flat rate. Consumers prefer flat rate. It’s easier for the techs. It allows you to price without gamesmanship.

Build it to sell. Whether you intend to sell your business or not, create one that you could sell. It will result in a better, more profitable company. Always be working on an exit strategy.

Watch your cash. Lack of cash kills more businesses than anything else. Conserve your cash. Stay away from slow pay customers who require significant expenditures of your cash before getting paid. Better yet, become 100% COD for all your jobs.

Hire slow. Fire fast. Always recruit, but be careful about hiring someone else’s mistake. Develop your people. When you make a hiring mistake, fix it fast.

Focus on getting and keeping customers. Market always. Market continually. Market to existing customers as much as you do to new customers.

Join a buying group. Don’t pay more than necessary. Get rewarded for a group’s buying power.

Train. Training never stops. Incorporate training into your service meetings. Pay for your people to take distance learning courses, attend webinars, and go to local and national training programs. Remember, it’s better to invest in employees who might leave than to fail to invest in employees who stay.

Know your numbers. Track your important metrics. Study your key performance indicators and financial statements.

Build “your” brand. If a customer wants your brand, you’ve got a monopoly. Make it the focus of all of your marketing and sales activities. After all, it’s the only brand you own.

Learn continually. Read books. Read trade magazines. Read blogs. Go to conferences and seminars. Network with peers.

Pay for performance. What gets rewarded gets repeated. Reward behaviors you want. Create a compensation system that turns people into self-managers.

Relax and recharge. Take vacations. Get away from the business. This is required.

Make yourself unnecessary. If your company cannot exist without you, you don’t own a company. You own a job.

Hire above yourself. Hire people who are better than you. Hire people who will lift the organization up, rather than hold the organization back.

Don’t reinvent the wheel. This industry has resources from lots of smart people. Take advantage of other people’s successful ideas, products, and programs. Pay them for their experience. In the long run, you’ll save time and money.

Seek good partners. Find manufacturer and distributor partners who will work with you to grow and prosper together.

Own your customers. Only offer extended warranties that you control. Be “sticky” with service agreements, loyalty marketing, and affinity programs.

Be easy to do business with. Answer the phones with humans. Work extended hours. Provide service and installations on the weekend. Offer third-party financing.

Share your vision. Where do you want to be in five years? Describe it. Share the vision with your team and they will help you achieve it.

Give back. Give back to your community. Get involved locally. Support local charities and associations. And give back to your industry. Join a contractor group. Mentor others.

Learn how to overcome adversity at the International Roundtable in Fort Worth, TX, February 11-14, 2013, including keynotes by industry-son, Joe Groh and Air Force fighter pilot and Super Bowl Champion Chad Hennings. For more information, call 877/262-3341 or visit

Matt Michel is CEO of the Service Roundtable ( The Service Roundtable is an organization founded to help contractors improve their sales, marketing, operations, and profitability. Call toll free: 877/262-3341 for  information about how to join.