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8 Lies HVAC Contractors Tell Themselves

June 18, 2024
Some of the lies never seem to change. Others vary with the times.

There have always been lies contractors tell themselves. Some never seem to change. Others vary with the times. Here are eight lies contractors are telling themselves in 2024.

1. I Cannot Charge More

This is the most common lie contractors tell themselves. Whatever they charge, in most cases it is not enough to earn the owner a return for the risk taken, provide capital to reinvest in the growth of the business, pay the team good wages and benefits, and fund the training necessary to remain state-of-the-art in technology and service.

In truth, many contractors limit their pricing based on their perceived self-worth. They fail to recognize that they deliver specialized skills and expertise their customers lack. A contractor’s perceived self-worth is not the customer’s perception of the value they deliver. What’s the value of a cool home on a hot day, a warm home when it’s freezing outside, or clean air when you child is an asthmatic?

2. Successful Contractors are Crooks

Do well in any profession and you will become the target of ungracious envy. Nowhere is this more prevalent than the service trades. When a contractor does well in a market over time, it is due to excellent business practices. Less successful contractors often disparage more successful peers. They must. To do otherwise is to take ownership of, and responsibility for their less stellar performance. Thus, they whisper slanders to other underperforming peers, claiming successful contractors overcharge, are not as technically pure and take shortcuts, or are simply the beneficiaries of luck.

In truth, when an envious contractor points a finger at his more successful peer, three fingers are pointed back at him. The successful contractor shows what he could become if he was willing to overcome self-limiting behavior. Ironically, most successful contractors are more than willing to help others because they have an abundance mentality where they see enough business for everyone.

3. I Don’t Need to Grow

The reason the industry is awash with very small contractors is small contractors do not believe they need to grow. They think they are more profitable as a one or two truck operation. They crow about their independence.

This is selfishness at play. They ignore the possibility of illness or getting hurt from an accident. If they can’t work, their competitors will take care of their customers, but who will take care of their families? The government? Every living thing in nature is either growing or dying. The same is true of people and companies. Every company needs to at least grow to the point where the it can operate without the owner. Only then, does it become a going concern. Only, then does the contractor own a business, instead of a job.

4. No One Wants to Work

One of the excuses contractors give for staying small in their inability to find people to work. They say no one wants to work. In reality, no one wants to work for them.

There are experienced technicians working for private equity back contractors who would jump for a company with a family atmosphere, but they expect to be paid what they are worth. As Contracting Business Hall of Fame contractor, Steve Miles says, “If your technicians aren’t the best paid in your market, it’s not their fault.” Pay well, offer competitive benefits, train, recruit all of the time, and charge enough to cover the expenses. With effort, you will find plenty of people who want to work. With effort.

5. Joining a Group Will Solve My Problems

Some contractors believe that buying a franchise or joining a business alliance will solve all of their problems. Presto, bingo, write the check, sit back, and the money will come rolling in. Only, it doesn’t work like that.

These groups have answers and the systems, but they only work if the contractor is willing to work the systems. The groups will lend support, systems, information, connections with successful peers, training, and buying group savings. They can offer everything the contractor needs to succeed, but no one can do it for the contractor. Whenever you see a successful contractor crediting a group, make no mistake, the group was a factor but the success was all due to the contractor.

6. The Industry Guru of the Day has All of the Answers

The industry has always had its share of gurus. Lately, a new cast of characters has emerged who promise easy answers for cold cash. Hmm. In contrast to the industry membership groups, the gurus establish personality cults with followers. Some appear to have found fast success in the industry. Some come from other industries. Contractors are supposed to know they are good because they are pictures with fast cars or jet planes, and tell you they are the best.

Contractors can learn from the flash and cash gurus, but the lessons can be expensive, very expensive. Contractors should investigate those with appealing messages, while keeping the fact in the back of their mind that exotic cars can be rented.

7. The New Field Service Management Software Will Solve My Problems

Software demos are flashy. They are appealing. The contractor thinks this package must be better than the crappy one I’m using now. It will give me the answers I need. It might, but only if the contractor changes his processes to match those required by the software.

Software is a tool. Like any tool, if used incorrectly, it will likely perform poorly. The truth is that a contractor fighting his current FSM software will likely fight a new package as well. Software must be installed with a degree of humility and patience. It will take time to implement and every estimate of the total cost of conversion will be too low. Remember, software is simply a tool to use.

8. Private Equity Will Dominate

Private equity (PE) is certainly making its presence known in the service trades. Many contractors are worried that PE will overwhelm them and crush any independent contractors not acquired. Nonsense.

As prior consolidation efforts proved, it is extremely hard to gain a sustainable competitive advantage by rolling up residential contracting companies. Roll ups can buy better, but not that much better. They can offer better pay and benefits, but these can be matched. In fact, every advantage PE has, besides capital, can be matched or overcome by well run, more nimble, less bureaucratic, more motivated independents. Moreover, there is a wave of owners whose non-competes will soon expire. Expect many to start new companies, only this time they will not only have more knowledge and experience, but be well financed in their own right.

Matt Michel will be a keynote speaker at Service World Expo, October 14-17 in Orlando. To register and learn more about the event, visit

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.