Is this the way you praise and coach your employees and managers If so make sure to read part one tip 24 of this two part article to learn what top HVAC contractors do

58 Characteristics of Top Residential HVAC Retail Contractors - Part 2

March 12, 2014
In this second part to Matt Michel's HVAC contracting firm attributes list, he provides the final 28 actionable items to set your company apart from others and firmly on the road to success.

In Part One of this article, Matt Michel described the first 30 attributes that help set top HVAC contractors apart from their competition. In this second and final part, he provides the final 28 charactersistics. While all 58 apply to very few companies, the vast majority apply to nearly all of the top performing residential retail HVAC contractors.

Without further delay, top contractors do the following:

31. Partner With Suppliers

Top contractors seek ways to partner with their suppliers, looking to the suppliers to help them with inventory, training, and technical support.

32. Focus

Top contractors focus. They focus technically, knowing what they can and should do, ignoring what they cannot and should not do. They don't chase money into a different part of the industry simply because they can. They focus on their area of expertise. Similarly, top contractors exhibit a geographic focus. They define their service area and focus their effort within it.

Matt Michel, CEO, Service Roundtable
33. Use Outside Professionals

Top contractors don't try to do it themselves when there is an outside professional who can perform better and save them money in the long run. This means top contractors build relationships with attorneys, accountants, web designers, SEO/SEM specialists, and marketing companies. They turn to these specialists for their expertise, just like these specialists turn to them for heating and air conditioning work.

34. Stress Service Agreements

Top contractors know that the most valuable customers are service agreement customers, who are more loyal, do business more frequently, and are replacement sales waiting to happen. Thus, top contractors emphasize their service agreement program across their company, continually reinforcing the value of the service agreement to the company and the bargain the service agreement represents for the customer.

35. Network in the Community

Top contractors are centers of influence in their communities. They get involved in the community, joining civic clubs, leads clubs, and the chamber of commerce. They are active in their churches and other volunteer organizations, serving on community boards. Top contractors are connected.

36. Network in the Industry

Top contractors also network within the industry. They get involved with national contractor organizations and attend conferences and shows. They seek to build relationships with the best contractors and consultants in the industry.

37. Adopt and Adapt

Top contractors are not shy about adopting the best practices of other contractors. They don't assume that their market and companies are unique and different from other markets and companies. When they identify better approaches, they adopt them and adapt them to fit their companies and markets.

38. Experiment

Top contractors are not afraid to try new ideas. On a limited basis, they are constantly experimenting and testing new approaches. When new approaches represent improvements, they roll them out immediately.

39. Share

Top contractors know there are no secrets in the industry. Secret marketing is by definition, ineffective marketing. Secrets in operations stay secret until an employee is hired away by a competitor. There are no secrets. Thus, top contractors don't hesitate to share their knowledge and expertise with others, knowing that they inevitably learn more from others when they share freely.

40. Differentiate

Top contractors differentiate themselves from others in their markets. They identify or create a unique position in the mind of the consumer so they don't blend in with every other HVAC company.

41. Build Their Brand

Top contractors build brands. They create unique brands for their companies and invest in building the brands and giving them stature. They avoid investing in brands they don't own or that could be offered by their competitors.

As part of their brand building, they create a consistent image and then market that image through their literature, truck and building signage, advertising, and appearance.

42. Try to Be Easy to Do Business With

Top contractors recognize they are operating in a retail world and need to emulate retailer efforts to be easy to do business with. They offer extended hours without charging overtime. They allow consumers to schedule service at their convenience through online scheduling. They provide complete and useful information on their websites. They keep people informed about the status of their service call or installation.

43. Get Social

Top contractors are leaders in social media. They see social media as a more efficient way to network with large numbers of customers and prospects, so they build a presence. Top contractors recognize the power of social media to help build their brands, so they make sure they are speaking with an authentic voice, which is their voice.

44. Market Continuously

Top contractors market all the time. In the off-season, they market to acquire customers, generate maintenance calls, and replacement calls from existing customers. In peak season, they market to existing customers and market to increase their average ticket. Their ideal is to market so that call volume is steady throughout the year.

45. Track Marketing Results

Top contractors track their marketing. Because they market directly to the buyer, all marketing includes a call-to-action. The nature of the call-to-action, phone number, or tracking number ensures that each marketing initiative can be tracked so the contractors know what worked and what didn't.

46. Use a Marketing Calendar

Top contractors use a marketing calendar to ensure steady marketing throughout the year. Marketing initiatives are focused on new customers, existing customers, or increasing average tickets. Their start and end dates are laid out at least one quarter in advance.

47. Close the Loop

Top contractors close the loop on the work they provide by following up to ensure customers are satisfied or take corrective action if they aren't. This includes the use of online satisfaction surveys, paper surveys, and happy calls. Of course, top contractors also encourage customers to write online reviews.

48. Build to Sell

Whether they plan on selling their business to outsiders or not, top contractors act like they are building a business to be sold for the maximum price. This imposes a discipline on the contractors that results in greater operational efficiencies, more profitability, and generally a smoother running company. This also forces the contractors to develop competent teams who are capable of running the business without the contractor being present. Unless the company can operate without the contractor, it's not a business, it's just a job.

49. Stress Process over People

Top contractors stress the development of, and adherence to processes. Without formal processes, each person ad libs and develops his or her own way of performing the jobs, with little or no documentation. People-centric businesses are erratic, changing every time a person is replaced. Process-centric businesses are consistent and stable, no matter who leaves or who is hired.

50. Celebrate Success

Top contractors celebrate success in the business. They celebrate individual as well as company achievements.

51. Keep Calm

Top contractors appear calm, even when they aren't. They know all eyes are looking to them in periods of chaos and challenge, so they give off the outward appearance of steady reassurance. They never get too high or too low.

52. Look for Win-Win Solutions

Top contractors seek double and triple win solutions. They don't view business or life as a zero-sum game where there’s a loser for every winner. They seek solutions where everyone can win with every transaction and interaction.

53. Emulate Instead of Envy

When a top contractor encounters a more successful contractor, he doesn't envy the other contractor. He doesn't slander him or try to tear him down. Instead, he seeks to emulate his success, to find out what he can learn, and apply that to his own life and business.

54. Work “On” the Business

Top contractors strive to make themselves unnecessary in the day-to-day operations of their companies so they can devote their time to working on the business to improve it and develop it.

55. Think Outside of the Box

Top contractors think outside the box. Even if they don't develop a new or novel approach, their out-of-the-box thinking gives them the ability to recognize the merits of innovation before most of their peers. When another contractor develops an innovative solution like flat rate pricing or performance-based pay, top contractors immediately note the potential, which helps them become early adopters.

56. Reinvest

Top contractors reinvest their initial profit in the business for future growth. Profits beyond their investment target are returned to the shareholders for putting capital at risk and shared with employees.

57. Give Back

Top contractors give back to their industry and community. They give back charitably. They give back through volunteer work. They give back by mentoring others. They give back by sharing their knowledge and insight.

58. Have Fun

Top contractors know that life is too short and work too time-consuming for it to be drudgery. So top contractors have fun at work and encourage others to have fun as well. Not only does this make life more enjoyable, it makes their companies more attractive, improving morale, and reducing turnover.

To see part one of Matt's 58-point list, go to it here. Looking for more ideas or to learn more about the Service Roundtable? Call them at 877.262.3341 or visit their website at

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.