I met John when we both worked in corporate manufacturing for Lennox. John was a quality manager who had a background in the field. I found him very approachable and incredibly bright. Others agreed and John moved up to help manage corporate strategy.
Vicki was on a fast track within Lennox, heading up the company’s Dealer Marketing Advisor (DMA) program, which was a national consulting program for fast growth Lennox dealers. Because Vicki utilized leading industry consultants and trainers to train the DMAs, all were well grounded in practical, proven, real world sales, business, and marketing. After the DMA program wound down, Vicki was given responsibility for all of marketing within Lennox.
After Lennox, Vicki started Vital Learning Experiences, training and consulting company. Her vision for the business is, “to make a difference.” They want contractors to improve their profitability, systems, processes, opportunities for retirement, and life quality as a result of working with their company.
Once VLE achieved stable footing, John joined Vicki. They’ve helped thousands of contractors make more money and operate more smoothly. In recognition of their impact, Vicki was named by Contracting Business as one of the most influential people in residential HVAC.
High School Teachers
It’s interesting that John and Vicki both started out as high school teachers. I’ve watched them lead many training classes and know they must have been outstanding high school educators. The schools’ loss is HVAC’s gain.
How do you go from high school teacher to HVAC? John was a native of Marshalltown, Iowa (Lennox’ headquarters at the time) and found training technicians to be a natural transition. Vicki found the industry by accident, when she applied for a technical writing position with what she thought was a china company.
Joseph S Groh Foundation
The La Plants were instrumental in the creation and continuing operation of the Joseph S Groh Foundation, which is the official charity of the Service Roundtable and one of the industry’s most noble endeavors. The foundation “is dedicated to providing financial support to those connected with the construction trades industry (plumbing, HVAC, electrical, roofing etc.) who are living with life altering injuries.” Read more about the Joe’s story here.
Because of this and other selfless acts over the years, both John and Vicki have been recognized as Service Roundtable Servant Leaders. Read more about the Servant Leader program here.
Helping Contractors Overcome Their Biggest Challenges
With their backgrounds, the La Plants are students of contracting, who continually learn and apply their knowledge and experience. When working with smaller contractors, they say, “The biggest challenge is the requirement of actually doing field work and managing and growing a business. There simply are not enough hours in a day. The strategy that we suggest for owners in this situation is to structure their business, costs and pricing based on the company they want to be not the company they are.”
The La Plants work with all sizes of contractors and note that larger contractors have different challenges. “Finding and managing quality employees is the biggest challenge larger contractors face. These contractors need to objectively and dispassionately evaluate their work force and fire the dead weight. This contractor needs to looks for employees outside the industry who can grow into highly productive members of the contractor team. Finally, this contractor must continually be in a hiring mode and not wait until a crisis occurs to look for a new employee.”
The La Plants are much beloved by the contractors they work with. For example, Don and Kathie Todd at Central Oregon Heating & Cooling say, “We have found Vicki and John La Plant’s program to be invaluable to our company. Not only have they been very professional and knowledgeable, but also warm and friendly. They present their comments and suggestions with sincere concern and thoughtfulness. We can trust them to follow through with their commitments and they exhibit great integrity in their work with all of us.”
“Our company has experienced immediate positive growth both in net income and efficiency under their guidance. Their combined experience and education is vast and insightful. We highly recommend them to anyone sincerely wishing to improve their business.”
Where They Can’t Help
With effort, people can be dispassionate about their businesses, but few are dispassionate about their families, even when the families are dysfunctional and working at cross purposes.
“When you hire a consultant,” they note, “you may not always like what you will hear. Consultants should be hired to develop and fine tune business operations not solve family problems. Identify what the issues are in the company and decide if family counseling or a business consultant may provide the solution.”
Of course, family is intertwined in most HVAC companies so family issues cannot usually be avoided. The La Plants may “say” they aren’t family counselors, but they are effective at it when it’s part of the job.
What’s Your Need?
Whether your challenge is moving from residential new construction to service and replacement, breaking though a sales plateau, improving profitability, quality, and business processes, John and Vicki La Plant are ready to help.
Want to learn more about effective employee recruiting and retention? Come to the International Roundtable conference in Las Vegas April 15-17. CLICK HERE for more information or call toll free 877.262.3341.