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7 Business Trends for HVAC Pros in 2019

In 2018 we saw the rise of the online marketplace: Facebook, Google, Amazon—the big tech players got into the game, which was predicted by contributors in our 2018 trends article.

This year we’re seeing that no one single issue is dominating the narrative for business owners in the home services. Our contributors in HVAC, residential cleaning, landscaping, arboriculture, pool service, contracting, window cleaning, pressure washing, accounting, consulting, and more, have all identified trends and priorities across a variety of areas.

An important common denominator this year is the need to take a 360 degree view to growing and differentiating your business. Everything ladders up to creating a memorable service experience for customers in a crowded landscape, and it pays to take a holistic approach.

The themes of having a strong online presence, building out a team you can trust, continuously adjusting your digital marketing, and looking for automation and efficiency opportunities aren’t new—they’re table stakes. And maybe that’s the overarching theme: 2019 is the year of getting back to basics, and ensuring your business is ready to crush the year on all fronts.  

– Sam Pillar, CEO, Jobber

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1. Make it easy for your customers to assess your pricing

Amazon has changed consumers’ expectations in how they purchase things. The HVAC companies that are able to streamline their sales process and publish pricing online will have a huge advantage.

You’re so used to buying things online and having them shipped to their door overnight and it just baffles customers when they hear someone has to come to their home and spend an hour with them. They go through that three or four times to get a new furnace.

I’ve interviewed young buyers and middle aged buyers over the last two years and 80 per cent of them say they wished they could get pricing either on a website or on a phone call.

– Don Snow, Halcyon Consulting 

 

We find that most service companies give their prospects an ‘ultimatum’ when they give a quote. They don’t mean to, but what often happens is that a company will give out a single price for services that the potential customer views as a ‘take it or leave it price.’ The only way for them to get context on that pricing is to call a competitor in order to see how their pricing compares. In today’s research buying style that is typically done through email or a few text messages and ultimately the potential customer makes their decision once they have enough information that surely won’t be determined in an ‘ultimatum’ style quote.

The other type of quote that is very common in the service world is the ‘line item’ style pricing. This give the customer more information, but comes with a lot of other baggage. Often when a customer looks at a bunch of lines adding up to a single price, they feel in internal obligation to scrutinize each line and often will ask to cut a few lines off the estimate or in the end, maybe ask for a few of the line items to be “thrown in for free” so that the business can close the deal.

If you look at how customers are used to buying in today’s market, they like to choose from packages. Often this gives them all of the context they need to make a decision right away with enough options, but it also puts the emphasis on value being connected to price, rather than features to be haggled over. By laying out a ‘good, better, best’ option for customers to choose from, you’ll find that you’ll close more jobs at higher prices and your customers will thank you!

– Curt Kempton, Founder, Responsibid and Symphosize

 

One technology I’m interested in for 2019 is a proposal app. We use a price book to create handwritten proposals on the spot. Handwriting isn’t efficient, and sales people can sometimes leave out details to cut corners.

You can use an app to create good, better, best pricing, and show the customer right away then email it to them afterwards so they can make a selection.

– Van Wu, Owner, Trust Home Comfort

2. Get your cash flow in order before it’s too late

If you’re the owner of a contracting business and you’ve been avoiding determining and learning your numbers, 2019 is your year to step up to the plate and tackle this crucial aspect of your company. If you want to go from contractor to CEO; if you want to be more efficient, organized, profitable, and less stressed, you need to know your numbers. Why? In order to quote profitably, know when to hire, know which types of work are making you money and which aren’t… the list goes on…

Whether you’ve avoided your numbers out of fear or confusion, now is your time to tackle one of the most important tasks the CEO must do. We’re talking break even margin, break even sales, and setting profit targets and budgets. Knowing how to track and forecast your cash flow and having the ability to track the percentage of hours and materials against each phase of your projects will also greatly benefit you. Turn chaos into control and start making more money without all the stress and challenges! Jobber and Profit For Contractors are here to help you today.

– Andrew Houston, Founder and Owner, Business Consultant, Profit for Contractors

 

The best piece of business advice that I would tell people to put into place in 2019 is to build a safety net of six months of cash saved to cover business and personal expenses. I am not preaching gloom and doom but history has taught us that recessions occur approximately every eight years and we are now almost 11 years since our last recession. I would strongly advise to not be over-leveraged with debt and to have as much equipment, property and vehicles paid in full as possible.

– Phil Sarros, Director of Education, Dirt Monkey University

 

Set specific targets and goals. Targets start with the overall big number and then reverse engineer that target to fit into daily/weekly tasks and actions that are built to achieve the end number.

Take time to work on your business. This is called CEO time. Review your business objectively. How are your initiatives stacking up to what you expected? What adjustments do you need to make? Have a set ‘core’ agenda for this review process each week and stick to it.

– Brad Halliwell, Business Coach, Halliwell Business Coaching

3. Grow and invest in your residential service offerings

Our 2019 Economic Outlook Survey indicates continued growth in residential HVACR, so small business owners should take advantage of the opportunity at the [2019 AHR Expo] to seek new products and technologies that fit their increasing consumer demand.

The highest potential market driver from our recent survey for business is retrofit and renovation, with 36 per cent of respondents marking it as a business influencer. Small businesses should be mindful of how this will play out in the residential space as consumers look to upgrade their systems.

 AHR Expo

 

We are enhancing our home survey in 2019. I used to visit a home and only check the furnace.

During our new Home Comfort survey we’ll get a full understanding of the HVAC system in the home: ask about hotspots, find out if anyone has allergies, and find out how many people live in the home—before we check the furnace. You can then upsell products to your customers to help solve their problems.

– Van Wu, Owner, Trust Home Comfort

 

Smart devices and the Internet of Things will continue to play a role in residential HVACR with heightened technologies reshaping the space. This accounts for new construction as well as upgrades to existing systems. Consumers are looking for deeper connections between their surrounding environments and the devices they use.

AHR Expo

4. Create processes that increase trust and transparency

Sales is pretty much 90 per cent building trust and removing as much risk as possible for buyers. A big part of that is transparency. So offering combustion analysis before and after your install proves to homeowners that their new equipment is hitting the targets that they’re buying into with higher efficiency.

If I’m telling a homeowner they should replace their furnace because it’s old and inefficient, I can produce a record proving what their old model is running at, and then when I install a new one I can do it again and show them how much it’s improved. Then they can calculate that against their utility bills.

– Don Snow, Halcyon Consulting

 

Keep ‘humanizing’ your brand. Even though we deal with machines, they’re owned by people who care to know who is behind the skills. Sell EXPERIENCES; clients already expect a perfect service at an awesome price. You cannot compete by these alone anymore, so sell feelings but do your best to make sure they’re mostly positive.

– Luisa Vesga, Vmech Mechanical

 

The economy might be slowing down over the next year, which means that demand for home services might be lower and competition will be higher. Small business owners in the home services industry should continue to improve on providing the best customer experience they can.

If they’re not regularly getting feedback or reviews from their customers, they should take this opportunity to implement a feedback process, whether it’s a simple survey, phone call, or Google review. Also, take note of what their competitors are doing to see how they compare.

– Quan Ly, Partner, CPA, McRally LLP Chartered Accountants

 

Offer a better warranty. Clients are making a big investment and if they make a mistake it’s equipment they’re stuck with for the next 15 to 20 years.

We offer a one year warranty, with a money back guarantee. Most customers will not abuse this policy, so we’re releasing that burden from their shoulders—it gives them peace of mind to make a decision to move forward.

– Van Wu, Owner, Trust Home Comfort

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5. Adopt efficiency-boosting technologies and systems

Profit For Contractors is a big fan of helping contractors make more money with less effort. Some of the apps we recommend you check out are Trello, Google Drive, Google Calendars, QuickBooks, and of course, Jobber.

Trello and Google Drive/Calendar are free and we utilize them to create checklists as simple systems team members can easily follow in order to keep them accountable on every job/task they do. Google Drive is a great place to share and store files of every type with your team or clients and the Calendar is great for defaulting your time (so that you focus on high-value tasks first and foremost) and inform your team as to when they can come to you for help. QuickBooks is a great tool to help you with your numbers and it integrates with quite a few other apps.

Remember, it’s all about saving time, making money, and de-stressing!

– Andrew Houston, Founder and Owner, Business Consultant, Profit for Contractors

 

The best technology to invest in would fall into one of three possible categories: Sales, Operations, and Office. For your sales department (and your company as a whole), a very wise investment would be software that automates invoicing, estimating, routing, payments, CRM and automated communications with clients. Jobber, hands-down, is the industry leader in this area and that is why Dirt Monkey University relentlessly promotes their products and services.

– Phil Sarros, Director of Education, Dirt Monkey University

 

Automate your business as much as possible, and keep an eye on emerging technologies that help you do this. For a long time, powerful automation tools didn’t exist for small business owners—they were targeted at large businesses with big budgets.

Small businesses are now getting access to this tech for a fraction of the price, and in some ways it’s better than enterprise level tools. Look at accounting software: at the enterprise level it’s very expensive, always needs to be updated, and it’s hard to use, with a clunky user interface. QuickBooks Online is easy to use, always up to date—and available for a fraction of the price. Software companies are now developing new tools for small businesses first, then sending them up-market, so there is more software innovation than ever in the small business space.

These automation tools are not only going to help you reduce costs, maybe you can delay hiring an administrator or a bookkeeper, they should give you better visibility into your business so you can operate more strategically.

– Darren Wood, Director of Finance and Operations, Jobber

 

Improve your time management. Use your calendars effectively. Block tasks and have specific time allocations to them. This way you don’t spend too much time with one item. Also, keeps you on pace to complete important tasks without missing anything. This is an important process that helps to control your workflow and keeps you organized. Here’s an example:

Monday

8:30am to 9:15am: CEO time

9:30am to 10:30am: prospecting calls

10:30am to 12:00pm: onsite

12:00pm to 1:00pm: lunch/flex time

1:00pm to 1:25pm: follow up with X project

1:25pm to 2:00pm: flex time

2:00pm to 2:30pm: marketing review

3:00pm to 4:00pm: sales meeting

– Brad Halliwell, Business Coach, Halliwell Business Coaching

 

If small home service business owners are still doing things manually or using a lot of paper, seriously consider going digital and use software built for their type of business. Their competitors are leveraging modern software to maximize performance and win customers, don’t get left behind.

Good software should be accessible from anywhere on any device, be simple to use, save you time, reduce risk, and is customer friendly (if there’s a customer touchpoint). Software like Jobber checks all of those boxes.

– Quan Ly, Partner, CPA, McRally LLP Chartered Accountants

6. Make sure you can be found where people are looking for you

The most important thing for small businesses when it comes to marketing is being found where people want to find you. You need to make sure you have your basics covered with: a Facebook page with the location info filled in, a Google My Business account with local information and service areas filled in, etc.

It’s getting harder and harder to be found and those are the basics. If you don’t have the basics covered, you don’t need to do anything else. Don’t hire anyone to do SEO on your site. Don’t hire anyone to paid ads. Start with the basics.

– Nick Keyko, Director of Marketing, Jobber

 

Google is coming out with a tool that will become more widespread in 2019: local service ads.

At the very top of a results page it will show three or four plumbers in your area that you can book directly from Google without ever visiting the plumber’s website. Right now, you still have to click an ad, visit the website, and then find out how to book your service.

This feature is becoming available throughout the US and is likely on its way to Canada. Early adopters are paying $20 to $30 per lead, but this will go up and likely double as others adopt the service—so get on there before everyone else figures this out!

You also don’t need to worry about finding an agency to help with your Google Ads spend: it’s set it and forget it. It’s built with the entrepreneur in mind, eliminating Google Ads management time.

– Rafael Valdez, PPC Analyst, Jobber

7. Level up your hiring practices to attract the employees you want

As someone who was raised by entrepreneurs and is surrounded by small business owners, I can say that the biggest challenge business owners go through as they go from solopreneur to hiring their first employee is not spending enough time exploring trust.

If you don’t trust a person with your business why would you hire them? You won’t be able to delegate, so it’s a waste of time and money: You’re training them, but setting yourself up for failure.

You need to find someone who will run your business with the principles you’ve built, and you need to ensure they can deliver on the small things you currently do day-to-day. If it’s not clear what tasks you’ll be able to offload onto them in the next six months, then you shouldn’t be making that hire.

Think about the creative ways to break outside of a traditional recruiting process. We know how important our customers’ customers are for growing their business through word of mouth referrals, especially as online marketplaces create an even more competitive environment, so how can you test that you’ll be able to trust a candidate will deliver the level of service you’ve set? Get them to do a mock phone call with someone, to show you how they would approach a difficult scenario. Have them shadow you on a job, and invest time learning how they do things.

Ask yourself: can I trust this person with my business?

– Danielle Strang, Head of People Operations, Jobber

 

Employee issues are always the number one pain point for small business owners and it is only going to get worse for those unwilling to change. No longer is it enough to post a help wanted ad and hope for the best. Smart owners are shifting to head-hunting for top talent and focusing on building recruiting systems.  

With unemployment at an all time low coupled with the fact that millennials are moving away from the trades, it is a perfect storm.  

The owners who get ahead of this issue have a massive opportunity to build incredible teams of A-players but it will only happen by them taking serious the idea of head-hunting. Most great job candidates are already working somewhere else and it is the small business owners responsibility to lure them away with a better offer and a compelling company culture.

– Josh Latimer, Founder, SendJim and Automate Grow Sell

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