After a few weeks of 90 degree weather, we are now starting to see the full effects of summer kick in. We all know that this is the busiest time of year for our industry, and we must remain motivated and keep up our energy when dealing with the countless amount of customers we will have this season. Customer service and safety are our utmost priorities. AACP wants to help you, our members, continue to prosper during our peak time of the year.
We have some great events in store for the latter part of 2019 looking onto 2020. This September we will be hosting two of the year’s biggest events: our annual golf event on September 13th and the Heat Exchanger Experts Seminar on September 30th. This seminar covers many useful topics: customer walk through of inspections, the 10 reasons for cracked heat exchangers and how to identify them, and much more. Registration for both of these events is currently open, so be sure to sign up before it is too late. Keep an eye out for additional events this fall!
As your technicians set off to work long days and nights these upcoming months, be sure to inform them of safety precautions when working in this weather. Be sure that their attire is not too heavy and as sweat-resistant as possible, they are splitting time in attics with partner technicians, they are riding in a well-conditioned truck with working A/C and that they are staying hydrated. These things will keep your technicians in the best shape for working in the brutal weather we receive during these months.
I am committed to assisting each one of you and your corporations. Please reach out to me with any questions, suggestions, or inquiries on how AACP can assist you. Best of luck to you all this season and I wish you all a great summer.
Mike Tucker AACP, President
When it comes to getting your business in front of potential customers in your service area, a Website is an essential piece of the puzzle. With more and more customers researching companies online before hiring them, any company that’s missing a Website lacks the necessary credibility to add new customers, and ends up missing out on new business. In one noteworthy report, researchers found that 63% of consumers primarily use a business’s Website to find and engage with a local service.
So if your company has a Website – great, you’ve passed step one! But if you’re going to stand out among the pack, it’s going to take some added effort. Here are three ways to make your air conditioning service Website stand out from the rest:1. Provide Educational Content
There’s a lot on a customer’s mind when they search for a local HVAC contractor. They want to know if you can solve their problem, if they can trust you and if you know what you’re talking about. This is where it helps to host educational content about your industry.
Your content can take the form of blog posts, FAQs or pages with detailed information about your services. This helps win over smart shoppers who like to know as much as they can about a topic before they close on a deal. Not everyone is familiar with how important regular AC tune-ups are, but you can break the mold and list some information on your Website that spells out how tune-ups can help people save on expensive repairs and energy bills.
Even if the consumer doesn’t end up making a deal with you, featuring this educational material on your Website will do the following:
Another way to get in front of your competitors is by posting visual content that is unique, personalized and high quality. When perusing a series of HVAC sites, there’s two ends of the spectrum that Websites tend to fall in. On one end, there are the sites with low-quality images taken from a cell phone. On the other end, you’ll find sites that showcase the same stock images as dozens of other companies. The key is to find a spot in the middle ground that combines quality with personalization.
Enlisting the help of a professional photographer (or even someone with a great camera) to take some photos of your office and team is a great way to let your customers know they’re dealing with real people. Customers will have an easier time trusting a company with personalized media than they will with a cookie-cutter template site. Push it a step further, and have a professional put together a Company Video for your Website. According to Google, about half of Internet users look for videos related to a service before contacting the company. Video content is an awesome way to explain to your audience who you are and what you do. Sure, your Website is able to do that as well, but a personalized video will be able to do so in a way that is quick, fun, and convenient for your Website visitors.3. Give Calls-To-Action
If you’ve followed the first two steps, you’re on your way to a great site that is sure to stand out! There’s more to a quality Website than great content, however. User experience should always be the first thing on your mind when designing a site, which is why it’s key to include a Call-To-Action (CTA). Typically in the form of a button, CTAs guide your Website’s visitors through your site.
Maybe you want your visitors to see the different service packages you offer… you should feature a noticeable button that says “View Our Services!” that is easy to find on the Home page. Once you link this button to your Services page, you’ve effectively made the user experience friendlier for the potential customer. To seal the deal, place another CTA on the Services page saying “Request Service,” which links out to your Contact page. From a marketing standpoint, you’ve strategically laid out a path that converts curious shoppers to interested leads.
When it comes to your Website, quality design and content
will yield noticeable results in the long run. It’s not enough to simply exist
online anymore; you also have to be able to stand out. And there’s no better
way to stand out than by building a Website that is well-designed and full of
smart, personal content. Online searchers don’t settle for less, so neither
About the Author
Alain Parcan, Director of Marketing for Market Hardware, Inc., contributed this article. Alain brings nearly 10 years of experience in educating businesses so they can market themselves more effectively. Market Hardware helps small businesses compete on the Web and offers special discounts for AACP members. You can Reach Alain’s team at 888-381-6925
By Michael Tobias
Every business sector presents different challenges, and managers must have an adequate combination of skills to face them. In the case of engineering management, a key challenge is the unique nature of every project. This contrasts with manufacturing firms that deliver large batches of identical products, or companies with a predetermined service offering.
Construction administration involves the
direction of teams from different technical disciplines, who work on several
unique projects at once. Since each project differs in scope, scale and
deadlines, engineering managers must be capable of breaking them down into
tasks, and assigning these tasks based on priority.
How a Construction or Building Renovation Project is Delivered
Manufacturing and service companies can focus on repeatability, delivering the same product or service several times as efficiently as possible. While there is some degree of customization, the starting point is normally a predetermined set of products or services. This does not apply for engineering management, where the technical specifications are unique for every project.
Requirements are discussed with each client in engineering projects, and these are used to define a project scope. The scope is then broken down by areas such as architecture, structural design, mechanical systems, electrical systems, plumbing installations and fire protection. Each area of work is divided into specific tasks, which are assigned to engineering teams.
At a glance this may seem like a simple
procedure, but the challenge lies in the unique nature of each project. It is
also important to note that construction work is performed outdoors, where
there are uncontrollable factors such as weather and traffic. Engineering
managers must be capable of delivering a project successfully, while meeting a
unique scope and managing external factors that affect the construction
How Engineering Managers Handle Variability and Uncertainty
Since engineering is not a repetitive process, a constant management effort is necessary to keep projects on track. However, engineering managers can rely on technology and best practices in project management.
Risk management can make the difference between success and failure in an engineering project. The traditional approach has been responding to issues as they emerge, but this is risky and expensive:
There is an entire chapter dedicated to risk management in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) from the Project Management Institute (PMI). This reflects the importance of risk management in engineering projects.
Other areas that must be managed actively in engineering projects are communication and procurement. If these aspects are left unattended, the project is likely to suffer from inefficiency and delays.
When engineering managers handle risk,
communication and procurement effectively, uncertainty is reduced. As a result,
the project is more likely to meet its deadline and budget.
Why Engineering Managers Must Be Tech-Savvy
Engineering projects involve computer-aided modeling and simulation tools, which eliminate the need for manual drafting and calculations. Thanks to these tools, engineers can handle more projects simultaneously, compared with the time before these technologies were developed.
Engineering managers rarely use these tools directly, but they must have a solid understanding of how they work. This way, they can provide better guidance and instructions to design engineers.
Building Information Modeling (BIM) software goes one step beyond, since it combines modeling with team collaboration. Engineers from different technical areas can work on a single building model, visualizing how their designs interact with those from other teams. When projects use BIM, engineering managers must be familiarized with the technology to provide effective direction.
About the Author
Michael Tobias is the founder and principal of Chicago Engineers. He is a graduate of Georgia Tech class of 2004, with a Bachelors of Mechanical Engineering with honors. His innovative approach to MEP engineering comes from graduating GE’s Engineering Leadership Program, where he designed wind turbines and biofuel power plant engines. Michael’s passion within design is energy efficiency and green technology.
By Joanna Turpin
By any measure, the economic news that came out in April was outstanding. The real gross domestic product (GDP) increased at an annual rate of 3.2 percent in the first quarter of 2019, which was higher than expected, and average hourly earnings showed a 12-month increase of 3.2 percent. In addition, worker productivity increased at a rate of 2.4 percent in the first quarter of 2019 compared to a year ago. However, the biggest news was that the economy added 263,000 jobs in April, which pushed the unemployment rate down to 3.6 percent — the lowest it’s been since 1969.
The construction industry added 33,000 net new jobs in April, according to an Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Compared to the same time last year, industry employment is up by 256,000 jobs, an increase of 3.5 percent. Overall, the construction industry unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent, down 2.2 percentage points from the same time last year, which represents the lowest April rate since the series began in the year 2000, noted ABC.
“Many economists are predicting a recession in 2020 or 2021,” said Anirban Basu, chief economist, ABC. “While that’s possible, the case for an economic downturn over the next 12 to 18 months is fading fast. The nation has added jobs in 103 consecutive months, and the unemployment rate is at its lowest level since 1969. With inflation and interest rates low, the cost of capital remains suppressed, helping to induce ongoing spending growth among companies, consumers, and governments alike. For construction firms, the jobs report is consistent with lengthy backlog, continued expansion in consumer outlays, growing demand for office and other forms of space, and steady demand for construction services.”
While most HVACR contractors are working flat out these days, the one issue that may be holding them back is the lack of qualified labor. Without a full crew, it’s difficult — if not impossible — to take on all the work that is currently available. In addition, contractors have to pay more for the employees they already have, as well as for those they want to hire. According to ABC, average hourly earnings for construction employees increased by 0.4 percent from March to April, approximately twice the rate of growth observed across all industries.
Most contractors struggle to find and retain workers, and this problem is not likely to get better anytime soon. That is why it is becoming so important to think outside the box when it comes to attracting talent. Many contractors tend to act locally, attending career fairs at high schools in the area and partnering with regional trade schools in order to create a pipeline of potential employees. But it may be worth casting a wider net and partnering with schools, or going to job fairs, in states with higher rates of unemployment (e.g., Alaska, West Virginia, Ohio). Offering a nice signing bonus to help with the move can make a job offer more attractive.
Or perhaps consider creating an in-house training program to grow your own talent. One contractor I spoke to several years ago decided to create an apprenticeship program specifically for his company. He worked with authorities to create a state- and federally approved four-year, 8,000-hour program that is designed to graduate technicians who are able to pass the state licensing exam. The last time we talked, he said he had no trouble filling his program, noting that 18 apprentices were currently enrolled, while another 11 or 12 were waiting to enter the program.
Several contractors have started hosting monthly open houses — advertising them through word-of-mouth and social media — where job seekers can come and eat pizza while learning more about the careers in HVACR. They report that these ventures have been very successful and resulted in several new employees joining their businesses — including some who had no experience in the industry but had the right attitude and were interested in being trained.
As the labor market continues to tighten, HVACR contractors are becoming more creative in the ways in which they find workers. What are some of the new things that you are doing to attract and retain talent? I would love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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About the Author
Joanna Turpin is a Senior Editor. She can be contacted at 248-786-1707 or email@example.com. Joanna has been with BNP Media since 1991, first heading up the company’s technical book division. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Washington and worked on her master’s degree in technical communication at Eastern Michigan University.
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By Tracy Robinson
Happy employees result in happy customers.
Think about your employees. Do they love their jobs? Are they proud of the company they work for? I recommend examining these five qualities of businesses with great culture, and taking stock of whether your company embraces them.
Companies with great culture don’t have a revolving door. This is partly due to a selective hiring process. Do you hire with the notion of simply filling a desk? Do you hire in desperation mode? Are interviews conducted as an afterthought with little preparation? Successful business owners have a professional hiring process that begins with the intention of making your business, the applicant, and the existing team stronger.
Additionally, make sure you allot a budget to attract quality candidates. After all, you allocate funds to marketing so that you can attract external customers; make sure you dedicate a budget to attract “internal customers” as well. Smart companies attract great applicants by using well-written job postings, a generously incentivized referral program, and a branded company name that speaks for itself. They conduct background checks and drug screenings, coupled with personality and aptitude tests. What’s more, interviewing is done by more people than just the “boss,” and a successful company will usually host at least two interviews before making a final decision.
Great companies also look to have a well-balanced team. They know what challenges or deficiencies their existing team faces and look for teammates with strengths that fill those gaps.
Another characteristic of building a company with great culture is an above-par onboarding program, which begins well before day one. Have you given much thought to how your company is perceived when a new hire walks through the door? Is your office space welcoming? Did you notify your existing team of the new addition and start date? Did the new hire know what to expect with a clearly defined agenda? Successful companies announce new hires to the rest of the team, often giving a brief bio of the new team member, their expected start date, and a gentle reminder to be considerate and welcoming as they enter into their new job.
Solid onboarding programs also have materials ready on the first day, including guidelines for company attire, name badges, security logins and information on software systems, employee handbooks, and training manuals. The first day should reassure the candidate that they’ve chosen the best company at which to work; it’s a perfect time to resell the applicant on your company. Some companies even pair the new hire with a senior team member as a mentor. The bottom line is to have a plan in place with an agenda for the first week, if not longer.
Oftentimes, employees who either leave a company or fail in their roles do so because of a lackluster approach to training. Winning companies have extensive ongoing training programs, which may include a mixture of technological, physiological, and psychological training. The best companies have training mapped out not for just the first 90 days but for an extended period of time.
Training shouldn’t be viewed as punishment or something just for the new hire, however. Rather, great companies offer steady and continuous training to all employees, including one-on-one training, peer-to-peer collaborative training and group training, as well as external learning opportunities such as workshops and networking events.
Your people should be your largest investment. Proper training for all aspects of their jobs will help with retention, improved productivity, and overall employee engagement, thus affecting your bottom line. Remember the adage, “Train your employees so they could leave; treat them well so they never want to leave.”
Do you reward your employees simply by issuing them a paycheck on Fridays? Do your employees know how much you appreciate their above-and-beyond efforts?
Recognition and rewarding employees for good performance separate great companies from the rest of the pack. Unfortunately, recognition is often overlooked. A simple “congratulations” or “thank you” goes a long way toward improving employee morale and feeds a positive company culture.
Rewards don’t always have to be monetary, but can include incentive performance-based pay plans. Companies with great culture know what motivates their employees and use that knowledge to offer customized rewards including an extra company outing or party, paid time off, public recognition, and opportunity for advancement. Rewards can also come in the form of increased benefits such as company-sponsored charitable events, gym memberships, increased 401k contributions, and subsidized health care.
Businesses with a positive culture focus on consistent, clear, and concise communication. They are clear and transparent when delivering goals and expectations to their employees, including individual, department, and company goals. They also give constant performance feedback. They encourage employees to collaborate, share ideas, find solutions to problems, and take ownership of their roles in contributing to the company’s success. They foster an open-door policy and encourage honest, yet respectable, feedback from all levels within the company. When bad news must be delivered, they do it quickly before rumors start. Keep in mind: bad news fast, good news often.
Sometimes, it may seem difficult to pinpoint what comprises a positive company culture since many attributes appear intangible. However, great cultures are the result of great intention. Extending your time and attention to these five elements will put you solidly on the path toward creating and maintaining a rewarding work environment.
About the Author
Tracy Robinson is a business coach at Nexstar who focuses on the successful implementation of Nexstar processes within contractor call centers. She brings direct experience from several PHCE-industry roles, including call center representative, dispatcher, call center manager, corporate trainer and employee development manager. To learnmore, visit nexstarnetwork.com, call 888-240-7827, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.