Chicago’s North Shore stretches between the northern edges of the Windy City itself to just south of the Wisconsin border. The area is a collection of affluent communities located in Cook and Lake Counties – a swath of real estate that is home to both Northwestern University’s ivy-lined campus and to the only Bahá’í House of Worship in all of North America.
The city of Glenview is part of the North Shore area and is home to GV’s Heating and Cooling. The 29-year-old residential and commercial HVAC maintenance and service company was founded by Greg Vickers and his wife Pam. GV’s cares for clients throughout Chicagoland and offers a full range of services that include air conditioning, heating, hot water systems, snow melt systems, and clean air systems.
His modus operandi is to provide customers with the highest integrity and honest service, based on being well educated in the systems they install, maintain, and repair, as well as the tools and methodologies necessary to do that.
The family business grew – not only from the perspective of sales and profits but also from the addition of family to the ranks – namely son Scott in 2003 and daughter Dawn in 2004. Scott works as a service technician and Dawn is one of two company HVAC comfort specialists.
Vickers says that his journey toward high performance really began in 2008 or 2009 when he learned about National Comfort Institute. He took his first class (taught by Rob Falke) in 2010 for air balancing and air diagnostics. His mission after that was to follow the performance way of life.
“We sell value,” he says. “It’s really how we do business and that plays nicely with the idea of Performance-Based Contracting™.”
Was making it work easy? Not by a longshot. He will tell you that in the beginning, he faced more internal issues than external ones.
Change is Hard
“When we first began moving toward a culture of performance, there was pushback from our people. They mostly couldn’t wrap their heads around the ‘why’ of it,” he says.
“It’s about doing the right thing. It’s also about learning. Gaining knowledge. It probably took us a good four to five years to get everyone on board. Today, the entire team is on board.”
One thing Vickers does is to regularly remind GV’s field personnel that because of the company’s culture and all the training, they are the best of the best. More importantly, Vickers says customers are telling the technicians the same thing.
“Really that is the answer to the ‘why’ of what we do,” he says, “and that is how our team finally got it. They get so jacked up, so excited now.”
Surprising Customer Reactions
When it comes to selling High-Performance HVAC, Greg Vickers says customers have been very receptive to it. “In fact, they are often floored by the data we show them,” he says.
“But we don’t lead with measurements. We lead with a discussion. We call this Show-and-Tell. We ask them questions about their health and comfort, as well as where they see the hot and cold spots in their home.”
Then they perform their testing and diagnostics. Vickers says people are generally very receptive to seeing actual numbers. He says on calls where they can answer customer questions with facts, his salesperson (Dawn) can close the sale most of the time.
He says, “The interesting thing is, once people see the numbers, their reaction is usually something like ‘I can’t believe we’ve been living under these conditions for so many years and no one said anything about it!”
GV’s Tools of the Trade
To provide customers with the results they promise, GV’s makes sure their technicians are equipped with the right tools and instruments to get the job done.
Every contractor has their own policies, but Vickers says it makes sense for his company to provide the larger, more expensive tools including flow hoods, vacuum pumps, traverse tools, digital manometers, as well as an infrared camera and particle counter.
“We expect the techs to have their own hand tools and gauges,” he says.
Another tool of the trade that Vickers says is key to successfully selling air upgrades and duct renovations is to offer financing packages. He adds that in most cases when they find the problem and offer customers choices in solutions, the customers WILL choose one.
“Financing is a key component of this because it takes a sometimes-pricey project and breaks it down into affordable monthly payments. Today everything is financed. It’s to a point today that between 85 to 90% of our customers take advantage of our financing programs. The costs for duct renovations and equipment are not obstacles.”
So pricing is NOT an issue. By doing the show-and-tell approach to measuring and offering financing to help make payments reasonable, GV’s closes around 70% of their sales, according to Vickers.
At GV’s Performance Begins and Ends with Training
“We wouldn’t be where we are today had we not started training with National Comfort Institute more than 10 years ago,” Vickers explains. “It goes beyond that. We took what we learned and used it, implemented, made it part of our daily routines.
“Have we implemented everything we learned? Absolutely not. What we focused on were nuggets – small bits of information learned in every class we took, every Summit we attended, and we came back to the office and we worked on it.
“NCI has the total package. Other training organizations focus on maybe one thing – whether it’s on the business side or the technical side. NCI covers technical training, business training, customer service training – it’s like an endless fountain of knowledge. There is always something you can learn.
“Our success with the Performance-Based Contracting approach begins and ends with training,” Vickers adds. “It is enhanced by networking. And I know that there is no end to the training because technologies change, approaches improve, and new things are being discovered each day.”
Though training is key, he also says the performance method will not work well if you aren’t consistent in its implementation and use. He confides that may be the toughest part of the process.
The Recognition Factor
Earlier this year, GV’s Heating and Cooling was recognized by National Comfort Institute with the presentation of its Contractor of the Year Award (ncilink.com/2019CofY).
Winning this award is, in Vickers’ opinion, a tremendous honor and proof that what they are trying to do is absolutely the right thing.
“Our employees can really see the importance and value of what we’ve been pushing. Being recognized by NCI means the world to them.”
For these and many more reasons, High-Performance HVAC Today selected GV’s Heating and Cooling as our July 2019 Contractor Spotlight.