The High-Performance approach to delivering HVAC comfort and energy efficiency to customers is a movement that began more than 25 years ago and represents a small, but growing percentage of the overall HVAC Industry. It is a delivery method that differs from traditional HVAC methods because it involves exact measurements, testing, diagnosing, and repair solutions.
Furthermore, the High-Performance approach requires a commitment to continuous education, process improvements, and a do-it-right attitude. So, we spoke to four HVAC contractors who have made that commitment and asked them why and what it means to them, their companies, and their customers.
The contractors are:
- Jim Ball, general manager, Ball Heating & Air Conditioning, Biloxi, MS
- Mike Greany, service manager, All Pro Plumbing, Heating, Air, and Electrical, Ontario, CA
- Greg Vickers, president, GV’s Heating and Cooling, Inc., Glenview, IL
- Kevin Walsh, president, Schaafsma Heating and Cooling Co., Grand Rapids, MI.
What Does the High-Performance Approach Mean?
Says All Pro’s Mike Greany, “Performance-based contracting means having the training and ability to perform magic. This is done by testing and measuring the actual results of the system and comparing those numbers to what the system should actually be delivering.
“This unlocks the secrets to engineering or improving the total system performance, which absolutely improves the health, safety, comfort, and energy efficiency all customers want and deserve.”
It also reinforces the idea that contractors are providing the best work they can. So says Kevin Walsh of Schaafsma Heating. “I chose this path for our company not only because we want to be the best, but because doing things in this manner helps to separate us from everyone else.
“There are honest contractors out there who only want to swap out equipment. But I am convinced that is not in the best interest of customers.”
Jim Ball of Ball Heating concurs. He says, “I like being certain that we are providing systems and repairs that perform at peak efficiency. Period. Few of my competitors can say that. Being a Performance-Based Contracting™ firm enables us to not only claim this, but we can prove it with numbers as well.”
Greg Vickers of GV’s Heating says that since implementing the High-Performance approach, “we have seen and heard responses from our clients about how we helped them overcome many obstacles with their HVAC systems.
“For our customers, this is honest, no-BS work. We show them what needs to be done based on measurements, then prove we accomplished what we set out to do based on measurements.
“We can diagnose their system issues and engineer real-world solutions to enhance comfort in their homes. I get jacked up knowing that we solve real comfort problems that so few others in our industry can,” Vickers adds.
The High-Performance Approach’s Impact on Business
All four contractors have had to work through the difficulties of implementing Performance-Based Contracting and say there have been some amazing benefits to their investment in it. In fact, Vickers says his company is experiencing more work as a direct result.
“Implementing and sticking with the program is the hardest thing to do, but the benefits are priceless,” he explains. “We are experiencing more work and profits as a direct result of creating extremely happy customers.
“Sure, the High-Performance approach constantly challenges us to improve, to up our game. I find that the entire team works with me to achieve a higher level of service.”
Likewise, one immediate impact on Schaafsma Heating, according to Kevin Walsh, is happier customers. Another benefit: employee retention.
“The performance approach inspires our employees,” he says. “They believe in what we are doing. This creates a stronger bond and we have very little employee turnover as a result.”
However, Walsh says Performance-Based Contracting™ is harder to sell. “Our price is typically higher and other contractors aren’t even discussing the same items. Homeowners get confused between what we tell them and what the “me-too” crowd says.”
Mike Greany says that change is hard. It creates doubt about the unknown. “Plus, we saw increased training expenses, higher-cost tools and instruments. Our initial struggle was convincing the guys and ourselves this process really works,” he explains.
Once we overcame those hurdles it brought ‘instant’ satisfaction that performance works. We got better at adjusting systems, design, and installations with measurable results that we were very proud of,” Greany says.
Changes Never Stop
HVAC Consultant Charlie Greer of HVAC Profit Boosters says change never stops so you must evolve or die. Charlie was never one to mince words.
One way Jim Ball does this is to focus on measuring how his team is doing. “If you don’t know the score, how do you know if you are winning?”
He uses scoreboards to measure everything from sales, leads, and training status.
“We have a moral obligation to customers to provide the safest and most comfortable system possible. We can’t do that without measuring.”
Greg Vickers also says their biggest change is the adaptation of consistent training.
“Through training, we hone our processes and procedures to help define the path for our staff. There are no gray areas,” he says.
Major changes at Schaafsma include conducting static pressure testing on all service calls, maintenance visits, and new equipment commissioning. “Airflow is everything,” Kevin Walsh says. “Understanding it begins with this.”
At All Pro, Mike Greany says they changed their entire approach to maintenance and the way they perform systems checks.
“As a result, we use maintenance to collect the necessary data for talking points regarding needed improvements. Furthermore, we now train not only our techs, but our salesmen, installers, and select office staff to all really understand what it is to test and measure and what it can mean regarding improving any system.
Are You on The Fence About Taking a High-Performance Approach?
With regard to advice for fellow contractors who may be on the fence about whether to start down the Performance Path, all four of our participants say that training is the absolute key.
“It is the only way to ensure your team is prepared and capable,” says Jim Ball.
“Just do it,” says Mike Greany. “Yes, it’s scary to learn something new and explore the unknown. However, you have at your disposal a brotherhood of Performance-Based contractors who are always there to help and teach at times of need. My only true regret is not starting earlier and waiting so long to open up to the others for coaching, guidance, and peer networking.”
Greg Vickers says Performance-Based Contracting has opened up a whole new world and the possibilities to grow are endless.
“This separates you from companies that just change boxes,” he says. “Performance-Based Contracting helps you think out of the box.”
Kevin Walsh says changing boxes is certainly easier. “If someone’s goal is to be a high-volume sales company then I don’t know if that is achievable as a Performance-Based company.
“For me, it came down to taking the easy road to profits but doing less than great installations, or taking the tougher road selling a higher price, providing higher quality installations, and having happier customers. We chose the path less traveled.”