Mike Weil, Director Communications, National Comfort Institute, Inc.

Mike Weil

With the writing of this column, HARDI’s 2018 annual meeting is just a month away. This distributor event’s theme focuses on the legacy that distribution has within the HVAC Industry. It reminds me, once again, of the vital role that distributors play, especially when it comes to training their customer base — you, the HVAC contractors.

Let’s face it, training programs for HVAC dealers are available from many sources around the country. Training providers include HVAC manufacturers, distributors, trade associations, as well as consultants.

But distributors hold a special place in the training channel.

They are the front-line link between manufacturers and the contractors. Good distributors know that to stand out and have the greatest success, they have to find ways to help contractors be more successful. This often means helping contractors become better business people. Many distributors also offer technical training — usually from the equipment manufacturers whose product lines they carry.

That works well when the idea is to better understand how to install and service equipment. Doesn’t it make total sense for distributors to partner with other organizations that offer training that goes beyond the ‘box,’ by teaching contractors to test, diagnose, and resolve systemwide issues?

It seems to me that contractors who are well trained and certified, tend to be better at running their businesses and solving customer problems. That means their businesses grow, which leads to them buying more products and services.

Offering training to contractor customers is an essential investment.

From a contractor viewpoint, having a strong distributor relationship not only gives them access to the products and equipment they need to take care of their consumer customers, it also provides them back-up and a training partner.

The HVAC distribution chain can change the entire industry.

There is another way to look at this as well. By offering training to contractor customers, distributors are actually rewarding them for purchasing products and materials.

This is key.

By rewarding contractors in this way, it makes it easier for them to justify time away from the business to learn more about the technology and products they work with every day, making them better at what they do.

This is especially important in the realm of Performance-Based Contracting’ where technical expertise goes well beyond just replacing equipment and upselling accessories. Right now, this High-Performance approach to HVAC is just a small segment of the overall industry, but it is only a matter of time before it sets a new, higher bar. It is also only a matter of time before residential and commercial consumers begin to demand it.

Last month in his One More Thing editorial, An Open Invitation to Manufacturers: The Future is Here and Now, Publisher Dominick Guarino wrote the following: ‘The best choice is to BE PROACTIVE and develop a network of indoor comfort professionals with the training and the tools they need to make the entire system work correctly.’

By supporting your contractor customers in this way, not only do distributors create a mutually beneficial relationship, the HVAC distribution chain can change the entire industry. And that benefits everyone.