In the HVAC Industry, we are not traveling in another dimension. We are traveling along a path that leads to true customer comfort and system performance. So imagine, if you will, an area we don’t call the Twilight Zone, but do call the High Performance Zone. In it you find the following:
- Your company has over 2000 ‘Season Ticket Holders / Raving Fans
- On your mildest day of the year, you’ll get to be in at least 20 customers’ homes
You have control of your work schedule
- Your customers can’t receive a comparable maintenance plan anywhere else
- You get the satisfaction of proving that your work is making a difference in HVAC equipment performance, customer comfort and well being
- Your customers don’t want to have your competitors in their homes
- Most of your new customers come from the referral of your ‘Season Ticket Holders?
- The weather doesn’t make or break your business
- You have year-round steady income.
If you hear someone say these facts are true about their business today, you might might want to call their bluff. As a second-generation business owner, I feel like I have heard it all. When I hear contractors claim they have a salesman closing 80% and selling $4 million in residential installations, something smells.
But the fact is, High-Performance contracting is a real thing at my company. It wasn’t always that way. Ball Heating and Air was started by my dad, Don Ball, in 1964. Dad was 23 years old then and he worked mostly for general contractors.
In those days when you finished the install, you hoped the phone didn’t ring and the general paid you before you started working on the next house.
Dad says tracking down those contractors to get paid wasn’t an easy living. Sometime in the mid 80’s, he refocused the company on service and maintenance work.
In the 1980s our business was very heavily driven by the weather, something many contractors who were around said held true for them as well.
If you have a hot summer in South Mississippi, you will have a great year. Fact. Business just comes to you, it falls in your lap. You can be the worst business person and still survive.
Sales supposedly covers a world of business sins. No profit? Just sell more. Our family planned vacation around the summer months. We knew there would be late hours and late phone calls. It didn’t matter much to us because the business was doing well.
But every so often the weather didn’t cooperate, and what we thought was good wasn’t so good after all.
A business that we once loved and were proud to have our name on now became a noose around our necks. We wound up borrowing money to make payroll or to make the next payment to our suppliers. Somehow my Dad had the grit to survive, and we were blessed with more good years than bad.
So goes the story of the early days. I imagine many of you and your families have the same or similar story today.
The Move to Maintenance Agreements
In the early 1990s my dad began working with Ron Smith to learn more about the power of maintenance agreements. So Ball Heating and Air began encouraging customers to become maintenance agreement clients. We promised to take care of their systems for fewer breakdowns and that would provide longer service life.
I don’t know exactly how a presentation from Ron Smith convinced my Dad to commit to the Dominant Market Share program. But I have heard Dad say Ron talked about going to the mailbox on July 1st and taking out a million dollars of maintenance agreement renewals. This was in the 80’s when a million was a lot of money.
Smith, who some have dubbed the father of the HVAC Service Agreement, worked with Ball Heating and Air Conditioning to set up a maintenance department, develop a service agreement plan, and train the technicians to sell it.
So, encouraged by Ron’s model, Ball Heating and Air changed and became committed to the maintenance program. We both have an agreement on our own home systems.
The High-Performance Connection
The last 26 years since we began the maintenance program haven’t always been all peachy keen, but our story has changed. Our lifestyle has improved.
Then we joined National Comfort Institute (NCI) in 2004 and began working toward becoming a Performance-Based Contracting’ organization. This challenged us to demand more of ourselves and to provide more value to the customer.
Our maintenance program moved forward into the performance-based platform. The challenges that come along with performance-based maintenance programs are unique, but the results assure your customer is getting the best value.
I think in our market we aren’t only the most expensive, but the highest quality too. We typically are 25-40% higher than our competitors when we walk in. By the way, Ball Heating and Air Conditioning maintenance renewals are at 85%.
We currently have more than 2,000 agreements (which we call ESAs – Energy Savings Agreements).
An Engineer’s Approach
As a mechanical engineer, I learned early in school about ‘the perfect test world’ and the real world. A little thing called friction always frustrated my projects and negatively affected my grade as well. I was taught to expect friction and to make sure your results had a way to include friction in the end performance.
Much like the HVAC systems we install today, you can never get a system to operate at 100% efficiency. The builders and HVAC manufacturers want to base our customers’ decisions on the perfect test world, instead of the real world.
You and I know better.
The hard part is making sure our team and our customers do too.
How Our Maintenance Agreement Program Works
Our maintenance agreement program includes doing a system evaluation by taking static pressure readings before and after we do our work. In other words, we test-in and test-out. I realize that isn’t enough, so we are working on adding more of the high-performance practices to our maintenance agreement program.
Another thing is friction shows up all over the place, not just in the HVAC system itself. A maintenance program provides your company with many opportunities to take care of your customers and exceed their expectations. However, there is some friction you need to know about and plan to resolve along the way.
Oh, and by the way, this is real-world stuff. We aren’t living in the Twilight Zone. And we can absolutely prove to our customers that we are delivering everything we promised them. Competitors sell equipment like it’s the final answer. The truth is the equipment is just part of the equation. The High-Performance Zone is where we now live and work. And our customers are better off because of it.
MEET JIM BALL AT NCI SUMMIT 2019
High-Performance HVAC Summit 2019 is happening April 15-18 in Orlando, FL. Jim Ball is one of five Performance-Based Contractors’ presenting how they bring High-Performance into their companies and their marketplace.
Jim, who is general manager of Ball Heating and Air Conditioning, Biloxi, MS, will discuss how his team has learned to exceed customer expectations through implementing a strong performance-based maintenance program.
Come meet Jim and network with your peers in Orlando. Learn more about the Summit 2019 program at GoToSummit.com.
Register today. Questions? No problem. Call 800-633-7058 and talk to your customer care representative.
After Summit ends, stick around for our Post Show Training classes. Click ncilink.com/19PST for details.