By Bob “Hot Rod” Rohr
Two things come to mind regarding preparation for the upcoming heating season. The first concern is you. Are you ready physically and mentally? I don’t mean to sound like your mother, but are you eating well, staying in shape and avoiding too much late-night partying? You owe it to yourself and customers to show up ready for the challenge.
There certainly is no lack of online info to help you choose the best diet; find the right plan and foods that work for you. When you are on the road take the time to stop for lunch or snacks throughout the day. Coffee shops on every corner make it quick and easy to stay hydrated. They do sell other beverages, which are perhaps healthier than coffee.
If the term yoga frightens you, check out some basic stretches to start and finish the day. Your dog does them regularly so there must be something to it. As with anything these days, there are plenty of online videos if you want to go to another level with stretching and relaxation tutorials. Be happy, stay engaged with your fellow workers and customers. If you hate getting up early and going to work, it’s time to find another occupation. One-owner shops can easily suffer work fatigue when the season gets busy
Prepping for your financial health
Is the juice worth the squeeze? Do you feel you are in a healthy position wagewise? Things aren’t getting cheaper. With plumbing and HVAC skills, you should be able to write the exact deal you need to provide and save for your family. Perhaps your body is worn down from years of lifting, pulling and stressing. It may be time for a side move in the industry. Virtually every factory rep company, wholesaler and manufacturer is looking for the right people to grow its team.
Participate online with a chatroom that fits your style. Stay abreast of what goes on in other areas of the planet by following companies in the industry on LinkedIn and reading trade publications.
Getting the rig ready
Unquestionably a part that is the most fun for many contractors is getting the shop and rig ready for the busy season ahead. A clean, organized workspace and service truck crosses between the mental aspect (reduced stress) and the ability to be efficient and profitable. Knowing what you have and where it is speeds and smooths out the process of installing and repairing.
Commit to a seasonal cleanout of your workspace and vehicle. Make the switch from cooling parts and equipment to heating or cold weather specific tools. Don’t forget to load up on winter clothing, hats, gloves and winter safety footwear. Have an emergency kit with a space blanket in case you are trapped on a highway for hours or days.
How about the tires? Are they up to winter driving conditions? Check your foul weather safety gear for digging your truck out or flat repair. Spend a day or two tuning the tools, oiling moving parts, and repairing frayed cords. Sharpen or scrap used up cutting tools, drill bits, saw blades, PEX cutters and such. Upgrade your cordless tool department.
Have you seen some of the latest offerings from the major cordless tool brands? Everything from mowing to blowing is available in cordless versions these days. The cordless vacs and transfer pumps are certainly a game changer, so check them out.
Stay in touch
What about your communication equipment? It’s a digital world and one key piece keeps you in the loop with your company, customers, factory support and family. Your phone can be one of the best tools you own. You need one with a good camera for documentation. Check out adapters such as infrared (IF) cameras to extend its ability to document jobs. I see drones being used more and more for documenting installations such as geothermal fields, radiant layouts and utility line installations. Are you doing commercial work? Send the drone up to check out rooftop work, get an idea of what may be needed before the crane shows up.
Tool rental is another thing to consider if you cannot spring for the latest in press technology, for example. Many of the wholesalers I visit have a selection of press equipment for rent or loan, when you start looking at larger sizes, two in. and up, the cost may be out of reach for the one-man shop. Press technology can save, and make money on those emergency repairs.
How much inventory can you afford to keep on hand? We all know how hard it is getting supplies and product these days. You have a good idea of what the typical consumables are for your work area. I know of a local HVAC contractor who took out a second mortgage to load up on furnaces and AC equipment when he saw the shortages coming. It was a risky move, but he made some good coin selling not only to his customers but also to competitors. It could be as basic as loading up on glycol or 40Va transformers when they are available. Even better for cash flow, coordinate with your wholesaler to ensure you’ll have the equipment you’ll need this season.
“I know of a local HVAC contractor who took out a second mortgage to load up on furnaces and AC equipment when he saw the shortages coming. It was a risky move, but he made some good coin selling not only to his customers but also to competitors.”
I suppose no article of mine would be complete without a mention of training. It should never end at your business. Technical training is always top on my list. Whether it is online courses on how to service or program the equipment you sell and service and/or expos to see and learn about new products, it is time well spent. I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t learn something new and interesting at a good tradeshow, so snoop around, see what is coming your way.
Sometimes low on the list but necessary are seminars and training on how to run your business, account for the money, and demystify insurance and retirement plans. These are areas of business we all need to stay on top of. Retirement and investing are especially important areas to focus on, particularly with this aging workforce. So, start your list, in your head or on that smart phone, and get going today on these sound suggestions. A job started is a job half-finished.