So you own an HVAC business.
Perhaps you’ve been going for a couple of years and have seen some significant success. Revenue is up and you’ve got a reliable group of happy customers.
The problem is, you’re struggling to take things to the next level. Maybe you’re finding it difficult to bring in new customers or maybe you think you need a new technician but you’re unsure if you can afford one.
There are many reasons why an HVAC business might be held back from significant growth, but the good news is, there are steps you can take to turn the trend up in the right direction.
Before we get into the steps you can take to start scaling your heating and ventilation business, let's first cover some of the biggest mistakes owners make when trying to grow.
One of the biggest pitfalls business owners fall into is not having a good system in place for managing their money.
If you are running your own business then you are responsible for ensuring salaries are paid taxes are accounted for and that the right money is put in the right places.
A good approach to your finances is to use the profit-first model.
Essentially the idea behind this is to set aside your profits before you sort your other expenses.
Money is distributed into different pots allowing you to ensure the right amount of money is attributed to the right places. So you’d have one pot for tax, one for profit, one for staff salaries, etc.
This method also encourages a business to operate within its means and prioritise a growth-first mindset rather than spending up to its limits.
This will allow you to essentially guarantee growth
One of the most important steps you need to take is a mental one.
Up until you started your own business you will have worked as an HVAC technician. That was your job. That was what you trained in. And that was how you made your money.
But that needs to change.
A big problem for tradespeople who start their own businesses is taking that mental step from technician to business owner. You need to realise that your primary job is not in the trade you trained in.
When you start out you may still need to do a bit of fieldwork, but the sooner you can move away from this and start focussing on running the business and the operational side of things, the better for your business.
Once you fully focus on the operational side and put your efforts into upskilling yourself as a business owner the better your business will be.
If you want to grow effectively and sustainably you need a system in place to allow you to do just that.
The trick is to invest in a good management and CRM system early on. This allows you to keep track of the different aspects of your business and stay organised. It also means that as the company grows, your operation doesn’t become increasingly hectic.
If you’re a business that works off multiple spreadsheets, or - god forbid - paper records, then as soon as you start to get bigger you’ll find efficiency goes down and that things quickly become disorganised.
52% of field service companies still use manual methods to manage their businesses. This presents a massive opportunity for you as just by using the right technology you can get ahead of more than half of your competition, allowing you to win more work and grow.
Investing in a good system like Payaca allows you to get the right processes in place early on. For example, you can set up automated actions that save time and keep things working without you needing to get involved.
Plus once you’ve got multiple staff on the books it’s easy to pass information between the team while managing things centrally. Essentially you remove barriers to growth.
If you want to create sustainable growth in your business then there are a number of steps you can implement to take your business to the next level.
Here is a slogan that you should live by, “What is measured, gets managed”.
The meaning being that if you take the time to measure and track different metrics within your business, then it becomes far easier to manage and improve upon what you have been measuring.
It is also a case of what you don’t know you can’t fix.
As a business, you should be tracking all sorts of business metrics, especially those directly relating to a sale. This means you need to keep a record of how many calls are made and taken per day, how your marketing material converts, jobs won and lost, quote conversion rate, etc.
By tracking these metrics you will have an informed view of how your business is working rather than based on a general sense. This allows you to spot where things are slipping through the cracks or where you could be more efficient.
Linking back to the earlier point, with the right system in place, it makes it far easier to track these metrics and make adjustments.
When your business is still in its infancy your attitude to taking on new work might be to take on as much business as you can. If there’s money coming through the door, all customers are good customers, right?
Well not necessarily. While in the early days, there’s a case to be made for taking on whatever is available, you will quickly find not all customers are worth your time.
By the time you’ve travelled to the customer, completed work on the job and had your prices haggled down, your profit margins may have become very small or even non-existent. This is why it’s so important to track your metrics so you can spot these kinds of poor-value jobs.
Instead, you should start being more picky about the work you take on.
Only accept customers who are prepared to pay your prices and are based within a reasonable operational radius. You need to ensure that the customer is a good fit for you.
Further still, you should take the time to define what type of business you are and the types of customers you want to serve. It might be that you want to go for multiple low-value customers at a lower price or focus on customers who are prepared to pay more, but perhaps less of them.
You need to understand what kind of business you are and market to the right demographic. Once that’s clear it makes it far easier for you as you know what customers you're going after and who you can say no to.
A lot of early to mid-stage trades businesses take a bit of a scattergun approach to marketing. They’ll try various tactics, not fully committing to one in full.
The best businesses that are able to grow and develop have an efficient and effective marketing approach that gets them results (once again tracking the data is crucial here).
Rather than half-arsing several different advertising methods, pick one and do it well. Once it starts working (or you’ve really given it a prolonged try) you can start to develop some of the other channels.
One aspect of marketing that is non-negotiable is having a good website. This is the first thing you should get right.
Your site doesn’t need to be overly complicated - in fact, in many instances, HVAC sites can end up trying to do too much and look bad - just keep it simple with a couple of pages and key info.
Remember your website is likely to be the first interaction a customer has with you and first impressions are everything. So take the time to make sure your site looks professional and has the correct information.
Once you’ve nailed your website you can start thinking about other aspects of your business such as your Google My Business profile, social media presence, SEO content and paid adverts.
However, remember all of these methods are ultimately aimed at pointing the customer to your site, so you need to make sure it’s good.
Assuming your site is up to scratch, you can start developing one of these other marketing channels. But take the time to do your research and implement it effectively.
It might sound like an obvious statement, but repeat business is key to growth. The part that many owners find more difficult is securing repeat business.
One of the best ways to do this is to set up service plans.
In case you’re unfamiliar with service plans, these are essentially subscriptions you can sign your customers up to. At a monthly or yearly cost, they receive a certain service such as a boiler check or air conditioning inspection.
What’s so valuable about service plans isn’t just the repeat revenue you receive (which is great for your business's financial health and for long-term growth predictions) but because of the relationships you establish.
By signing a customer up they are making a commitment to your business. This means they are more likely to be loyal to your company and seek your business out for all their heating and ventilation needs.
This is why repeat business is so important as it establishes long-term value and gives you a more stable base of customers that you can grow from.
If you’re interested in setting up service plans, then Payaca has a service plan feature that allows you to very simply start signing customers up and makes it easy to manage those interactions between you.
If you haven’t got an admin team in place already, you need to get that sorted ASAP!
A good admin team will allow you and your technicians to focus on the primary HVAC work, while the admin staff deal with calls, quotes, customer support, job bookings and all the processes that allow a business to run.
You need to make sure you have dedicated staff who have a high-level view of your business and can see what work is coming in and assign projects to the right people. You also need an accountant/bookkeeper who can deal with all your financial information.
With a good team in place, this allows your employees to be specialists and to focus on the things they do best without having to worry about other aspects of the business.
It will also allow for better communication and information sharing, improving speed of delivery and increasing job satisfaction amongst your staff. This allows you to hold on to good workers and not lose money by having to make new hires.
It also frees up time amongst your field team allowing them to work on more jobs and bring in more business, creating growth.
If you’ve got a good admin team in place then providing quality customer support becomes a lot easier. Rather than being spread too thin, your admin team can handle calls while your technicians can focus on HVAC jobs.
What’s important is to think about how you can create the best customer experience. Small details can make a big difference. That might be checking with customers if they’d like your field agents to wear a face mask or asking if shoes should be removed before entering the home.
Customer service should be applied to all aspects of your business and be delivered with a high degree of professionalism. Have a uniform, have a complaints process, treat the customer with extra care and get the details right.
If you get a reputation for the best customer service then the business will follow and you will grow.
Also, make sure your technicians are not taking calls. They are likely to get frustrated and be unhappy if they get contacted out of hours. Your admin team deals with calls, technicians deal with fieldwork.
Hiring the right people isn’t always easy, especially in an industry that is increasingly coming under pressure with a workforce on the decline.
However, finding good people isn’t as difficult as you may be led to believe. The key to hiring the right people is having the right criteria for selection in place.
Many businesses prioritise experience or expertise above all else and this is understandable, however, long term this isn’t the best method for hiring.
Instead, focus on hiring based on character and ability to learn.
What is more valuable, someone with all the qualifications but who is inefficient, lazy and a drain on the company culture? Or someone who may not have all the skills but works hard, is desperate to learn, gets on well with the team and is ambitious to grow with and within your company?
Clearly, the latter is better. This is why it’s important to hire with a focus on the character and qualities and be prepared to train them. The best companies proactively train and upskill their workers and take on apprentices.
This way you can create your ideal workers and if you’ve got your company culture right (something that is a product of the people you hire) they will want to stay.
Ambitious people create an ambitious business. With the right hires, these staff will be a part of the force that brings your company up and allows you to grow.
If you want to attract new customers and ideal customers you need to have a point of difference that will allow you to stand out.
This means you need to work out what your unique angle is in the HVAC space. Maybe you specialise in a certain type of air conditioner or you focus on repairs and maintenance, maybe you’re all about premium quality installs.
Whatever it is, having a unique angle is a great way of winning more business. You don’t have to rule out other types of work, but presenting yourself as a specialist allows you to win work that generalists won’t be able to get.
If you want to grow, either you need new customers or you need to get the customers you do have to pay more.
Increasing your prices is the easiest way to do this and although that can be a daunting prospect, sometimes it’s a necessary step to take.
Especially if you’re shifting your customer profile towards a more premium level, increases in price allow you to remove some of the low-value customers and keep hold of those customers who value the quality of your service.
If you need help putting your prices up, we’ve written an article on how you can make this price increase.
The other way to make more from your customers is to start using upsell and cross-sell techniques.
When you create your proposal don’t just sell them the minimum, look at ways you can add on optional extras or give them a choice of a more budget, good value and premium option.
Using these kinds of techniques allows you to make more from every job increasing profitability.
You can easily do this using Payaca’s quoting and invoicing tool which allows you to build in multiple choice and optional extras with engaging pictures and details that make it a more convincing choice.
There are plenty of actionable steps you can take to start growing your HVAC business and take things to the next level. There will also always be reasons not to get started or not to make the change.
Ultimately, if you want to improve your business, the best thing you can do is simply to take action. There’s no point in continuing to do what you’re doing and expect things to get better.
Even if it's a small change take the step and start moving your business up.