Monthly Archives: April 2012

It’s funny how some simple thing can jog a person’s memory and make them think of some other minor thing that happened to them long ago. It happened to me the other day, and the image that came to mind from a very distant memory was a cartoon I saw in a magazine. It showed a man who was smiling broadly and standing at an apartment door, about to knock. He was holding a jug of wine in one hand, and he had a loaf of bread tucked under his arm. On the apartment door, it said “Thou.”

This cartoon made me chuckle…it still does today when I think of it.

And, maybe you understand why that cartoon made me laugh. Or maybe you don’t. If you’ve never had an interest in poetry, you likely don’t understand. If you do have an interest, perhaps you remember that the line “A jug of wine, a loaf of bread–and Thou” is from a poem written in the Persian language by somebody named Omar Khayyam, a writer whom history tells us was born in the year 1048, and died in 1131. Shortly after his poems (he wrote about thousand) were translated into English, the people who read the poem that the line above is from pretty much latched onto the idea that it was a romantic way for  a man to say to a woman that all he needed to be happy was a jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and her.

And, I’m inclined to agree that that’s what Omar intended to say with that line, hence the reason for the cartoon being funny to me. The guy at the door has his wine and bread, and all he needs now is the person standing on the other side of that door….Thou….and he’ll have all he needs to be happy.

OK, it’s not fall-down laughing funny, but it’s still funny; that is if you know about the line from the poem and have an understanding about what it means to you.

So, in consideration of this cartoon….if one person looks at it and it makes them laugh, and then a second person looks at it and doesn’t see anything funny about it, does that mean the person who laughs is “smarter” than the person who doesn’t ‘get’ it?

No, it doesn’t. It just means that the first person had more information than the second person…information that isn’t hard to understand. It’s just information that any person who has the ability to read can understand, or the ability to listen can grasp if they are being taught by someone else on the subject, in this case, poetry, can understand.

What does this have to do with HVAC technicians? Well, a while back I was facilitating a training workshop on electrical and refrigeration system troubleshooting, and at the end of the workshop there was a test. For the most part, adults – especially adults who are technicians – are not comfortable taking tests. The anxiety mounts as the time to take the test nears, and they begin to doubt their ability to pass the test more and more. And this anxiety is rooted in the belief that only “smart” people can easily accomplish a test…a belief that isn’t true. As the title of this segment says, “Nobody is any “smarter” than anybody else.

So, “smart” doesn’t have anything to do with passing a certification exam. Being exposed to information that can be understood, either through self-study or by attending a training session that covers the subjects the test is going to cover is all it’s about.

Anybody who read my explanation of the cartoon and why it made me laugh can accomplish the same thing in regard to a NATE certification exam, or any type of exam. (Not that everybody will laugh at the cartoon. They may understand why I laughed, and still not laugh just because they don’t think it’s funny and they don’t share my sense of humor…but they still understand,)

Learn from yesterday…..Live for today…..Look forward to tomorrow

Jim

 

It’s been said that the “The customer is always right” came into being as a familiar slogan some time in the early 20th century and was championed by both Marshall Field, who established his first retail store in Chicago in the late 19th century, and also by another department store founder, Harry Gordon Selfrigde from the United Kingdom. The general consensus is that one of them coined the phrase, but no one is sure which one.  However it came about, it’s something that everyone who is in any sort of business that provides goods and services to customers has heard (and possibly had it drilled into them).

From a common sense perspective, I don’t believe that these entrepreneurs intended that the slogan be taken literally in every situation. What they were attempting to do was to make the customer feel special by training their employees to behave as if the customer was right, even when they weren’t. And, I would agree that this is not entirely a bad idea. After all, when a customer makes a purchase and it turns out that something isn’t right about it, a person can be quite upset about the situation and not be vere pleasant to deal with because they are afraid that they may have wasted their money and the business they dealt with may not be willing to ‘make it right’, or that they’ve invested time and effort in a purchase that resulted in a problem and now they’re stuck with something they don’t need or want, or it doesn’t suit their needs the way they thought it would.

So, the bottom line is fear. In the human condition, fear is the basis for all negative emotions. Fear of loss of some sort, whether it be financial or personal. And, when you look at it from that perspective….that somebody is frightened and it’s resulting in their less-than-pleasant behavior, I believe that you, as a business person or customer representative, should be committed to doing the best job you can do to work through that, and hang on to the belief that the “customer” is always right.

However, I’m also convinced that once somebody does anything that is deemed untoward behavior, such as being dishonest or abusive in an attempt to get what they want, then they are no longer a “customer” and the philosophy that they are “always right” no longer applies to this person.

I recently was involved in a sitution in which I had to deal with a “person” who purchased one of our DVD training programs. It was “HVACR Electrical Troubleshooting: Deciding Where To Begin” and he purchased it through an on-line retailer, and he requested expedited shipping. We shipped the item the same day, and within a week received a notice from the re-seller that this person wanted to return the program because he claimed that it didn’t follow through with a complete diagnosis, and then complete instructions on part replacement for each of the problems discussed. When we responded that the title….”Deciding Where To Begin”…..and the description of the program content was clear, the story changed.

It wasn’t that the program didn’t turn out as advertised after all, it was that he had mistakenly purchased the wrong program, intending to buy the title “Electrical Fundamentals For HVACR Technicians.”

And, when I got involved further with this person, the story changed again. The real reason for the return, he said, was because he was sure that what we sent him was a ‘bootleg’ copy and not an originally produced and dubbed product.

And, once I got into a phone conversation with this person, I never even got to complete a sentence when I was told that the reason for his wanting a refund was “none of your F-ing business!”….twice.

Of course, my response to this was exactly what it should have been. Although I certainly understand that the basis for his anger was fear, it was no longer my obligation to consider him a customer, and he certainly was no longer right, so I fired him. Yes, sometimes a business has to ‘fire’ a “person” who might have started out as a “customer”, but turned out to be a dishonest ( actually, a thief and a liar in this case who convinced a huge corporation that he was entitled to a refund when he was not ) and unnecessarily abusive individual.

Learn from yesterday…..Live for today…..Look forward to tomorrow

Jim

 

 

This is a story about a house in Tucson, Arizona. A house that, like most that are in a neighborhood, is situated between two other houses. And, this particular house, also like a lot of houses that have been affected by the real estate market crash, wound up being owned by a bank, and subsequently became available on the market as a foreclosure and offered for sale at a cash price.

The sequence of events that followed were that the bank set a sales price, but then changed that price due to information they received from the tenant who was living in the house (and was in the process of being moved out so it could be sold). According to them, the air conditioning system, while it would keep the building comfortable in mild weather, didn’t perform properly once the middle-of-summer temperatures occurred.

Based on that information, the bank decided to adjust the price of the house down $5,000.00 to allow a credit for replacing the roof-top package unit on this 1100 square-foot building. They arrived at this figure after getting a quote from a service company that evaluated the situation and confirmed that, yes, the unit was ‘dead in the water’ when it came to performing up to full capacity in warmer weather. This diagnosis was ‘confirmed’ by an HVAC technician who happened to live next door on the North side of this house. He said that he had also had an opportunity to look at the equipment, and tried to add refrigerant in order to get it to perform better, but it didn’t help, and he therefore determined that the only solution was to replace the unit.

During all this, I happened to be working on a remodel on the home next door on the South side of this house. (And, yes, I’ll admit that I was pretty much enjoying this scenario as it played out.)

Once the sale of the house was accomplished at the $5,000.00 discounted price, and the building had been cleaned out and fumigated…lots of dust, dirt, filth, and roaches involved here…I now had the opportunity to get into the building and evaluate the performance of the air conditioning system.

My first task was to perform a temperature-differential test across the indoor coil, which showed that the temperature drop was an alarming 29-degrees Fahrenheit. Wow….far lower than it should have been. And, while I could have then gone further with the evaluation of this equipment by performing a static pressure test, I decided to just go ahead and access the indoor coil for a visual inspection. And, I’m sure many of you who are experienced technicians and reading this, know what I found: An indoor coil that was nearly totally covered with damp, dusty, musty, muddy dirt, dog hair, roach excrement etc… on its contact side, preventing any chance of proper air flow through the coil. Inspecting further, I also found something else you would expect. The fins of the squirrel-cage blower wheel were also caked with thick layer of some mostly indescribable, disgusting material.

As is often the case, accessing the indoor coil in order to get the contact surface clean, and then use a coil cleaner to complete the process of clearing the rest of the debris that had collected deeper into the fins and tubing wasn’t an easy (or pleasant) task. And, the removal of the air handler so it could be taken down off the roof to make sure it could be properly cleaned, also took some time.

But, once the clean-up work on the indoor coil, the air handler, and the condenser coil, was done, and an evaluation of the TXV metering device refrigeration system was performed to ensure that there wasn’t an overcharge, a subsequent test of the temperature drop across the indoor coil showed it to be a respectable 18-degrees, and a static pressure test showed a differential of only .04 WC (Water Column Inches).

And, within a short time on this 100-degree ambient temperature day, the building was perfectly comfortable, both in regard to indoor air temperature and humdity.

The bottom line here? The cost of a gallon of coil cleaner pumped through a pressure sprayer on the coils, along with the de-greaser used on the blower wheel that was removed for cleaning, didn’t add up to anything near $5,000.00.

Until next week…

Learn from yesterday….Live for today….Look forward to tomorrow

Jim

 

 

It’s always been my personal opinion that the residential HVACR technician is, as they say, a ‘different breed of cat’….a bit different than an electrician, a plumber. And when I say different, I don’t mean from a hands-on or craft perspective. I’m talking about the desire to be independently employed.

I don’t really know if my percentage estimate is right, but to say that somewhere in the neighborhood of 95% of the technicians in the heating and air conditioning business either have been, are, or have a stronger-than-average desire to be, in business for themselves, feels right. And, in my experience in working with the other crafts mentioned above, I don’t get the same feeling about those technicians. My feeling is that the being  independent-and-owning-my-own business desire percentage is significantly lower for them than it is for HVAC technicians.

And, again, while I don’t claim to have hard statistics to support my hypothesis, my feeling about this is that this higher-than-average desire is the reason I often hear from HVACR contractors who are frustrated about losing an employee who has decided to “open their own shop”. I’ve heard things like, “I brought the guy on board as a green technician, and now that he’s got some field experience, he’s one of my competitors,” or, “After I invested two years in him, he walked out on me and started his own business.”

(By the way, the subject that’s kind of related to this is losing a technician to another service company….on this one, what I hear is something on the order of, “I spent all that time and money training him and he left me for a lousy 50-cents an hour.”….so, some of what I’ve got to say on this subject will apply here, but, back to the technicians who “want to be on their own”.)

The first problem are regarding this higher-than-normal desire is that many technicians really don’t have a clue about what it takes in regard to covering expenses in order to operate a successful (meaning profitable) HVACR service business. All they see is the fact that their employer charges a significant amount per hour for labor, and that what they are getting in their paycheck is what looks like a very insignificant amout per hour. And their reasoning is either, “Heck, I can run three calls a day, be done by noon, and make more money that I’m making now,” or, “If I work the same amount of hours I’m working now, I’ll make twice the amount of money (or maybe even three or four times more!) than I’m making now.”

Umm…that reasoning is a bit off the mark there….no, wait a minute. I would be more correct to say that it’s actually not true at all.

Without going deeply into the boring and seemingly mundane details about licensing, workman’s comp, sales, marketing, (yes, there is a difference between those two things) accounting, taxes, adminstrative support, etc…that many technicians wave off and decide to get to later in the excitement of planning their ‘freedom of being on their own’ and allegedly doubling or tripling their income, it’s sufficient to say that the things listed here are the reasons you may hear, “I was on my own for a while,” or, “I used to be in business for myself,” in a conversation with an older and wiser technician.

Which brings me around (finally) to the title of this week’s segment, which is directed toward service company owners and service managers.

“The only thing that’s more expensive than training someone and losing them….is not training them and keeping them.”

My point here is that, as a service company owner or service manager, you certainly know about all the stuff I’ve been rattling on about, but that doesn’t mean that it justifies not doing the best you can do to offer in-house training to the technicians you employ or supervise, all the while helping them to understand that they are, in fact, in business for themselves as an “owner” of “their company” within your company because, not only do they get paid via an hourly wage or salary as part of their earnings package, they also earn money via a fair and just incentive program that rewards them for providing outstanding customer service and doing the best job they can do on a daily basis.

And, if it turns out that after an employer/employee relationship that has been beneficial to both parties ends, and the employee does decide to leave and establish a business of their own, there’s no reason to look upon that situation from an angry and frustrating lack and limitation perspective, and that ‘there’s only so much business out there’, etc…

Instead, understand that life happens when you look at things via a prosperity consciousness perspective (I wrote an entire book on this subject if you’re interested in knowing more about it) and remember the benefits that you both derived from the relationship that you had, and move on to hiring and training another person who will be a part of helping you succeed in your business.

Until next week….

Learn from yesterday….Live for today….Look forward to tomorrow.

Jim

 

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