Best Practices for HVAC Contractors

If you’re an HVAC contractor, you probably want to be the best one around. While running an HVAC company is challenging, creating the best outfit in any area is even more difficult. Fortunately, there are some industry best practices you can implement in your business which can help you succeed at becoming your region’s go-to HVAC contractor of choice.

Best Practice Number One

The first thing you should do to become the best HVAC contractor is to develop a strategy for your service department. Even though many contractors treat their service department as a catchall of sorts, your service department should be treated as a distinct, well-defined part of your business. The key to having an effective service department is hiring a service manager.

Too often, contractors put their best technician in the role of service manager. While it’s easy to understand why that’s tempting to do, it’s not a good idea unless that individual has actual management skills. Your service manager must be able to think strategically and handle people and conflict properly. If you put your lead technician in the service manager position and the person doesn’t have these abilities, they’ll probably end up leaving — and you’ll lose your most qualified technician and your service manager at the same time.

Best Practice Number Two

Incorporating commissioning into your normal business practices is just as important as defining your service department and hiring a capable, experienced manager to run it. Many HVAC contractors avoid commissioning because of the widespread belief that the practice unnecessarily adds to the cost and the length of time it takes to complete a project. While that mindset is rampant in the HVAC industry, the reverse is actually true. When done the right way, commissioning can enable contractors to successfully perform installations, expansions, remodels, and tune-ups in a cost-effective and efficient manner.

To fully appreciate the importance of commissioning and how it can influence your ability to get a job done right the first time, you need to understand what commissioning is and isn’t. Commissioning is not synonymous with “start-up.” Instead, commissioning is a process that begins with the planning and design of a system. Commissioning continues through the various phases of a project, including installation, start up, and the first year a system is in operation. Commissioning is the groundwork for you to service and maintain systems for your clients.

If you doubt the value of commissioning, consider the following. The Portland Energy Conservation, Inc. estimates that if commissioning were applied to existing grocery stores, it would produce annual energy savings of between seven and 25 percent. By adopting commissioning in your normal business practices, you can establish a reputation for being the best HVAC contractor because the practice has the potential to save your clients significant sums of money on energy every year.

Best Practice Number Three

With the technology that’s available today, it’s much easier for contractors to keep track of key performance indicators (KPI) and identify areas for improvement. While revenue will always be a meaningful KPI, you can track other metrics that can help you run your business more profitably, such as billable efficiency, lead conversions, and yield per service call. By paying attention to your company’s metrics, you can identify areas to increase your profits and reduce your expenses, which gives you the opportunity to pass some savings onto your clients and keep your prices as fair and competitive as possible.

For your metrics to have a real impact on your business, you’ll need to communicate with your team. Tell your technicians and support staff what you’re tracking, when they’ve been successful with improving a given KPI, and when they can do a better job.

Remember, your employees are on the front lines, so to speak, when it comes to dealing with your clients. For this reason, it’s critical to solicit feedback from them and listen to their input. Then, you can make meaningful improvements as you evolve into your region’s best HVAC contractor.