In April 2009, I was a part of an event that epitomizes the “heart” of this industry. It started two months ago, when Service Roundtable CEO Matt Michel dedicated his “The Rant” column to Joe Groh, a member of this industry for over 30 years, who is now a paraplegic as a result of a bicycle accident.

Joe Groh survived the accident, and is working very hard to become a productive member of the industry again. But the medical bills are incredible and he has a long way to go.

Here is where the heart comes in. Many of his friends solicited their friends and acquaintances in our industry to help raise enough money to buy a voice-activated computer for Joe. While conducting a class in White Plains, NY, I told a group of contractors about Joe's situation. Before the seminar concluded, I was handed more than $100 in cash by people who never knew Joe, and who will never meet Joe, but who wanted to give toward the necessary technology that would make him a contributing member of the workforce again. I didn't get the name of each person in that class who handed me money, but you know who you are. In my book, you are the epitome of what I call the “heart” of this industry.

It's not just about Joe Groh. I can tell you that the HVAC Industry's version of “Simon Cowell” (the acerbic host of American Idol) — Charlie Greer — is someone I've personally seen give $6,000 back to this industry for causes that he will never personally benefit from. I know many HVAC contractors who send money, and who contribute to strangers simply because another human being needs help. There are scores of distributors and manufacturers who do the same thing.

Our industry isn't glamorous or sexy, but it is classy! I don't know about you, but I'd rather be considered classy over the other two options, particularly the older I get!

HVAC Heart and the Married Couple

“Heart” also determines whether or not a husband and wife team can successfully work together in a business. In this case, heart doesn't focus on whether or not the couple loves one another. I have known a number of couples who make great husband and wife teams, but would never make it as a husband and wife business management team.

Unfortunately, I've seen married couples who do have heart for one another, but let their business drive a spike in the heart of that relationship — making it difficult to sustain either the relationship or the business.

I've heard from a number of women and one man about this subject. One particularly poignant response captured exactly what I mean about the necessity of “heart” in managing a business as a husband and wife team.

“We used to be the ‘perfect couple,’” wrote one female respondent who agreed to let me quote her anonymously.

“Now we own an HVAC company and we fight quite frequently. We fight over money — how to make it, how to spend it. We fight over what's the ‘right’ thing to do for the company, our employees, and our clients. We fight about hours, and responsibilities, and whether we should talk about work at home. And I'm okay with all of that. This is our life now; we are the company and the company is us. There is no turning back.

“If you ask how we balance home versus work, I would say we don't. We work when we have to, and we stick a little ‘life’ in the gaps. We fight when we disagree, but we know that's work, and we remind each other that we love each other. Sometimes one person wins, sometimes the other, sometimes there's a new solution, and sometimes a decision is postponed. Mostly, we fight side-by-side to keep our company profitable and honest.”

I'm sure that any number of husbands or wives reading this statement have thought, said, or written very similar sentiments.

So what is the key to “heart”? Fighting side-by-side to keep a company profitable and honest and not losing love; unabashedly soliciting others to help a friend in need; giving to others (even a stranger) without personal benefit; not being so self-reliant or independent that we're embarrassed to rely on those next to us and those who surround us in this industry. I'm so proud to be part of an industry that epitomizes “heart.”

Vicki LaPlant has been involved in the HVAC industry nearly 30 years as a trainer and consultant. She's an expert at helping people work better together for greater success. In addition, Vicki serves on the editorial advisory board of Contracting Business magazine. She can be reached by email at vicki@vleishvac.com or by phone at 903/786-6262.

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