by Dominick Guarino

This page typically focuses on analyzing industry trends, challenging the status-quo, and providing advice for improving your contracting business. In other words, things that are typically expected from editorial commentaries.

With the holiday season upon us, I thought I would do something a little different this month and acknowledge the progress that has been made in advancing quality in our industry.

Contracting Business published an article 12 years ago called, “The Comfort Revolution (CB, Dec. 1992, p. 4).” The article exposed how our industry had gone off course, veering its focus away from providing comfort to selling high efficiency equipment.

The article advocated bringing balance back to what we do by providing both comfort and energy efficiency. As the author of that editorial, I’ve had the honor of spending the past 17 years studying this topic and sharing with contractors across the country ways to accomplish this dual task. Along the way, health and safety were added to the mission, giving further balance to the equation.

It’s great to see how much progress has been made in this area by a significant number of contractors. These companies have truly differentiated themselves by delivering measured performance.

Although they still represent just roughly 10% of our industry, these contractors are leading the charge. They chose the road less traveled and go far beyond just selling boxes. They now address the entire system.

And, they put their money where their mouth is. They’ve invested in the tools and knowledge to better design, install, service, and test systems, providing customers with measured performance. These contractors have gained a real understanding that comfort, responsible energy use, and health and safety don’t need to be mutually exclusive. When a system is designed, installed, and tested properly, each of these goals can be met without compromise.

The leaders of these companies are the true leaders of our industry. This isn’t based on how much volume their companies do or how many employees they have. It’s based on how they do business and what they do to keep improving and learning.

Our industry desperately needs this type of leadership if we are to ever overcome the negative images captured by investigative reporting TV programs, sting operations and yes, companies who truly deserve the bad press they’re getting.

There’s a definite movement afoot by progressive contractors to shed the traditional image and customer perception of our industry. They’ve learned to present an alternative approach where customer education is king, and hard-sell approaches are left to used car salesmen.

These contractors involve the customer, teach them about their systems, and offer options beyond just a new box or some accessories to band-aid long standing inadequacies and defects.

To those who’ve chosen this tougher path, I salute you! It’s not easy being different. Often they’re the only companies to propose systems that can cost twice as much as the next closest competitor. But as those of you who do this know, it can be very rewarding.

Something exciting happens when your jobs are based on solving problems, not just installing boxes. It’s also exciting to see the transformation that occurs when everyone in the company, from the seasoned techs and installers, to support people, become filled with new purpose. They rejuvenate with the knowledge and pride that they’re not just like every other contractor out there.

If you’re one of these companies, congratulations. You’ve graduated to the next level. You’ve managed to break away from the pack and are doing something truly unique and satisfying.

We should all express our appreciation to the technicians and installers out there who have been studying and working hard to deliver this level of performance, as these people truly represent the future of our industry.

Education is the key. There are many industry organizations dedicated to providing advanced education for technicians. NATE certification, for example, is helping to raise the bar, verifying that technicians have the knowledge to perform their work competently and efficiently.

Contractors who’ve invested in training and certifying their techs, are on their way to becoming truly performance-based. Your technicians are ready to take the next step and learn how to address the whole HVAC system.

You’re poised to truly lead the Comfort Revolution and deliver real comfort, safety and energy efficiency. We invite you to join the ranks of performance-based contractors whose numbers are growing, and whose voices are growing louder each day.

Dominick Guarino is chairman and CEO of National Comfort Institute, a national training, certification and membership organization focused on air diagnostics, CO & combustion, mold protection and IAQ. Call him at 800/633-7058, or email him at domg@nationalcomfortinstitute.com. Visit the website at www.nationalcomfortinstitute.com.