It was 1978; the economy was quite the opposite of what we’re experiencing now. I was a young realtor and the housing market was wild with opportunity. Homes in central California were increasing in value at the rate of 18% per year. The state of the economy was on everyone’s minds like it is now. I got a call from an old gentleman wanting to sell his home, so we met to discuss his needs.
The homeowner had a concern. “This economy has gone wild.” he proclaimed. “I’m going to make a difference. I want to sell my house for what it was worth 10 years ago. The sale will be reported and this will reduce the rate of inflation.”
I told him how much I appreciated his concern for the economy but was quick to point out that the lowered price of one home would probably have little effect on the national economy. I was concerned for his future and tried to persuade him to make a profit while he could and enjoy the benefit received by getting fair market value for his home.
After an hour of conversation, I was convinced he was determined to carry out his plans. So I asked to use his kitchen table to prepare the paperwork. When he returned, I announced the deal was done and that I would speedily fulfill his desires. I handed him a pen to sign the agreement I had prepared.
He read the contract carefully then looked up and concluded; “This looks like you’re buying my home.” “Yes sir,” I replied, “full price, cash money, as is and I’ll close escrow in two weeks. If you need an extra month to move, that’s just fine. I’ll even help you load the moving van. I’ll report the statistics, and your dream of slowing inflation will come true. However, at any time prior to closing, you just let me know and the deal is off.”
The point was that his primary concern was the upward spiraling of the price of homes as well as the state of the national state and local economy. Call me selfish or greedy, but the lesson I took away from that encounter has been not to absorb the economic worries of nation, or the state of our county. Simply learn what you need to act in your best interest, and don’t become infected by others views of the current situation.
In any situation, the best way to view the economy should be to take the available information and embrace the truth of it. The next step is to apply a pinch of creativity and a dash of optimism and find the new opportunities available within the current economic conditions that surround you.
The way to deal with the current economic slump varies a little for each of us. Last week at the annual National Comfort Institute/International Service Leadership (NCI/ISL) Summit in Dallas, I was thrilled at many who have changed their contracting companies to capitalize on new opportunity and make the most of the current economy.
Current economic conditions have revealed some interesting opportunities that aren’t typically used across the industry. Some brilliant ideas include:
• Having idle salespeople accompany service techs on their service calls to provide them direct contact with customers, instead of sitting around the office waiting for the phone to ring.
• Rewarding long time customers with no or low cost diagnostic services to find system deficiencies that may have gone unnoticed for years. This creates valuable system renovation services for you to offer.
• Implementing low cost direct marketing materials that pass from service techs directly to customers. This saves distribution costs and increases the interest of customers.
• Taking advantage of special buys and lowered material prices from vendors to reduce your cost of sales.
• Shopping insurance and other professional services providers and finding new vendors that may be more competitive.
• Investing in maintenance rather than buying new trucks or equipment.
• Marketing maintenance to service customers that are doing the same.
• Moving managers out of the office and back into the field for a season.
• Cross-training employees to prepare for future staff reductions if necessary to meet tougher economic conditions.
• Modifying incentive structures to meet reduced income.
• Taking advantage of membership services available from organizations you belong to but haven’t previously utilized.
• Taking advantage of utility incentives to generate new business.
• Preserving cash reserves and avoid new debt.
• Offering easy pay monthly payments for service customers to increase your monthly income while at the same time providing budget payments for your customers.
Of course the best new opportunities are custom created by you for your company that fit your needs and the needs of your customers.
So, be careful who you decide to listen to when it comes to today’s economic news and then watch how you process that information. Yes, we’ll need to change the way we do business to meet these changing economic times. But act in a manner that will strengthen your personal economy by responding in new and creative ways made possible by the national, state and local economic down turns that surrounds you.
Rob “Doc” Falke serves the industry as president of National Comfort Institute a training company specializing in measuring, rating, improving and verifying HVAC system performance. If you're an HVAC contractor or technician interested in an report discussing ways to increase business through system performance testing and renovation, contact Doc at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 800-633-7058. Go to NCI’s website at nationalcomfortinstitute.com for free information, technical articles and downloads.