“You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We’d all love to see the plan” — The Beatles
I love the skepticism at the end of that verse (I think it’s a verse). Just show us what you’ve got because we’re tired of hearing all this talk about it! I imagine that by the time John and Paul wrote “Revolution” the very notion itself had become such a cliché that even The Beatles were bored with it.
Revolution is a big, heavy word. Folks throw it around all too glibly. Consultants are especially irresponsible with the word. “Revolutionizing this” and “Revolutionizing that…” It sounds edgy and hip but here’s the problem: Most people’s “revolution” is their way of saying “I’m adding my spin to the status quo and calling it a revolution.” It’s what happens when revolution moves to the ‘burbs and buys a BMW.
Revolution in anything (life, politics, business, consulting) is not about modifying an existing paradigm. It’s about replacing an existing system with something (ideally) better. Revolution is not marginal modification. Revolutionary weapons combine idealism and action in order to eliminate entrenchment and complacency. With that in mind, here are some revolutionary ideas for the HVAC industry:
* Flatten your company’s organizational chart in order to eliminate positional hierarchies, finger-pointing, and mistrust in the name of better customer service, communication, and teamwork.
* Replace your company’s “Customer Satisfaction Rating” with a Bhutan-style “Gross Happiness Index” that measures more meaningful criteria
* Replace your marketing budget with an Influence budget that targets only your best customers
* Design a User Experience that eliminates positional silos and creates a themed narrative
* Make your installers responsible for customer follow-up and communication
* Implement a Zappos-esque problem solving policy so you’re the easiest company to work with and for
* Talk to your customers for a long time after an installation. Not just to sell them stuff but to learn about their needs and expectations and perspectives
* Generate ideas from your team all of the time and learn from their insights
* Assign employees the title of “Idealist” on a rotating basis–they must become responsible for collecting and promoting the best ideas on an on-going basis
* Ask a tough “brand” question: “If I removed the logos and stickers and ‘stuff” from everything in our company would the customer still recognize our unique quality of service…and why?”
* Stop promoting “family owned and operated” and “quality workmanship” because they don’t raise the bar
* Think differently about the word “Price” because it’s not the source of an objection. It’s another way of saying to a customer “Here’s what I’m asking you to sacrifice.” And it better be worth the sacrifice.
* Give your products retail names not incoherent manufacturing labels or nomenclature
* Owners and managers should risk a true 360 team review and learn from their team on a quarterly basis
* Help your team learn about the money they’re paid, where it comes from, and how to make wise decisions with it (especially while they’re young)
* Hold your sales team accountable for generating a reasonable portion of their own leads in order to avoid complacency or in-fighting (stop the “gimmes leads” addiction)
* Start utilizing Vine, Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat as marketing channels that capture moments
* Reduce the time between a customer’s intent to buy and the act of buying
* Utilize every available time-based opportunity in the sales cycle to impress a customer. Don’t leave it only to a salesperson to capitalize on time
* Take the words “Comfort” and “Peace-of-Mind” out of your vocabulary immediately. You sell neither.
* Ask yourself: What, if anything, is fun or funny or memorable about working with my company?
* Create a social purpose for your business
* Give control of your social media feeds to your employees on a regular basis
* Monetize your website immediately
It’s all a big way of saying something simple: The HVAC industry is a traditional, habitual, service-driven trade. Yet the service and trade itself are no longer the value-adds that they once were. They’re a commodity. They’ve reached a level of unprecedented parity. And in lieu of that a business owner has two basic choices to make: Repeat the same patterns that are quickly being outdated and outpaced by smarter retail companies OR dismantle what used to be effective and replace the paradigm with a significantly different perspective on what it means to be in the trade. The former is far easier. Especially for people in my line of work. Add a few new buzzwords (“it’s disruptive!) and “Bang” you’ve got your milk-toast revolution. But the latter is the future and the future requires that we all learn to let go, be ok with rapid change, be even more ok laying aside our sacred cows, and fervently let the old idols go.
I believe in revolution and I believe in the necessity of constant change and adaptation. In an era in which I can buy a heating and cooling system on Amazon there’s no better indicator that a systemic revolution must occur in order to maintain relevance. So don’t keep calm. It’s not going to get any easier.
This revolution will be televised.