Don't let lawyers have all the fun!
How does the only attorney in a small town
increase his income?
By recruiting another lawyer to move in.
This old joke speaks an edgy truth. The legal profession is one of few blessed
with almost unlimited ability to create its own demand. Contrast it with
construction-related businesses dependent on whatever the economy provides in
the way of new building, repairs, replacements and remodeling. When work is as
scarce as it’s been almost everywhere for the last couple of years, this makes
for a hardscrabble way of life and many contractors going
Everyone hopes the construction market will come back to life sooner rather
than later, but most forecasts show a painfully slow recovery for housing and a
commercial building market not yet touching bottom. It’s time to figure out a
way to spur more work than the building owners and developers in your area
would otherwise provide. This will require some effort on your part to convince
people to spend money they were not inclined to spend before talking to
PHC contractors enjoy precisely this kind of opportunity if they choose to surf
the green tsunami that’s raging across the country. Plenty of WIIFM exists for
building owners to replace old boilers, furnaces, water heaters and pumps with
modern high-efficiency products and systems. According to a manufacturers rep
that specializes in this business, once you factor in tax incentives, the
payback for many equipment change-outs can be as little as two to three years
for commercial properties in particular.
“It’s a no-brainer for apartments, hospitals
and municipalities,” he told me. The rep prefers to remain anonymous
because he doesn’t want competitors figuring out what he’s up to, but shared
that energy-efficiency improvements tied to his line of pumps have pretty much
kept his agency alive during the economy’s power dive. He maintained that pumps
eat up around 20 percent of power consumed in buildings, and he uses a data
logger provided by the manufacturer that ties into pump motors to document
energy usage. Once a data stream is established that measures eye-opening
savings, the sale becomes rather easy.
His main lament is that more contractors
don’t take advantage of the assistance offered by his firm and the manufacturers
they represent to drum up such business. Those that do are amply rewarded but
it often takes a lot of persuasion on his part to get contractors away from
their mechanical mindset and into a salesmanship mode that’s required for
business that isn’t automatically generated by the end users.
“A lot of these guys see themselves as nothing but installers and repairmen,
and they’re depressed because there’s not enough work to keep everyone busy,”
the rep said. “They don’t realize how much opportunity they have to do
something about it.”
The first step, he advised, is to go back
through your records and identify every customer you’ve done a major job for in
the last five to 10 years - focusing especially on apartments and other
commercial projects. Pinpoint those that present the juiciest targets for
energy-efficiency upgrades and start putting together proposals. Don’t hesitate
to seek help from wholesalers and reps that carry your favorite equipment
brands. If they prove reluctant to help, consider switching suppliers. The
hydronic heating market is fiercely competitive and virtually all of the major
boiler and pump manufacturers are eager to offer technical and sales support to
help contractors land profitable jobs.
This is not suede shoe selling. Multiple visits with a lot of visuals
and number crunching may be required. Here’s where joint calls with wholesaler
or rep sales professionals can prove decisive. Be sure to emphasize as part of
the pitch that “the government will help pay for it.”
After you land a job, go back after six months or so when savings can be
documented and ask for referrals. My rep friend confided that some contractors
who have taken these steps find themselves with more work than they can handle
even amid this unprecedented slump.
“And, the best part of this kind of work is it doesn’t go out to bid!” he
A common theme I find in conversations with the contracting community is that
many contractors are anxiously awaiting government stimulus funds to boost the
market and provide enough work for them to get by. It reminds me of that old
tune, “Pennies from Heaven.” While you’re awaiting that windfall, think hard
about what you can do to become your own stimulus program.