A large part of running a viable, healthy and vibrant hydronic business is keeping on top of business-related training. This includes not only taking courses on the business of doing business, but courses of which your field employees may take advantage. I’ve had conversations with business owners about training for their field employees. One of them told me, “If I train them, they will leave me for greener pastures.” I replied, “Yes, and if you don’t train them, they will stay here forever.”

There is an old saw in our industry that claims, “You have to stop and sharpen your axe on a regular basis to keep it working well.” Otherwise, you waste a lot of energy to accomplish a given feat. The Radiant Professionals Alliance asked many of our members which programs they wanted to see us put forth to help enhance their businesses. The No. 1 response was education — and not just the pipe, valve and fitting side of the business, but more classes on the business of doing business.

We developed a relationship with the good folks at HeatSpring to develop numerous training programs, from the physical installation side to the business side. Some of these classes are being offered through the HeatSpring campus and some are being offered directly from the training company, Tom Grandy and Associates. For more information on the Grandy course offerings, and the partnership between Grandy and Associates and the RPA, visit the members-only portal of the RPA website.

One of the classes we are offering is a class on basic hydronics. This course was originally developed by the good folks at AHRI’s educational arm. It provides technicians with the fundamentals that are critical to know regardless of the end use of the hot water being generated. Once you’ve taken this course, adapting this knowledge to other hydronic-based systems, such as radiant panels, is an easy transition.

Many times, hydronic contractors make a leap of faith and go directly into the radiant panel design courses and skip learning these basics. Having a good knowledge base of these basics will help guide you through any system, regardless of its design or final intent. We have contracted with Ray Wohlfarth to teach this course. Wohlfarth brings with him more than 30 years of practical field experience and anecdotal information that can’t be taken out of any text book — unless, of course, Ray wrote the book, which he has done three times now. Check out his classes at the RPA University website.

All the courses that are up and running at HeatSpring were built with the business owner and his employees in mind. It’s not a classroom setting where you have to be at a specific place at a specific time in order to receive your instructions. You can show up at whatever time it is convenient to you, go through the course materials, take a quick exam and move on.

If you do need to ask the instructor a question, you will need to block out a minor amount of time to be in front of a computer screen once a week, but that is a minor trade-off for being able to learn on your own schedule, at a pace that is comfortable to you.

This newest course is just one of many that we are putting together for our contractor members to help them be more successful and profitable in their businesses. As always, we are open to suggestion from our membership base about what courses they’d like to see us offer through this learning experience portal.

Feel free to contact me and we can discuss some options. We have a lot of very experienced brain power available to us for the purpose of sharing information and providing education. I encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities.

In addition to the basic hydronics course, we are offering a “Fundamentals of Radiant Design” class taught by Dave Yates; an “Advanced Radiant Design” course taught by yours truly; and “Solar Approaches to Radiant Heating” taught by Vaughan Woodruff. We are working on getting additional courses online for the fall training program.

If you have a specific course in mind you believe might be worthwhile, contact us and let us know what the course name and title should be. If you are an instructor and are interested in becoming a training partner, by all means drop me a line and let’s get the conversation started.

Education has always been, and will continue to be, a cornerstone of the RPA. We are about education. Not just for contractors but for consumers as well.

Check out our offerings here.

And don’t forget to stop every once in a while and sharpen your tools. It will make your job much easier in the short — and long — run.

How important is training to your business? Share your comments below!


Author bio: Mark Eatherton, executive director of the Radiant Professionals Alliance, is a 37-year veteran of the radiant and hydronics industry. He joined RPA in January 2013 as the group’s technical director, then named executive director a few months later. You can reach him at mark.eatherton@radiantprofessionalsalliance.org. Find out more about RPA at www.radiantprofessionalsalliance.org.