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Question:Any advice on the best way to introduce HVAC installation and service to a business that’s built itself as a plumbing/drain cleaning company?

Gary Elekes; EGIA faculty member and CEO of iMarket Solutions:

Yeah that’s a great question. We’ve seen it in reverse many different times but I think the basic problem is the same, which is, you have an existing customer base who probably already loves you as a plumbing company and a plumbing brand. That’s your advantage but also your challenge.

I think you have to start by looking at your existing customer base and ask yourself, “What’s my marketing plan to let them know I’m entering the HVAC space?”

But before you do any of that, I would really love you to think about your strategy and your operational practices. How are you going to execute well? When someone raises their hand and says they want you to do their HVAC, you’re going to need to have HVAC competencies.

So, to me, that means you have to set up a business plan. If you’re changing the vision of the company, you’ll probably have the same value structures but your strategies are now adjusting. So, you need to think about your high-level strategies.

Your club agreement strategy may need adapting. Your plumbing-only company may or may not have a club agreement, now you might have a combined club agreement and how are you going to decide what goes into that club agreement? What’s the pricing strategy? So, I think your core strategies need to be adjusted.

Underneath that, you’ll probably have to set new goals and you have to be thinking about your financial structure, your marketing, your operations, and your human resources side. It’s always about the business plan and it’s about dissecting what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it. You must have the internal arguments about those types of things – not to the micro degree that you don’t execute the idea but that you have a general idea of what you’re going to do.

You’re never going to solve all the problems that you deal with when you’re entering a new vertical but there will be people in your organization who want that data. As an entrepreneur, I always talk about the idea that we flew to the moon but we didn’t have a rocket ship built, we figured it out and we got there. If we waited until we built a rocket ship that worked before we decided to do it, we probably would still be fiddling with that.

So, the entrepreneurial side is, “We are doing it! We’re getting into HVAC.” There’s a balance though, because the entrepreneur starts building the ideas and says, “Let’s go!” and the rocket ship blows up. That’s a bad idea.

The balance is, build yourself a business plan and go through the checklist of things that you should ask and answer about what you need to solve in order to be able to execute for the client experience.

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