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Community Service Helps Boost Business & More

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In an industry as competitive as HVAC, your businesses’ ability to stand out amongst its competitors is vital! This doesn’t necessarily mean having the lowest prices, instead, it can mean having the best philosophy.

It’s what differentiates you from everyone else in your field, and could be your strongest branding tool, particularly when that philosophy involves giving back. Research shows that it’s good for business, mostly because customers and consumers are more likely to support a company that pays it forward.

When Robert H. Ranck started his HVAC business in Lancaster Country, PA, he wanted charitable work to be an integral part of the operation. Today, some 60 years later, the company is known in the community, not only for the quality of its work, but also its dedication to extending a helping hand to those in need.

While they don’t give to receive, they’ve proven that generosity is certainly good for business. Today, Robert H. Ranck, Inc. has over 50 employees and a customer base of around 10,000.

So, what are the benefits of paying it forward? And how can you make it work for your company?

Let’s start with the whys.

Because It Feels Good!
“It’s an effective marketing tool, because you’re presenting your company in a positive image,” Joe Ranck said.

But that’s not why his father was so focused on giving back. He did it because it felt good, Joe said.

A depressed economy can wreak havoc on staff morale, particularly in small companies where owners can’t afford to offer bonuses and raises. Starting an employee led volunteer program is a great way to build team spirit and boost morale. With thanksgiving approaching, consider a food drive where staff collect and donate food to less fortunate members of the community. For a greater feel-good factor, give the group a name and have t-shirts printed with the group’s name and company logo so that staff members can wear them when doing their good deeds.

Boosts Referrals
Setting up a volunteer, or pro-bono program could go a long way toward boosting your company’s name recognition and reputation, which may in turn increase your customer base.

“We do [pro bono] work for veterans and customers that have financial challenges,” Ranck said. “We do plumbing as well as HVAC, so we just rebuilt a bathroom for a disabled man. Another person we found out needed a new furnace, so we put in a new one in for him.”

As more people become aware of your company’s benevolence, you’ll likely make new contacts that may lead to paying clients.

Free Advertising
Partnering with an established non-profit or local charity for an event is a great way to increase publicity. Robert H. Rank, Inc. has done it for several years with Habitat For Humanity. In addition to promoting this partnership on your website and other marketing collateral, you can ask the charity to do the same. Simply provide them with a digital copy of the company logo. Such relationships not only allow you to trim your advertising budget, but also enable you to advertise without the hard sell.

Tax Benefits
The time, money, and other contributions you make to registered non-profits can be deducted from your taxes, and may significantly reduce the money you owe.

How You Can Give Back
The benefits listed above are certainly beneficial to small companies that don’t have budgets for advertising and monetary staff incentives, but if the budget is small, finding the money and the resources to put into charity work may seem a bit daunting.

If you’re still convinced it’s a direction you want to take your company in, here are some ways you can go about doing it.

Monetary Donations – It may seem difficult for smaller businesses, but when Robert H. Ranck started his company, he used the biblical concept of tithing, and gave 10% of his annual profits to charity. Those who practice tithing believe that whatever you give, returns to you several times over. The Robert H. Ranck team certainly believes they’ve been blessed by their tithing, and they continue it to this day. If 10% of your total profits seem too much at this stage of your business, you can opt for a smaller percentage, or choose a particular day each week and give a percentage of that day’s profits.

Marketing Collateral – Items like mugs, pens and t-shirts can be bulk purchased inexpensively and branded with the company’s logo and the charity you support. Let customers know that all proceeds collected from the purchase of these items will be donated to the featured charity. It’s a win-win situation because you raise funds for your favorite charity, your customers get to be involved in this “feel good” venture, and each time they wear your shirt or reach for your pen, it’s free advertising for your company.

Discounts & Promotions – Encourage customers to give back by offering discounts to those who contribute to a charity of your choice. This allows you to continually raise funds for your favorite charity without actually having to come up with the money to do so. The charity will benefit from your customers’ contributions, and you can reward your customers by offering a predetermined discount on your products and/or services.

Volunteering – Volunteering your time costs you nothing, and could make the world of difference to the person who benefits from this kind gesture. Structure a volunteer program to suit your schedule and resources. It can range from something company related, like offering free installation to a veteran or pensioner who purchases your product, to something non-HVAC related, like helping out at the local Boys and Girls Club.

Volunteering to teach others the trade could also help someone acquire the skills they need to earn an income, and help you find new employees whose capabilities you wont have to question.

In addition to volunteering with the company, the staff members at Robert H. Ranck Inc. also take volunteer holidays.

“We pay our guys up to 20 hours a year to work for non profit projects,” Ranck said. So some of them go off and work on their own. It can be a mission trip, an inner city project, or even a disaster,” he said.

When New Yorkers were picking up the pieces after Hurricane Sandy, staff members took paid time off to head out to New York and lend a helping hand.

“It was a rewarding experience to be able to help someone who had suffered such a personal loss,” staff member Jeff Brubaker said. “It makes you appreciate what you have and sometimes take for granted.”

Volunteer holiday programs like the one Robert H. Ranck offers employees mean they can give of their time, without losing vacation days. It encourages more staff members to get involved Brubaker said.

Whenever and however you decide to incorporate charitable ventures into your business, ensure you do it for the right reasons. The rewards it will bring your company are definitely clear, but know that people will be able to detect whether your efforts are sincere.

Boosting staff morale and getting your company’s name recognized and affiliated with a good cause are all excellent spinoffs of giving back to your community, but the number one reason you invest time, effort and money into any charitable venture should be because simply doing it is a reward in itself.

Marsha Branch

Posted In: Management

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