Why Do Some Contractors Succeed At Integrating Energy Into Their Business?


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I ran into an old friend as I was walking the floor at the BOMA International (Building Owner Management Association) annual meeting. I asked how things were going with his Energy Services program and he indicated he had lost his Energy Specialist and decided to outsource the function to a 3rd party engineering firm. While this probably made sense given his circumstances, it got me thinking about why some companies succeed and others fail incorporating energy into their HVAC businesses.

Here are some best practices that will help ensure your success.

STRATEGY
In the exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat in Chapter 6 of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland it was explained that “if you don’t know where you’re going any road will take you there.” The same holds true in building and energy services programs. Are you trying to build your service business because of the power of a recurring revenue business model or are you more interested in driving project revenue? Or both? These and other key questions need to be answered to provide guidance to your team as you move forward.

DEFINE ENERGY SERVICES
If you focus on the PM part of your business and incorporate energy services into your PMAs you will simplify delivery and leverage an inherent advantage all HVACs potentially have; the equipment you install, maintain, and repair wastes a lot of energy. A comprehensive PM program will deliver measurable savings by attacking much of that waste. You might tweak your service offering to increase energy savings; however we are not talking about donning lab coats and conducting 2 week audits. Keep it simple, focus on your strengths, and make incremental changes.

TAKE CREDIT!
Up to this point we’ve been relying on groups like ASHRAE to give us an idea of how much our PMs save in energy. Customers are skeptical of unsubstantiated claims. Now there are cost effective methods of tracking savings and proving the value of your PM. That same data can help you adjust your offering to generate the greatest savings at the lowest incremental cost. Providing proof of savings will enable you to differentiate and justify a premium.

CONFIDENCE
Saw this in IAQ, too. If your sales team doesn’t believe it, they’re not likely to sell it well, if at all. Measurement not only substantiates your claims to your customers, but helps your employees understand how valuable your services really can be. It makes the renewal process easier and creates an uneven playing field for your competition. Can you imagine pulling out examples of savings you’ve generated for buildings in your local market on your sales calls? It’s a game changer that will instill energy in your sales team and begin to shift your culture.

TRAINING
Because you’re leveraging your PM there isn’t a whole lot of technical training required in the early phases. The primary emphasis should be on the customer facing teams, especially your sales teams. ENERGY STAR benchmarking is a great place to start. Role play your sales processes using the ENERGY STAR information. Those that role play, succeed. Those that don’t, well…

ACCOUNTIBILITY
You know the old adage, “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.” If you want to introduce change to your team, you have to hold them accountable for hitting targets and measure their progress. It takes management/owner commitment to hold your sales teams accountable to succeed. Again those that measure succeed, those that don’t…

These are some of the building blocks for integrating energy services into your commercial HVAC business model. Keep it simple. Don’t overcomplicate it. Leverage what you are already doing well and start to make that 3 degree shift. As you build momentum, adding contracts and building confidence, you can begin to add to your capabilities. A logical progression is to begin to add tools to enable you to generate project work out of your base using forecasted energy savings to justify capital investment.

Ok, now that I have this down on “paper,” I need to go call that friend and urge him to get back to the basics.

Jim Crowder

Posted In: ACCA Now, Building Performance

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