To mis-quote Babe Ruth, You can’t win tomorrow’s games with yesterday’s home-runs. This idea has never been truer than today. The HVAC industry is changing quickly:
- Equipment sales are down; and maintenance and service are critical for driving revenue and growth.
- Many in our industry are now offering home (or building) performance solutions, diversifying to include new HVAC products, ventilation, insulation, etc.
- Sales focus is on solutions-based selling processes.
- New initiatives like QI and third party verification are changing the landscape.
- Customer relationship management is the new watch-word, with a focus on retention to drive business.
- A real shortage in workers is expected by the end of this decade.
- New technologies are coming to market, demanding more expertise and skill.
Each of these changes can seem overwhelming, and taken together, they can seem insurmountable. You may wonder how to tackle them…what to do first…and how to get it all done? Don’t get bogged down in the paralysis of analysis! The first step is to build a culture for change:
- Don’t run from change; instead focus on continual improvement
- Build a team that is focused on excellence (because what you do can change, but the right people will adapt)
- Understand your customers, and drive change based on their needs and priorities
Here at Bel Red Energy Solutions, we are fortunate to have Boeing in our backyard (literally). A company known for embracing change, they led us into the Jet Age and the Space Age. A primary reason for their success is that Boeing is always looking forwards, and working with their customers to provide solutions to their changing needs.
From our office windows, we recently watched as the first Boeing 787 took off for delivery. This airplane represented a significant change in the commercial jet industry:
- Composite materials make up 50% of the primary structure
- Design and manufacturing changes eliminated 1,500 aluminum sheets, 40,000 fasteners, and 60 miles of wiring
- It uses 20% less fuel than today's similarly sized airplanes
- It self-monitors and report systems maintenance requirements
- Advanced designs improve customers’ flying experience and airlines profits.
Boeing didn’t build the 787 just to show they could do it. It was the result of understanding what was important to their customers, and making a commitment to deliver it. This type of change does not come easy and is not without challenges. In fact, its delivery was delayed by over three years! Even so, the 787 set a record for initial orders. HOW?
Boeing has incorporated change into their culture by building their mission around understanding what their customers want, and having the right people in place to deliver it. The first step in successfully managing change is for you to do the same. Like Boeing, building a culture that encourages change to meet customers’ needs will provide you with long-term success.
According to Boeing, “Satisfied customers are essential to our success. We will achieve total customer satisfaction by understanding what the customer wants and delivering it flawlessly.”…“In order to realize our vision, we consider where we are today and where we would like to be tomorrow.” A key component of this commitment is having the team necessary to drive change successfully. Bill Allen, CEO of Boeing from 1945 to 1968 said it best: “Boeing is always reaching out to tomorrow. This can only be accomplished by people who live, breathe, eat and sleep what they are doing.”
Building a culture of change in your own business takes time and hard work. You will fail from time-to-time, and not live up to your own standards or expectations (remember that Boeing was three years late delivering the 787). But it begins by taking an honest look at your business. Do you:
- Have a team that is committed to excellence?
- Ask customers what you can do better?
- Look for unmet needs from your customers or in the market-place?
- Own your mistakes and learn from them?
- Encourage new ideas from team members?
- Promote training for new skills?
At Bel Red, our Core Values empower this process for us and our team members. We regularly talk about Innovation, and how employees’ ability to overcome challenges with creativity has helped them. We focus on Delight, and share ways in which we’ve exceeded customers’ expectation. We even talk about our failures, sharing what we’ve learned from them. We engage with customers regularly, asking what we can do to improve their experience.
This engagement with staff and customers has helped us to identify opportunities we never would have on our own. It led to us develop electrical and plumbing divisions, and to identify new products and services in HVAC for which there was unmet demand. It helps drive our revenue and provide steady work for our team members, while giving us more satisfied customers.
Without the ability to adapt and change, will your company survive? Making customer-focused change a part of your culture is necessary for your business to thrive in the long-run. Once you build this culture, the ability to prioritize and implement change will become much easier.