Wednesday, January 26, 2011

It's almost ASHRAE time!

So, our ASHRAE Winter Meeting is being held in Las Vegas, NV this year.  Starting Saturday, my hometown of Las Vegas will begin to see the influx of ASHRAE participants.  I can say that many golf enthusiasts are thrilled with the venue - gotta love 64 deg. F!  Good luck to you golfers, and anyone up for a round of tennis should give me a shout (I'll stay out of the golfing this year).

On a more serious note, my humble opinion is that this is an amazing time to be part of the HVAC industry.  Whether you're a supporter of the "Green Building Movement" or not, we've seen advances in equipment in the last five years that have surpassed some of the advances our industry has accomplished over the last 20 years combined (no offense to digital controls, spiral duct and pressure independent systems).  I have to imagine that Dr. Carrier himself would be pretty excited.  Simple advances in compressor technology have me jumping around like a kid waiting for the ice cream truck.  ASHRAE is my chance every year to walk the show and nose around what all the manufacturers are up to.  By the end of the first day at the show, I've got ideas for systems and innovations swirling in my head.  At the end of the second day, I'm still enthralled, but my feet and lower back are really just screaming for some ibuprofen and very soft footwear.  Forget a third day... I've never made it to a third round at the show.  For those of you strong enough to endure, kudos to you.  They should give a medal for that.

So, if you stop by the show and stumble across a brunette chic in heals dismantling some poor manufacturer's display, you probably caught me in action.  Do me a favor and at least introduce yourself.  If I get lucky, I'll actually get the display back into its original condition.  I still owe the folks at Neptronics for accidentally destroying their display humidifier at the show many years ago (still haunts me to this day, but they were gracious). 

If nothing else, walk the show and learn something!    Safe travels to everyone.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Building Trust

I don't know about the entire industry, but within my circle of clients, coworkers and friends there has been a lot of discussion about building trust.  It seems that the stress of the economic changes has made it difficult to know what to trust these days.  Those companies who you thought would always be there suddenly vanished along with years of relationships and hard-won trust.  The coworkers you knew had your back were laid off or left for different opportunities.  The world of cloud computing has made it difficult for companies to maintain transparency without exposing every number and action to scrutiny.  What is one to do in this environment?

Call me jaded, but I've always been one to trust only in what is within my ability to control.  I hope for the best, but am typically prepared for the worst.  When bad things happen, or a trust is broken, I don't react as a victim.  I move on while evaluating the relationship or scenario that lead to the final outcome.  What door is opening now that one closed?  Some call that idealistic, but the fact is - it works for me (and quite a few in my close circle).

But, what do you do as an employer when you know that your employees do not trust and you can see that it is eroding away at your business?  That is a tough one to call.  Some would say, put on a good face and weather the storm.  I disagree with this approach because I believe people are more in-tune than ever with the ups and downs of business.  In sales, for instance, the leaders of the team often set the tone in a very strong way.  As an owner of a rep. firm, do you expose your numbers and set the bottom line for performance so you are taking away what you need?  I think so.  The catch is that if your numbers are not truly transparent, you will not build trust, you will destroy it.  Sales teams are uniquely qualified to break down numbers at an alarming rate, and numbers that don't add up will leave you looking like someone who cannot be trusted. 

Trust with clients?  Wow, that is a hard one to cover.  Everyone has their own method, but the one that has consistently worked for me is honesty.  Part of why I needed to start my own business was because if I heard "You're too honest for your own good," in another yearly review I thought I might strangle someone.  The truth was, I was too honest for the company's lawyers, and they were afraid that if my negotiating techniques did not work then we'd get the shirts sued off our backs.  It's a legitimate concern, but in the end the problem was always worked out in a way that was acceptable to the client and our company.  To be fair and clear, I was not so cavalier as to put any admission of guilt into email, but that's part of knowing the balance of when to document and when to make sure the clients' needs are met.  The bonus was that each situation gave me a chance to build more trust with clients, and they appreciated always knowing the truth while we worked through challenges.

Finally, taking personal responsibility is a sure-fire way to earn trust.  My friends at Brains on Fire posted a blog this morning that hit on this with a very clear example (and one that drives me crazy).  Check it out if you're interested... I couldn't have written it better myself.
(Look for the 1/5/2011 post.  My apologies, the Jan. 5th posting on the site was removed as of Jan. 6th).

So maybe, more than focusing on building trust we need to focus on who we are in business.  Are we transparent?  Are we taking responsibility for our actions?  Are we treating others the way we want to be treated?