All-In-One Field Service Management Software by Aptora –

Business Coach

James Leichter Teaches Materials Management / Inventory Management at Contractor University

Aptora Owner James Leichter, a founding instructor at EGIA, was asked to give a 2-day workshop for Contractor University.

Materials Management and Inventory Management

Understanding material handling possibilities throughout your business – including accountability for it in the field – is crucial to contracting business success.

In this workshop, dealers will learn to create an efficient material replenishment process for their companies, while getting the tools and training to tie metrics to inventory management system in a way that ensures you’re driving profit – not just revenue.

Attendees will also learn:

  • Field Accountability for Material Handling
  • Standardized Vehicle Stock Systems
  • Replenishment Procedures for Review
  • Establishing Inventory for 85% first time Service Call Completion rate
  • GPS Technology
  • Electronic Invoicing and Processes
  • Purchasing Procedures

Learn Inventory Management directly from James in his new book.
On sale now as both a physical book and an ebook.
Use the link below and Get Yours Today!
The Essential Guide to Inventory Management with Total Office Manager

Happy customer and mechanic in workshop

Advice for Building Long-Term Friendships with Customers

There is an old story about a salesman that’s about to embark on an overnight business trip to a big city. His young son begs to go with him, yearning to take a vacation with his dad and not fully aware of what going away on business actually entails. The man agrees to take his son with him but briefs his son about the trip. The salesman will meet with several clients and his son is welcome to tag along provided that the young boy is courteous and keeps to himself when necessary. The boy agrees, suddenly welcoming the opportunity to see his dad hard at work, one day dreaming of being a salesman like his father.

After a full weekend of successful meetings with clients, the father and son return home. “How was your trip?” the salesman’s wife asks her husband and son, then says to the boy, “Did your dad work hard?”

“He didn’t do any work!” the boy replies. “All Dad does is talk to his friends all day!”

The Importance of Customer Relationships

This charming story is often used to highlight the importance of businesses developing friendly relationships with their clients. Seemingly, the friendly rapport between the salesman and his potential customers is what allows him to win them over.

The importance of these relationships cannot be underestimated. Because a reliable client base separates successful businesses from temporary ones–especially in an industry devoted to repairs, in which you are supposed to represent the solution to people’s problems–it is vital for maintaining and growing a client base in which long-term friendships are nurtured between service provider and customer. Also, do not forget the importance of personal business referrals for your company.

While crossing the threshold between the stoic business-and-customer relationship to a casual, friendly one can seem difficult, or even strange, there are a few simple ways to ease this process. Here are a few tips for developing lasting, friendly relationships with your customers.

Nurture the Relationship

Remember that being professional does not mean being distant. Politeness and mutual respect exists in good friendships, so feel free to nurture this type of relationship with a client. While good, polite service is appreciated, the level of trust in your services skyrockets if you and your client develop a friendship. Who do you trust more, a professional waiter or a close friend? Trust, after all, is one of the most important factors determining whom a client chooses to perform their repairs.

Don’t Be Too Casual

Being friendly with a client does not mean speaking to them the way you speak with friends outside of work. These people are participating in a goods-for-currency exchange with you, after all. Do not curse, discuss lewd subjects, argue, or delve into private matters with your client. Being polite and distant is one extreme, but being strangely casual with clients is the opposite vice. You will still need to thank them, greet them professionally, and maintain your dignity as a businessperson by putting your work first.

Be a Good Listener

The keys to a good balance of being professional and friendly with clients is smiling, welcoming conversation, and engaging in long conversation with your clients. Everyone is different; be a good listener and follow the path toward friendly interaction your client welcomes. Some people might enjoy talking about their home, travels, spouse, favorite sports teams, or career. As with every new friendship, take this small talk and allow friendly, continuous discussion to sprout.

Be Honest

Be genuine and honest with your clients. If you think one of your coworkers can best handle a certain job, allow them to take over a delicate process. If you have made a mistake, admit it and apologize promptly. If your client asks for a recommendation, give a good and reliable one. This is what friends do.

Stay in Touch

Most importantly, stay in touch with all of your clients. This cannot be stressed enough. Sending letters reminding people to make appointments is one thing, but calling a customer to ask if their appliances are in good shape and if they have any concerns takes things to the next level. Your client will feel that you have a personal commitment to them that goes beyond stale, ordinary business contact.

About the Author:

Noah Franklin is the owner of AC Pros HVAC, LLC, a professional Austin Air Conditioning and heating company. The business has been up and running for just over four years. Noah is fully experienced in all aspects of the Land business, having previously been a Landman at T. S. Calkins & Associates, Inc., Osage Land, Arrington Oil & Gas Operation, LLC, and Petroleum Landman. He is a very intelligent man known for his diligence and dedication to his clients.

Worker employee recieve salary plus good working overtime bonus money payday from factory manager.

How to Reward Your Employees With Creative And Inexpensive Bonuses

As companies grow so do employee bonus expectations.   In today’ economy it is of the utmost importance to get the most out of your company’ dollar.  Managers often forget that bonuses can be effective yet economical.   This article will give you 10 cost effective ways to reward your employees and still stay within budget constraints.

1. Dollar Box

Fill a box with miscellaneous office supplies that are not normally furnished by the company.  You can purchase these at any retail or office supply store.   Regularly check the clearance sections for these bargains. The key to keeping this economical is to have a budget for each of the items found in the box of one dollar or less.  Let everyone in the company know you are keeping track of customer and manager compliments.  Ask them to forward any complimentary e-mails, letters and phone calls to the HR Manager or General Manager.  When one of these is received, let the employee with the positive review choose one item out of the box.  Be sure to thank them for their continued positive customer relations.

2. Candy

It isn’t just for the kids.  Even adults enjoy the occasional sweet treat.  Keep a variety of mini candy bars and suckers on hand.   Encourage your managers to “toss” out a piece of candy each time an employee does or says something notable.

3. Birthday Cakes

Pass around a form and have each employee write down their birthday and cake preference.  On their birthday buy a cake of their preference and share it at lunch with all employees.  Let the birthday employee bring home any leftovers.  If an employee does not like cake ask them to name some other treat that you can buy to make their day special.  For large companies buy one cake monthly for all employees with a birthday within that month.

4. Cards

Cards can be purchased as cheap as 50 cents apiece.  Keep a variety of cards on hand such as birthday, anniversary, congratulations, in sympathy, thank you, and blank cards.  Each time an employee has a milestone fill out a card.  Events that might warrant a card; employee anniversary, birth, death of loved one or pet, new house and going above and beyond normal job duties.  An easy way to keep track of minor events in employee’s lives is to monitor time off requests.

5. Drinks

Many companies are not large enough to have a drink machine on the premises however, most have a company refrigerator in the break room.  Stock a few varieties of soda and bottles of water in this refrigerator.  In the winter stock packages of hot chocolate in addition to the cold drinks.  Encourage your employees to help themselves to these.  To make this more convenient ask the employees to restock (not buy, just refill) the refrigerator when it is low so this doesn’t become another HR or General Manager duty.

6. Gift Cards

Purchase multiple five dollar gift cards at local retail stores such as Wal-Mart, Target or Quick Trip.  Each time an employee does something that is above and beyond their normal job duties, without being asked, give them a gift card.  Make sure gift cards are given out for tasks that are beyond the employee’s normal job duties.  Make a note in the employee file each time they earn an “Above and Beyond” gift card.  These notes will be helpful during annual reviews.

7. Time Off

If business is slow and you can do without the extra help for a short amount of time, let an employee go home 15 to 30 minutes early.  The employee is excited about the extra time off and the company actually saves money by cutting payroll hours.

8. Company Potluck

Designate a day for a company potluck lunch.  This is best done on your slowest day of the week, avoid Mondays.  Give it a theme such as “Soup and Salad Day” and ask the employees to sign up to bring one item each for the lunch.  Employees can sign up for different categories such as soup, salad, crackers, drink, dessert, or cheese.  The cost is minimal because everyone participates in bringing in food.  Encourage participants to share the recipe they used in preparing the food.

9. Company Auction

Each time an employee does something exceptional, give them monopoly money.  Twice a year have a company auction and let employees use their monopoly money to bid on and purchase items furnished by the company.   Possible auction items are new office chairs, pen sets, stationary sets and miscellaneous containers for organizing office spaces.  Purchase items for the auction throughout the year at clearance sales.  This works best if you have one higher priced, desirable item that everyone wants to bid on.

10. Praise Board

Whenever an employee does something exceptional, write a short description of the act and the employees name on a bright piece of construction paper and pin it up on a bulletin board designated for this purpose.  The bulletin board needs to be placed in a prominent place in the office or break room so everyone can see it.

Keep in mind that not everyone will be motivated by the same things.  By using a variety of incentives you have the most effect on employee motivation and job satisfaction while developing a good working relationship within the company.


Thanks to our Guest Writer: This post is courtesy of Susan Green. Our sincere gratitude goes out to her. Please contact Mr. HVAC if you would like to be a guest writer.

SEO Search engine optimization

How To Utilize Search Engines For Your HVAC Website

The topic of discussion today is SEO, and how those of us in the HVAC industry can properly use search engines to our advantage to get more traction and traffic to our websites. I have utilized this technique and have seen some great results when seeing the data and noticing the growth in organic traffic.

Understanding How Search Works Today

To best understand how to fully utilize search to get visitors to your website, we must understand a few things about search.

Personalized Search: Search engines like Google are trying to deliver the best results to their users. They care about this feature more than their advertising platform. If you and your friends did a search you might populate different results because Google is trying to decipher exactly what you are looking for.

For Example, I am a giant sports fan, so most of my searches throughout the year will consist of searching up player performances and team news. My friend who may not like sports at all will not get the same results for some specific searches. I tried this out when my friend and I both searched the vague term “Brooklyn.”

My search results: Brooklyn Nets: NBA Basketball Team, Info about the Nets are the top results

My friend’s search results: he will get results about Brooklyn the city, and the top results will reflect trying to acquire information about the city of Brooklyn.

Search is trying to determine what results we are looking for without us having to mention it in detail using the search bar. The goal for the search engine is to provide a seamless and intelligent answer.

This concept of search is important to know for any industry.

How To Improve Traffic To Your Website – Organically

When I talk to my colleagues about buying services like SEO, we come to this discussion on what we are paying for. Many companies try to sell you rankings for specific keywords, which is a bad sign. No matter what anyone tells you, nobody can promise you rankings for words, and if they can, those are probably not words that will drive you traffic, leads, or any business. Buying keyword rankings is a flawed concept but many people fall into this vicious sales pitch.

What Should You Be Buying?

If you are planning to improve your positioning on search, it is best to buy into a company that is selling you a practical and technical strategy.

But What Does This Mean?

Taking into consideration the customers’ needs: Sometimes in something as technical as HVAC we do not understand that our customers do not understand the technical aspects of their heating and cooling systems.

A lot of SEO companies will try to promise you positioning on fat head terms like

  • Air Conditioning Repair [ City Name ]
  • Heating Repair [ City Name ]
  • Furnace Repair [ City Name ]
  • Boiler Repair [ City Name ]

This is not a bad strategy to start off with, but a person who is only promising you this is not being realistic when coming up with a strategy to optimize for search.

These terms are good to have, but nobody can promise you rankings for these specific terms. There are only ten slots available on Google’s first page results, and these generic terms are usually occupied by 3rd party websites like Yelp, Yellowpages, Homeadvisor, and Thumbtack. The realistic picture is, for these search terms you only have 3-4 slots to rank on the first page.

This is due to:

  • Competition
  • Authority of 3rd party sites

How Do We Reach Our Customers With Search Engines?

The answer that I have discovered to work is developing content that speaks to your audience.

Your audience has more questions to ask than just air conditioning repair.

They want to know why their air conditioner is not working, they want to see exact matches to their concerns, and they want to know if they call you, you know what you are doing.

Long form content is the best way to tackle your customers’ concerns, and this can simply be done in the form of a blog post.

Examples of this might include:

  • Why is my air conditioner leaking water?
  • Why is my air conditioner leaking water?
  • Why is my air conditioner not blowing air?
  • How do I clean my air filters?
  • How do I clean my furnace?

These are some examples of targeting specific customers and their problems.

What Are The Benefits Of This Strategy?

  • These terms are less competitive: If you know who your competitors are, and you do a search for these specific technical issues, you will notice the results are drastically different from when you were just searching for broad search terms like “air conditioning repair.”
  • They will rank better in search: Because these terms are less competitive, they are more likely to do better in a national and local search.
  • Tie this in with the concept of personal search: As I discussed earlier this concept of tackling low competitive content will directly benefit your customer’s personal search results. If you can make that initial interaction between the searcher and your website, that visit is logged into their history. This means that Google will know they have visited your website in the past, and it will populate results for broader terms that are more competitive because it knows you got the answer you were looking for from a different search query.


Understanding SEO is a tall order, but you can always simplify any form of marketing to just tying together the goals of the business and the needs of the customer.

Reach out to your customer, make content that will answer their questions and you will set yourself up to position yourself as a company that understands the industry, and be recognized as a trusted technician.

The more pages you produce, the more chances you have to generate more traffic. I highly recommend an HVAC technician to write about the needs of their HVAC customers, because we are on the front lines. We understand the customer, and we want to help them.

Make a list of your most common repair requests, and then make a list of requests you believe are rarely called in for. Reform these requests in the form of a question, and write a piece of content that will respond and answer the question. Make your page easy to navigate to the correct service, and have your phone number visible to call for service as well as other information like savings or coupons that can be clearly seen to convert the customer.

Content is the key to conquering the much-confused topic of SEO and in the technical place of HVAC we need to reach out based on our understanding of how the customer views their heating and cooling systems.

About The Author:  Chris Maderazzo is the owner of the heating and cooling company Easy Air and Heat. He has also established himself as a well-known and widely respected professional in the electrical contracting and service industry. His attention to detail along with superb leadership qualities has what helped him be successful in all his business ventures for the past 20 years.

Engineers inspecting windmill operation with laptop software.

10 Features To Look For In Field Service Software

Without the right tools, managing a field service company can be extremely inefficient and costly. Field service management software gives you the right tools to manage all of your agents out in the field and intelligently assign work and routes.

If you’re currently organizing field work and managing field agents using spreadsheets, phone calls or emails, then field service management software is guaranteed to save you a lot of time and money. Field service management software will save you time in the office, reduce effort, cut down on mistakes and improve your customer satisfaction.

When researching which field service management system is the best fit for your business there are a number of factors you should take into account. We’ll discuss 10 features you should look for in a field service management (FSM) system.

Field Agent Skills & Qualifications

If your business offers a range of service to your customers then it is important to be able to track the skills and qualifications of your various field agents. FSM systems have a lot of range in their ability to do this.

Many FSM software suites have no functionality at all in this area, which may be appropriate for your business if you only offer services that require a single skillset.

If you have staff or contractors with a range of skills or qualifications this feature becomes very important to ensure jobs are scheduled to the correct technicians, avoid rework and callouts to jobs the technician is not qualified to complete.

You may not need this feature if you know all of your staff and their abilities very well. However, introducing an element of human error into the job scheduling process creates a weak link in the process and can have drastically negative effects if there is staff turnover or leave. This will also become a limiting factor for the scheduling process to scale requiring specific knowledge of the field agents in order to schedule work.

Systematising this information allows for work to always be assigned to a qualified technician and allows the scheduling process to easily scale to large volumes of booking without booking staff requiring specialised knowledge of the field agents.

Intelligent Scheduling Tools

Assigning work in an efficient manner will allow you to complete the most work with the least resources and provide better service levels to your customers.

There are a number of factors that need to be considered to efficiently assign work to field agents. Addressing all of these factors will ensure you can offer your customers the most accurate timeframe for completion of work. Ensure each field agent works at their highest capacity and work is completed in the most cost efficient manner.

  • Location of the job – Knowing where the job is located and having the ability to search and map the local area will allow you to search for all nearby field agents to complete the job.
  • Location of the field agent – Mapping out the location allows for you to estimate booking times for customers and ensure technicians are available to complete the work during the requested timeframe.
  • Skills required to complete the job – If your company offers a range of services it is important to be able to track the required skills on the job sheet to ensure that only a qualified field agent is assigned the job.
  • Field agent availability – availability and calendar features are important for the booking process as they let you plan your resourcing capacity and remaining capacity to ensure that field agents are assigned the highest number of jobs each day. Capacity planning features can also help plan your work schedules and customer sales.
  • Customer availability – Being able to track the customers schedule preference on the job sheet will allow you to schedule the job to the customers preferred time.
  • Other work scheduled for the day – being able to see other jobs which are already scheduled for the same day or scheduling period allows you to group jobs together by skill set or geographical location which allows you to minimize travel time and expenses.
  • Cost – In the case where your field agents are contractors with varying rates or where travel payments are applicable it is important to have cost estimation features in the booking process to ensure that jobs are completed at the lowest possible cost.

Ensuring your field service management system can address each of these factors in the job scheduling process will allow your business to schedule work in the most efficient way.

GPS Tracking

GPS tracking allows you to track all of your field agents throughout the working day. Most field services GPS tracking systems will use the GPS from the agent’s mobile phone. For privacy reasons the GPS systems will only track when a field agent has clocked in to work in the field agent portal or application.

GPS tracking allows you to ensure that each field agent is on time to each scheduled job and allows you to identify early if a field agent is running behind schedule.

Some field service management systems will allow you to automatically notify the customer of the technicians approach and give an estimated time of arrival. Tracking like this helps reduce customer service enquiries and administration work which will reduce overall administration costs.

RCTI/Payroll System

Field service management systems with automated field agent invoicing and payroll systems can significantly reduce administration costs related to paying contractors and employees.

Recipient Created Tax Invoice (RCTI) functionality will allow you to create a payment schedule for contractors based on jobs completed and the work completed on each job and automatically generate payment invoices on the contractor’s behalf. The best systems will allow you to integrate with your accounting solution, further reducing administration costs related to data entry.

An automated payroll system will do the equivalent for salary and per hour employees by creating timesheets based on their sign on and off times.


When selecting a field service management system you should review the system’s reporting capabilities. Reporting is very important to ensure you know what’s happening in your business and out in the field. Having up to date information allows you to make intelligent business, human resource and scheduling decisions.

The reports required will vary for different businesses and industries so one thing to look for is the ability to build custom reports. However, there are a number of useful generic reports you may want to look for when reviewing a system.

  • Daily job status report – this report will show the number of jobs each day and their relevant job statuses. This allows you to track the completion of jobs throughout the day to ensure things are going to schedule and also allows you to identify and action exceptions.
  • Rework requests – A report tracking rework request should display the number of rework requests over time, the percentage of total jobs over time and also give this information on a per field agent basis. This allows you to track the overall percentage of jobs that result in a rework, allowing you to identify the root causes and minimise rework over time, increasing customer satisfaction and reducing costs. Having this information on a per field agent basis helps to identify field agents with quality problems so that they can be performance managed to increase the quality of their work.
  • On time arrivals / late arrivals – This report will help you ensure that field agents are working to schedules and arriving on time. The report will help you identify causes for late attendance and ensure on time attendance in future. This will help you schedule work more accurately and increase customer satisfaction.
  • Customer satisfaction – Customer satisfaction reports are important to ensure your customers are happy and to identify avoidable causes of customer dissatisfaction. Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a good measure of this.
  • Capacity reporting – This will allow you to identify skill and availability shortages in each geographical area. This can be used to identify recruiting requirements to ensure you can meet customer demand.
  • Custom reporting – Every business is unique and will have their own reporting requirements. So it is important that the system you use has at least some basic functionality to be able to create custom reports specific to your business or at least has the ability to export data so custom reporting can be done using excel.Technician portal

It is important for your field agents to have a portal to manage their workload and information. The factors you should look for in a technician portal are

  • Scheduled jobs – technicians should be able to log in and view their scheduled jobs and their daily job routes to ensure that every job is completed on time.
  • Availabilities – technicians need to be able to enter their availabilities for each day and also track leave on their profile to ensure that work is not scheduled to field agents who are not available to work. The system can also use this information to track skill shortages in geographical areas.
  • Skills/qualifications – field agents should be able to track their skills and qualifications against their profile to ensure that they are scheduled work accordingly
  • Compliance – If your industry has any regulations regarding qualifications, registrations or insurance etc. it is efficient to have technicians ensure their compliance and attach copies of any required documents to their profile.
  • Job history – this allows for field agents to track their job history should any rework ever be required.

Customer Portal

A customer portal is a web page application where a customer can log in and track their scheduled jobs. Customer portals will reduce contact center enquiries regarding the field agent arrival time and increase customer satisfaction as they are able to track the job each step of the way to completion.

Sales & Customer Invoicing

If your field agents have the ability to make additional sales for services or products then these features are a must have in a field service management system. Field agents should be able to sell extra services and products on site, charge the customer’s credit card or accept cash and have the system email the customer a tax invoice.

Customer Service Tools

Customer satisfaction is very important to ensure long term repeat business and positive word of mouth from your customers.

  • Customer satisfaction surveys – You can’t improve your customer satisfaction if you don’t know what it is. You should be able to configure a customer satisfaction survey to be sent to each customer at the completion of their job. Some systems will have surveys that can be completed on the field agent’s device at the time of completion. However, these are open to abuse by field agents or the customer giving inaccurate results due to the presence of the field agent. Surveys emailed at the completion of the job allow the customer to fill the survey out at a later time and provide more accurate results.If you give every customer the opportunity to offer feedback you can ensure you follow up to ensure customers who have had a bad experience can be result in a happy customer again.Customer comments will also allow you to identify specific causes of dissatisfaction and improve processes to ensure the issue does not repeat in future.
  • Job completion report – This report shows what was done on each job. This can be stored on the job card for future reference and also emailed to the customer at job completion. The completion report is important so the customer knows what was done and so you can ensure that jobs are being completed correctly according to the scope of work required.
  • Customer notifications – Customer notifications allow the customer to be notified by SMS or email when the field agent is on route to their property. This ensures the customer is going to be home at the scheduled time and also reduces the number of enquiries regarding the technician arrival time.

Digital Sign Off

Digital job sign off allows for your field agent to have the customer sign off on the completion of the job. This feature is important as it can be used to ensure the job was completed by the field agent and avoid situations where the field agent has not actually attended. Additionally, it will allow you to ensure the job was completed to the customer’s satisfaction and have the customer sign off on completion of the work. This will reduce rework as the customer has signed off on the job and cannot then dispute the job completion at a later date.


When deciding on a field service management system for your business it is important to assess the systems capabilities in each of the features addressed in this article and ensure that you select the best software suite for your business. Not every business will require every feature that we’ve covered above and you may be able to save money by selecting a more bare bones FSM suite, but it is important that you also plan for features you may need in the future as migrating between systems is a significant and expensive process.

About The Author:

Brendan works in field service management, marketing and business management for Quick Air and Jack B who provide Australia wide service in air conditioning, heating, and IT services.

two smiling movers with cardboard boxes presenting digital tablet with facebook app on screen

How to Get Your Company Noticed on Facebook

Social media is all the buzz nowadays, and if you don’t already have a presence, it’s time create one. While it may seem like a huge challenge, it is rather simple once you know the steps to take. As an established business, you already have a community of customers, active employees and friends and family that want to see your business succeed. Creating a page and getting the people you know to become ‘Likes’ is all you need. Simply follow the 5 steps below to get started.

Set up a Facebook Business Page

This is key, many new Facebook users will set up a profile for their business, where users can ‘friend’ the profile. This is NOT what you want for your business. You will want to set up a specific branded Facebook Business Page in which users can post to your page, write reviews and ultimately become ‘fans’ of your business by ‘liking’ your page. Click here for a step by step guide to setting up a business page. Note:  You must have a personal Facebook account to begin.

Start Getting ‘Likes’

If you have had your own personal Facebook for a good amount of time, this will help. Begin to gain followers by asking your friends to ‘Like’ your business page. You’d be surprised how many friends and family members will rally to support your page. Encourage all your employees to do the same. Almost everyone has a Facebook page, and asking the people you already know to invite their friends and family is a fantastic place to start.

Generate Content

This is the scary part to most HVAC business owners, but if you think about it – ideas for content are everywhere at your business. Your technicians see picture worthy HVAC problems everyday which could be leveraged on Facebook to promote how they helped out a customer. A simple picture with a one or two line caption is all you need for a post. Highlighting a different service each day and linking to your website is also an easy way to generate content and create interest on your page. Posting once a day is recommended but even once or twice a week shows you have a presence, are still in business, and have a rapport with your followers. Tip: ‘share’ your business’ Facebook posts on your personal page to increase views. Encourage your employees to do the same.

Gain Reviews

In the same way you were able to gain likes, you can get at least 10 reviews by asking people you know. Again, encourage your employees to participate, there is power in numbers. Business owners and employees themselves can post reviews and even mention ‘it’s a great place to work’. Even though they aren’t customers, they know your business and services more than anyone else, and from a potential customer’s perspective – it is nice to see your technicians enjoy working for your company. This also builds credibility for your page. It isn’t just a stale Facebook page, it is an active, reliable representation of your business.

Increase Likes

The more likes your Facebook page has the more credibility your company gets. Increase these by adding a like button on your website. Showing you have a Facebook page dedicated to your business is a trust element and a necessity to include on your site. Additionally, AND it will allow potential and repeat customers the chance to view your Facebook page, get to know how great your business and services are – and ultimately choose you for HVAC services. As mentioned above, you can also increase likes by sharing your business’ posts on your personal page. That way, people who aren’t already fans of your business page can see the post, encouraging them to like your page to see more updates from it in the future.

Follow these 5 steps to get your HVAC business started on Facebook. From there, continue working towards gaining followers, reviews, and posting great content. If you hit a wall with content, don’t get discouraged. There are a ton of resources online to help. Also taking advantage of things like ‘Motivational Monday’ and ‘Throwback Thursday’ are simple ways to create a daily post on your Facebook Page.

About the Author: Melanie Shoemaker is the Internet Marketing Manager at Aptora, a software development company that specializes in developing field service management software for the service industry. Their flag-ship software, Total Office Manager is award-winning Field Service Management Software that has been helping HVAC companies become more profitable since 2004.

Pocketing company money. Cropped shot of a businessman placing money into his pocket

How to Protect Your Service Business from Embezzlement

Do you own or manage an air conditioning, heating (HVAC), plumbing, electrical service, or construction business? Do you prefer to run service calls rather than use your accounting and job costing software? If you said yes to any of these questions, you need to read this article.

How to Prevent Theft and Embezzlement

I would like to offer the air conditioning, heating (HVAC), plumbing, electrical, service service, or construction industries a little advice on controlling theft. Be involved in running your office and understanding accounting functions and your service accounting software. Show as much interest in accounting as the field. You don’t have to do the work but you need to know the basics so you can train and review the work of others.

Embezzlement or employee theft is one of the most common ways small businesses go bankrupt every year. There is no easy-to-identify profile for who could potentially embezzle from you. In my years of consulting with service businesses, I have heard literally hundreds of heartbreaking stories about business partners, lifelong friends and seemingly trustworthy coworkers who turned out to be thieves.

The key is to avoid the obvious pitfalls and make sure that you have set up your accounting software in such a way that prevents easy access. In the article that follows, I have outlined some of the common techniques that dishonest people have employed to steal from their employers.  I hope that you find this helpful in protecting your company against embezzlement.

Common Security Breeches

The Fake Vendor

A common method of theft involves the bookkeeper creating a vendor with a name that closely resembles a vendor that you do business with. Examples could include Carrier Inc. instead of Carrier. They open an account under that name and pay bogus bills to that fake vendor. Their hope is that you won’t notice the subtle name difference.

The Fake Employee

A fake person is setup as an employee and payroll is issued. This “employee” may even received bonus and reimbursed expenses. This one is usually pulled off in a larger company where a fake employee could go unnoticed. A proper audit will usually detect this type of fraud but it occasionally goes undetected.

Editing Typewritten Checks

Crooks will sometimes type a check using a typewriter and ask you to sign it. They will then reinsert the check and use the “Correction” feature of the typewriter to remove the “Pay To”. They then enter another name into the “Pay To” field. Once the check clears, they will change the “Pay To” back to what you thought it was when you signed the check

Bookkeeper-Technician Collusion

A bookkeeper and technician join together to steal. Invoices can be destroyed along with any record of the service call. A bank account can be created with a business name that closely resembles yours, allowing them to cash your checks. If your company is called Precision Service, theirs could be called Precision Service Co. They just add “Co” to the Pay To field. Discourage your customers from paying in cash. It can be dangerous to carry around and cash is obviously a lot easier to steal.

Cash Back Deposits

An easy technique for a bookkeeper to steal is to deposit checks payable to the company into the company’ bank account and show a “Less Cash” amount, which he or she then pockets. Prevention is very simple. A bank receiving a deposit for a corporate account should not allow any “Less Cash” deposits but rather should require that checks made out to the company be deposited into the company’ account with “For Deposit Only” stamped on them. Then a company check, signed by an authorized signer on the company’ account can be written for the required amount. Of course, any deposit endorsed “For Deposit Only” should only be deposited into the account of the payee with no “Less Cash” disbursement. This type of fraud is easy to accomplish if the bank operates in a very sloppy manner, but is impossible if the bank follows industry standard banking practices and procedures. Check with your bank to make sure this is the case.

Security Policies and Procedures

Bookkeeping Security

Your bookkeeper should never have check signing privileges. Allow them to make basic banking inquiries, but do not grant them transfer or withdrawal privileges.

  1. Use purchase orders as much as possible. Nothing is purchased without a purchase order being filled out and a PO number being assigned to the purchase.
  2. Have your bookkeeper review all bills, write the checks and present them to you twice each month.
  3. Carefully review each check and bill prior to signing them. Look for bills that might be fraudulent. A common practice is to create fake bills for supplies, repairs and the like. Always match Pos to bills and bills to checks.
  4. When signing checks, use a unique signature style, something different than you use to sign any other documents in your business. You may want to include a subtle mark that only you know about, so you can look for that mark every time you review canceled checks with your bank statement.
  5. Order your bank to send all correspondence to your home address. Nothing is mailed to your office! That may stop most fraud all by itself. Read all letters. Open your own bank statements. Do not have a spouse, child or secretary do this for you. Keep this information sealed and confidential.
  6. Review bank statements and canceled checks. Look for forged signatures (you don’t have to cover a forged check) and altered “Pay To” entries on each check. Turn the check over and carefully examine the endorsement. Is the endorsement official and consistent with others from that vendor? Does it match the “Pay To”?
  7. Examine your bank statement for unusual activity such as withdrawals, transfers and drafts.
  8. Reconcile your bank account every single month. Also reconcile the credit card statements. This is for security.
  9. Do not give any single person too much accounting authority. Never allow the same person who does the bookkeeping to reconcile the bank account or credit card statements. When possible, never allow the same person who does bookkeeping to perform payroll.
  10. Make sure your answering service faxes or e-mails you a complete list of all evening and weekend calls. Match those calls against invoices. Match deposits against invoices.
  11. Study your credit card software. It’ not hard to deposit credit card charges into other bank accounts that you do not control. Most of these programs have an audit trail. Turn it on. Be sure that the owner is the only person with administrative rights to the software. This will prevent the audit trail from being deleted and account numbers from being changed.
  12. If you use accounting software, be sure that security is turned on. Use strong passwords and do not reveal them to anyone. Make certain that the audit trail feature (if it has one) is turned on. If you are using Total Office Manager from Aptora, the Audit Trail can never be turned off (not even by the administrator) and each permission can be assigned by employee on a form-by-form basis. Make sure that only the owner of the business has full administrative privileges. Study the audit trail report looking for unusual activity.
  13. Perform background checks on all employees.
  14. Require all key employees to sign a confidentiality agreement (protects you and your clients). Do the world a favor and commit yourself to prosecuting thieves.
  15. If your company has partners, hire a professional outside auditing firm to conduct an audit on your company’ books once per year. This will give all partners peace of mind.
  16. Do not allow anyone on your staff the ability to DELETE anything in your accounting software. With Total Office Manager from Aptora, you can set this preference in your security settings.
  17. Carefully consider to whom you grant Void Transactions authority.
  18. Check your audit trail monthly for items that have been deleted or voided!
  19. A good audit trail cannot be deactivated by anyone (not even the administrator) and should be capable of storing tens of thousands of transactions.

Physical Security

Your database (or company file) should be located on a server. This is necessary for both the speed of the TOM software and security reasons.

  1. Place your server in a locked and fire resistant closet or small room. Lock the computer case to the wall. Be sure the room’ door includes a strong lock. Thieves will certainly steal your server along with your company file if they have the chance. Don’t forget that the company file contains private information such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, home addresses and more. You may have some serious legal liability if “reasonable” security measures are not taken.
  2. Disgruntled employees could easily place a large magnet on top of the computer. This can destroy your hard drive. This is another reason to keep the server in a locked room.
  3. Set up your server so that backups are made every night. At least once per week, remove one backup from the building and keep it in a fire resistant safe at home. Each year, a backup might be placed in a safety deposit box.
  4. Your backup system might be located in a fire resistant container or safe (within the server room). You may wish to invest in a low cost safe for this purpose. Drill a hole for the cable and place the backup (like an external hard drive) in the safe. The safe must be oversized to prevent overheating situations.


In this tough economy, internal theft and embezzlement is on the rise. Employees have discovered that it’s relatively easy to steal from a company whose owner takes a “hands-off and not interested” approach to managing the financial books. Businesses without proper financial controls run the risk of financial disaster.

Managing an air conditioning, heating (HVAC), plumbing, electrical service, or construction business is not easy. Having service technicians or bookkeeper steal from you makes it even worse. Understanding your company’ bookkeeping procedures and accounting software will help you avoid a financial disaster.

Businessman shaking hands in the office, Signing of the real estate sale agreement between buyer

How to Close the Sale Before the Sales Process Begins

The most important part of the sales process is the close. You can think of the close as the point in your presentation where you state to them the most compelling reasons to accept your proposal, answer questions, and overcome objections. In this article, I want to challenge you to rethink this sales model and turn it upside down.

If you’ve been selling for a while you know that the key to getting the job is often a matter of overcoming your clients objections. Certainly you hear many of the same objections over and over again. You should be able to anticipate these and deal with them before they are raised, and not after. Objections can include any number of things.

Think about the most common objections you encounter in your sales process. For me there are three biggies. They are credibility (can I really do what I claim I can), trust (do they believe what I am telling them), and value (is my price too high). Yours may be different, but let’ use these in order to narrow it down and offer specific advice.

Creating a Sense of Trust

Very few people are going to come out and tell you they don’t trust you. Instead they may say, “I need to think about it for a while.” Once you’re out of their house, you won’t be coming back. Trust can be built up by positive polite actions. The best time to overcome concerns is when you pull up to the customer’ home.

1. Don’t park in their driveway unless invited to. The best place to park is on the street where the vehicle can be seen from the front door. Be sure your vehicle is professionally lettered.

2. For most service industries, the salesperson should arrive wearing a clean uniform. Your client will be impressed with a clean uniform because it suggests you are not simply a salesperson, but that you are also middle class and came ready to work if needed.

3. Make sure your hands are clean. No smoking or smelling of smoke, and absolutely no ball caps. Don’t ever face a client wearing a pair of sunglasses.

4. Be sure to knock on the door rather than ringing the doorbell (there may be children sleeping). Always stand back at least three feet after knocking, so you can be seen clearly through the peephole.

5. When greeting your client, hand them a business card with your left hand, keeping your right hand free to shake a man’ hand. If you are dealing with the lady of the house, wait on her to offer to shake your hand. You never offer to shake a woman’ hand first.

6. Carry a piece of scrap carpet to set your tools on. Never set any type of equipment or tool directly on your client’s floor or carpet. Take your shoes off when entering their home, or wear booties over your shoes. You should respect your client and their home at all times.

7. Offer genuine compliments. Notice their pictures or pets and relate to them. It’ okay to share that you have a cat or dog too!

Building Credibility

Don’t forget, you’ve been called out to solve a problem. You will build credibility (and help with the trust issue) by asking deep probing questions, questions that show you really care about their problem. Whether that problem is temperature, security, bugs or remodeling, your client expects you to recommend a solution. To properly diagnose the problem, you must first perform a thorough analysis.

If you have a technical background, you may be over-relying on your technical skill. Clients don’t buy things, they invest in solutions. Use your technical ability to analyze the situation, but don’t forget to thoroughly question the homeowner. Your discussion with the homeowner is the foundation of your close. You are building trust and credibility.

Using open-ended questions is the key. If you sell air conditioning you might ask, “How do you feel about your current system?” If you are in the kitchen remodeling business you may ask, “How do you feel about your countertops? Are there any materials you are particularly fond of?” Closed-ended questions are also powerful when used correctly. For example, “What is most important to you, the overall price or warranty?”

The Dreaded Price Objection

Our research clearly shows that this is the one objection most salespeople are afraid of. First, let’ make one thing perfectly clear: price and value are not necessarily the same thing. You can pay very little and get a bad deal. You can pay a lot and get a great value.

They key to overcoming the price objection is to build more value into your sales proposal than any other salesperson has. In other words, make your solution such a “great deal” that they would be crazy not to accept it. Let’ elaborate.

Value can be measured using the following formula: Benefit – Price = Value. When you reduce what you are giving the client by what the client must pay, anything left over is called value (or a great deal). To build value you must figure out what is most important to your client and give them a solution. Talk about benefits and not features. How will this appliance save them money, make them more comfortable, or increase the value of their home? Everyone has hot buttons. You must figure out what that hot button is and provide the correct solution. If your solution solves more of their problems than anyone else’s proposal did, then your proposal is the best deal.

Here is some good general advice in dealing with objections.

Treat Objections as Questions

Always treat objections as if your client was saying, “I’m not sold yet on the facts and information you have presented. Could you please give me more information, so that I can make an educated decision?”

Never Disagree With an Objection

Never start a sentence with a “stop word” such as “BUT”. How many times have you heard that “the salesman won the argument but lost the sale”? This doesn’t mean that you have to agree the customer is right and you’re wrong. However, it does mean that you can agree to understand his point of view.

Bring Up Common Objections First

Many times the best way to overcome an objection is to mention it first (before it even crosses the customer’ mind) and overcome it during your presentation.

For example, if you were having difficulty with the price of a super-high efficiency appliance, remind your client several times during the presentation that, “It is the cheapest appliance on the market to own due to its reliability and supreme efficiency.” By the time you get to the close, “The price is too high!” will not be an objection.

Remember this: you help build trust and credibility with your actions from the moment you arrive at the client’s doorstep. Building trust help you to pre-address objections that the client may have, but won’t mention. One thing is certain: People prefer to spend money with those that they like. You must convince your client that you understand their problem and that you have the correct solution. They must believe that you are honest and know what you are talking about. The most important thing you can do is be polite, energetic, and enthusiastic.

Portrait of happy and handsome carpenter

Why Most Contracting Businesses Fail | How to Succeed

There are many reasons why a business ultimately fails. However, most failures are a result of one or more of the following:

You Started Your Business for the Wrong Reasons

Most owners started their businesses for all of the wrong reasons. Common (wrong) reasons are to make more money, call their own shots, be their own boss, and reduce stress. Many do not recognize the need to develop skill sets beyond what made them good technicians. More money is made with a pen that with a screwdriver.

Poor Health

You must be in good shape to run a business. Proper diet and exercise is essential and underrated. You need to be physically and emotionally ready to handle the stress and push through the setbacks that are inevitable.

Poor Accounting

Accounting is the basis of business decisions and many contractors hire the wrong person for the job.

You need accurate financial statements on your desk by the 15th day of each month. In addition, you need daily updates on all key performance indicators (KPI’s) and financial ratios.

Without a proper bookkeeping and accounting system, you are flying blind. Don’t think that your outside tax accountant is watching your businesses finances. That is the job of the company’s CFO (Chief Financial Officer). That is one of the many hats the owner typically wears until a replacement is found.

Lack of a Cash Cushion (inadequate operating capital)

Mistakes can be expensive. They are a part of the business world and you need to be able to write checks to cover them. Can you afford the loss of an important customer or critical employee? How about the arrival of a new competitor or a lawsuit? These things can all stress the finances of a company.

Lack of Business and Financial Planning

It is critical for all businesses to have a business plan and a detailed budget. Many small contractors fail because of fundamental shortcomings in their business planning. It must be realistic and based on accurate, current information and educated projections for the future.

Poor Marketing and Sales

Most contractors do a poor job of branding, marketing, and selling. It is important to understand how to brand your services and market them to the correct audience. Done properly, branding and marketing produces sales opportunities. To successfully turn those opportunities into sales, you must be a trained and skilled salesperson.

Dysfunctional Management

Lack of focus, vision, planning, standards and everything else that goes into good management. Throw in fighting partners or unhappy relatives, and you have a disaster waiting to happen.

The Lack of a Succession Plan

Nepotism, power struggles, significant players being replaced by people who are in over their heads — all reasons many family businesses do not make it to the next generation.

Owners Don’t Understand the Numbers

You must be able to read your financial statements like you read a schematic diagram or a set of refrigerant gauges. Imagine a service technicians that does not understand the basics of pressure and temperature, voltage and amperage, dry bulb and wet bulb. How can they proper diagnose and troubleshoot problems? Trying to run a business without understanding the numbers is dangerous. Don’t rely on others to do it for you. Owners must understand their financial reports.

Remember the Four Basic Keys to Success

We‘ve talked about why companies fail, but we do not want to simply survive, we want to prosper. We want to improve the lives of our family, employees, and ourselves.

While there are many skills required to operating a contracting business successfully, you must have at least the following:

  1. Financial management and analysis. Knowing your true breakeven point and pricing for profit.
  2. Marketing and REAL salesmanship.
  3. Recruiting and coaching.
  4. Organizational design and planning.

*Be a business person – not a technician who owns a business.

Social media and Marketing virtual icons screen tablet.

Embracing Social Media for Your HVAC Business

Social Media is an Important Part of Marketing your HVAC Business

You provide a service business that relies heavily on advertising and word of mouth. But what about finding other streams of income for your business? Has your company started embracing social media? Below are some suggestions to help you get started.


When dealing with water heaters and air units, your company likely also encounters water damage and mold at times. Many water mitigation companies pay a referral fee to contractors that refer new business to them, even repeat business. In this scenario, the contractor goes out to do a duct job and finds mold. He calls XYZ company to handle the mold and gets a referral fee for the job. Or perhaps the water heater needs fixing and a flood is present, again the water mitigators would be called to dry the area. I have witnessed this scenario more times than I can count. Call around to a few of the local companies and ask what they’re going rate is for referrals.


I’m often surprised by the amount of companies that haven’t yet joined the social media age, starting with a blog. While the purpose is to market your services, you can expand your reach to an audience around the world by providing information; not to mention it’s good for your brand. You can write posts that offers how to articles and videos and photos. Blogs are fairly easy to install these days with WordPress and Fantastico that is available with most hosting programs. The more content you provide, the more helpful your site is, the more worth that the search engines give it. Be a resource of help to visitors in your areas and ones that are also not in your area.


If your company is not yet tweeting you really need to jump on the bandwagon. Start by tweeting helpful tips and finding people of interest to follow. While the intended purpose is to get more people to your site, don’t just blatantly sell your business. You need to have a tone to share as well as information. Twitter is about communicating and sharing information and can be hugely successful in drumming up more traffic and interaction for your site. If you don’t have the time to do this for yourself, consider hiring someone to do it for you with the understanding that the twitter account is yours and you will retain it. They are being hired to tweet on your behalf. Once you build up your Twitter account and have a good number of interactive followers you can get paid to tweet.


Most companies do have a Facebook page for their customers. Many of those pages lay dormant. Interact with the people that like your page and business it encourages referrals and future business. A small personal touch goes a long way.


One of the hottest social media sites nowadays is Pinterest! You can share, find and bookmark information on anything from making a bow to making beef jerky and cleaning tips – literally anything and everything can be found. You can just as easily share your own work photos.

Tying it All Together

Start by signing up for all the social media sites using your business profile and most importantly, after you have signed up and you are using your profiles make sure they are linked too on your website so it is easy for people to follow you and interact. It may seem like a daunting task at first but once you get started you will see that it’s not as bad as you thought. Takes only a few minutes a day and can equal a greater deal of business and/or traffic for your site no matter your industry.

Gabrielle Greene is a co-blogger for

Social Media is an Essential Part of Marketing Your HVAC Business

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