Answer: Highlight this paragraph to see the answer in white text. the re-circulation pump on the water heater was set "ON" 24-7.
An all electric, 1700 sq ft home in Phoenix, AZ was recently built in 2008. The average pressure pan was found to be 0.6 Pa with a static pressure of 0.4 IWC on the return and 0.2 IWC on the supply. The summer and winter temperatures are kept at 78 degrees and 68 degrees and 2 people live in the house. There is no pool but there is a recirculation pump on the water heater. Windows are dual pane, low-e but they do get 4 hours of western sun exposure. Attic insulation was found to be aligned and at R-36 on average along the attic floor.
What would be the cause of a $450 energy bill in July?
Answer: Highlight this paragraph to see the answer in white text. the re-circulation pump on the water heater was set "ON" 24-7.
The title of this post was once said by once presidential candidate Ross Perot and would have been spot on if he were referring to home performance marketing. Often times, it's us as business owners that get tired of our own marketing long before our customers actually get tired of it. Think about how many times you've said the same sales pitch at a trade show or at the kitchen table. For our customers, it's likely the first time they have ever heard of an energy audit but you us, it could be the 1000th time we said it and we feel like the broken record. It's important to keep in mind that our marketing should be thought of as pitching to customers on an ever changing conveyor belt, we do the same thing, same message but to a constantly changing audience.
The fact is that if you have a marketing campaign that's working, we should be going deep with it and keep mining for gold. There's no need to try to dig another well if the one we are currently using keeps giving us water. Often times we change an ad that's working or get bored with it and stop using it and try a completely new marketing campaign when we should be exploring new ways to go deep with whats working first. Once you have reached a point of diminishing returns and you know the limits of your existing ads, then you are clear to go for the new ad.
Since 2009, I've gone through maybe 40 auditors and crew members... and I'm saying that not to brag, its actually an uncomfortable topic for me. It never feels good to part ways with someone but if my business is hurting because of poor performance the truth is nobody is benefiting. I suspect that finding, training and trusting the people in a home performance crew is not easy for any business owner.
Finding a good fit for staffing your home performance crew can be tough. Guys I've thought would be good assets turned out to be toxic and get me in more trouble than they were worth. I've gone off recommendations of other crew members and been burned. I've had crew members steal from me... and find it a naive mistake, like how a teenage boy tries to impress a girl, how crew members think because I'm the owner I am making a killing and won't really be financially hurt if I take these tools or loose them in an attic. Or how guys will stretch a one day job into a two or even three day job. I've learned to stay away from rosy promises of potential employee (every employee is the best employee until they start working for you), over friendliness, paying out in advance and pity.
Here are some models I've personally used and seen my peers use when paying our crews.
Anyway you go it's best to set expectations up front... These are your responsibilities, pay per job, not by hour and hold people accountable. Those who do not fit will weed themselves out and that is OK! Part of being a business owners is to make tough decisions, suck it up and create new opportunities for the company.
The home performance world is a small niche and as with many small niches, it is prudent not to burn any bridges along your journey whether you are a technician, sales rep, energy auditor or owner. It's the way it goes, many of my staff worked for my competitors and many have left my company to go work for my competitors. My job is to create an environment where people want to stay more than leave.
I recently interviewed an energy auditor who worked for a competitor and is doing energy audits on his own now for several different companies. He told me he got his experience at this competitors company and then got good at doing audits and retrofits to the point where he became pretty self sufficient and required little to no oversight. The owner probably thought they could do what every owner's unrealistic fantasy in business i..., and that is to put him on autopilot. Unfortunately the "set it and forget it" model doesn't work so well with managing people and you can guess this auditors next thoughts were, "boy, if I'm doing all the work, I can just do it for myself and get all the money for myself." That's just what he did and saved enough to buy a blower door and cheap IR camera (see blog about cheap IR cameras) and went into business for himself. By the way, he was smart and did not burn any bridges and still does audits for his previous employer.
His story resonated with him because I have been on both sides of his story and know so many home performance contractors who have also. Human resources is one of the core problems we have in business growth as small construction companies in home performance with tight margins and high installation standards. Employee hiring and retention are where I've learned to devote much more of my time more by trial and error than prudence. Unfortunately, as small business owners we can't offer free daycare, afternoon massages, free meals 4 times a day with Frisbee golf parks to play during spare time, but there are perks that will keep employees engaged and around for long term.
My last bit of advice is to do some number crunching before to see from your profits what perks you can afford doing, what you want to pay yourself and what you want to go to the business. Planning helps ensure your business outlasts your employees.
“The dream of every business owner is to make their businesses work for them, not be enslaved and constantly working for the businesses”
I always look to surround myself with people who have already achieved what I wish to achieve when looking for marketing inspiration and business development ideas. Napoleon Hill wrote in “Think and Grow Rich” that a mastermind group is one of his 13 principles to be mastered to bring in massive amounts of wealth. Now I may not have access to the world’s business elite but what you and I do have is access to their written words in the form of books. Hundreds of business development and marketing books are available, at the touch of your fingertips, and each month I will pick one book which has shaped my thinking and influenced how I run my home performance company. You can read the book yourself, for swipe and deploy ideas, or can use my notes which are intended as a standalone resource to help home performance contractors grow their businesses. This month’s book review is the E-Myth by Michael Gerber.
The E-Myth by Michael Gerber as well as Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill have probably had a greater influence on business owners and entrepreneurs than any other book. The E-Myth can be a game changing book for new business owners as it is easy to read along with being applicable to any service industry. The “Myth” is the assumption that if you understand the technical work of a business, you understand what it takes to succeed in business. Most home performance contractors started off doing the install work at some time or another and most energy auditors, who have their own auditing companies, started off doing energy audits with aspirations of entering into business for themselves. That’s how I started. The problem however is that we, as owners, cap ourselves, become burnt out, bored or go out of business if we stay in a technician’s mentality and don’t push ourselves to do what is necessary to grow our businesses. The E-Myth actually gives a nice roadmap to follow which helps us say goodbye to business-limiting practices once and for all.
I realized that I had to be working on my business instead of in it if I wanted more freedom in my life. More financial freedom a well as more time freedom was now my new priority. This is the foundation that the E-Myth is built on; that success first starts with your definition of what it means to be successful, or your “primary aim.”
What do you value most?
What gives you the most energy?
What kind of life do you want?
Who do you wish to be?
For me, my primary aim was to evolve and the key to this was to choose the closest estimate of my final destination and running with it. Do you wish to own a multi-million dollar office building and warehouse with 12 crews running each day, managers for several departments and be the leaders in your service area for home performance? Do you want to have a self-running business which allows you to take months of time off a year to travel the world? Do you just want to be able to take your kids to school every day and invest in their future with your time and careful planning? All of those things sound good right? I suspect everyone has similar aspirations but deep down, each of us have different goals and the more vividly you are able to define your primary aim, the better.
How much money you need in gross profit, pre-tax income, monthly and daily targets to reach your goal?
For time freedom, define the organizational structure you will need in place to free up your time and how their performance will be measured, what problems will be encountered and their solutions, and what training manuals are needed. You also need to decide how you are going to act, what kind of business environment do you want? What do you want your staff to say about you if they were writing a review on GlassDoor.com?
I don’t think this section is as well defined as compared to the other sections and rightly so as it is a different business subject and the book is meant to appeal to a wide audience, not just to home service companies.
To be a successful business owner, we must stop working as a technician in the business and begin leading the company by working on the business. One of the keys to growth is to adopt a franchise prototype to your home performance business. Michael points to developing a systems strategy in each aspect of your business. It was incredibly helpful to think through all the steps that can canned and cloned in my business. “Hard systems” are physical things which save money or allow your staff to do their job better such as having a better insulation machine to save time or purchasing your Pookie by the pallet for discounts. “Soft systems” are people practices and methods to give people a framework for doing their job. Ideally, I would like to build my soft system so well that use someone with no construction experience, or with only a grade school education, and they would be able to provide great service or high quality work/deliverables every day.
One of the obstacles I have had to overcome is the thinking that by canning and cloning, I’m kind of selling out and the fear that my business would lose the personal touch which my customers love. It actually took some time for me to overcome that idea, but while I was wrestling with it, I was simultaneously working on creating guidelines for reproducible results in a few aspects of the business. Once I had a few of those in place, it was now time to practice my managerial skills… which were embarrassingly poor… think Steve Jobs crossed with a stereotypical engineers communication skill. I won’t go into details here but I would like you to be comforted with the knowledge that if I can start from where I did and improve to a mid-level manager grade, then so can you. The nice thing is, I know when my business grows even more I will have the processes, job description and metrics in place to hire a full time manager whose primary strength will be managing people. That’s the power and depth of this book.
Once your systems are in place and implemented you are between Stages 1 and 2 of growth.
1. Infancy – when the owner is the technician and doing everything.
2. Expansion – systems are in place and better management skills are required.
3. Maturity – entrepreneurial vision is required.
These stages do not happen overnight, often taking years to accomplish, but getting out of Stage 1 was a game changer for my home performance business. I found it incredibly helpful to have strong technical knowledge so I could provide the crew and staff with guidance when needed. At some point between Stages 1 and 2, you will reach a point of critical mass, where you will find your time spent in the field in no longer needed. It’s a liberating feeling and is a moment which I will always remember in my business. When in that transition, remember these things to help it go as smooth as possible.
- Show up to the job sites randomly and spend time in the field. This gives you an opportunity to interact with the homeowner, build rapport and referrals along with having a finger on your crew’s overall performance. If you totally remove yourself from the field, things can get out of control very quickly even if you have a trusted crew lead onsite.
- Hold weekly meetings with your staff. I separate them into crew, sales and sales and auditor meetings. Talk about your KPI metrics, technical stuff, feedback from your staff and feedback from homeowners to start. I find that I am still growing into this position, it’s not natural for me to be outgoing or excited but I would like my staff to have these traits when it comes to their work and as a result I try to convey them as much as possible.. You want to walk away from each meeting with a to-do list to improve on processes within your business.
For me, I totally bought into Michael Gerber's idea. At the time I first read the book, I was already getting burnt out from working in the field side by side with my technicians. I started my businesses thinking "if I could only make $100,000, man I would have be living life then!" Then once I reached my goal, and had a little momentum behind my home performance business, my time was spreading thin working in the field, doing audits, selling and all the paperwork required to keep my business up and running. I made several operational mistakes which brought me to a low point and made me realize that something had to change in my business. My first mistake was not having any disciplinary systems in place if our quality was not being met. My second mistake was assuming that if I paid my crew well, they would in turn repay me by busting their ass in the field. This was not the case with a specific crew I had and as a result I ended up overpaying them and getting my teeth kicked in as a thank you. My third mistake was not being on the job site as much as I should have been to quickly realize mistakes #1 and #2 and put a stop to it sooner. Now I pay the crew a base plus performance bonus, I have a clear set of expectations, KPI's and disciplinary actions if our standards are not being met and everyone takes responsibility for their work. I have random site visits scheduled into my week and weekly meetings help with training. My systems aren't perfect but the point is that I am now much better off in regards to my income, my time and my business than I was years ago. Now when I'm going through the book again, I find I'm facing a new set of challenges with the book serving as the perfect reminder of the path I must follow and that it has been done before by many business owners.
I have found E-Myth by Michael Gerber to be just as relevant and useful when I was just starting my business bringing in $100,000 a year up to the $1,000,000 mark years later. It is an incredibly useful book regardless of where you are in your business but is of particular value for home performance contractors because so many of us started as technicians who were good at what we did but did not want to make all the money for someone else and start bringing it home for ourselves but got stuck somewhere along the road. If you are at that point, you should know that reading this book gave me the courage to do things which I was not comfortable doing before and yes, I cut my teeth trying new things but I stuck with it and have reaped the rewards because of it.
For the first 2 years of my home performance business, I did resisted the itch to purchase a thermal camera. I think anyone starting their energy audit business wonders the same thing. Furthermore, I debated what type of thermal camera to buy. There was the $10,000 thermal cameras, the $2,500 low end IR guns and then there were the manufacturers, FLIR or FLUKE. I wondered if I should I get certified to use them. It can be hard to wade through all the choices for a potentially large investment. While my home performance business survived fine without the infrared camera and now I have two low end FLIR cameras. I sometimes sub out my overflow audits to another auditor who has a $10,000 FLIR camera and I can definitely see the difference between my cheap-o's and his high end camera.
Looking back, my low end infrared cameras were the right choice for a boot-strapping solo-prenuer as I was, but more importantly for my business and anyone asking themselves the same questions was the preparation implemented before the cameras were ever purchased. Specifically, it is imperative that processes and SOPs (stand operating procedures) are implemented for the IR cameras use. An IR camera is a big investment and even if its just you using them, setting guidelines now help to increase conversions and ensure smooth transitions when your energy auditing business grows.
Guidelines should be set for:
Once you have your SOPs and guidelines in order, it's time to pick a camera that's right for you. If you don't have much capital to work with, I vouch for the cheap $1,500 cameras to use as a selling tool. However I will add that I live in Phoenix where most of the homes have accessible attics and platform framing. If you live in an area where most of the homes have cathedralized attics, no accessible attics or were balloon framing was common, a thermal camera can be a very valuable diagnostic tool along with a good knowledge of pressure mapping. If you live in more temperate climate, a good IR camera will be able to discern insulation misalignments and air leakage better than a cheap camera. For example in the winter time in Phoenix, our IR cameras are basically paper weights.
Does Having a Thermal Camera Increase Sales?
It is difficult to say that having the infrared camera has directly contributed to more sales but I can contribute increased audits and therefore sales to having the IR camera.
However, if you do the thermal camera and never show the homeowner the pictures or the hot items you find live, having a thermal camera doesn't do any good. The more you show the homeowner and promote and sell using the thermal camera, the more value it adds and that increases sales.
Where To Buy A Thermal Camera
Buying a FLIR and FLUKE thermal camera has to be done from approved distributors. Distributors typically add a nice mark up to their costs but offer technical support. Technical training may be best had by reading blogs and asking your peers. I do not have any experience with the infrared certifications offered. The cheapest way to buy a thermal camera and my preferred method is on eBay. There are i7 IR cameras regularly on sale for a flat rate of $1500.
Let me first start by confessing my guilt... Guilt for being bored easily, guilt for wanting praise, even if it is a pat on my own back for an achievement... Guilt for being a millennial... On the other hand I enjoy working in teams and I encourage frequent communication between all team members from admin staff to auditors, sales staff and crew members to improve our workflow. Yes, I am a millennial, but let me add that there is nothing that makes me cringe more than the excuses I get from potential and new crew technicians of my generation on why they can't make it in to work or why this work isn't cut out for them. The excuses range from I ran out of gas to "from man to man, I can't do this job" and make for good stories around the bar. I came to one job site where after a new hire went through training, I found him loading the insulation hopper with his shirt off like he was a teenager cutting the grass of his parents house. "Keeping your shirt on during the job" has now been added to our newbie training. I have been tempted on several occasions to throw a cold glass of water on their face or give them a good slap back to reality. This blog post is about how to get the best out of the millennial workforce to help boost profits, keep turnover low, customers happy and job quality high.
To take step back, home performance businesses have been on rocket fuel for the last 6 years with federal mandates and subsidies, consumer awareness and an economic condition that favors homeowners save more and put money towards home improvements rather than build a new home. All that creates ideal conditions for home performance businesses to thrive, and with growth comes an increased demand for a greater home performance workforce. Unfortunately, there is no union workforce for home performance technicians and community colleges do not offer all the combined trades required to do this type of work in a semester class. Our workforce has to be trained from the ground up. Having HVAC experience is an advantage but extensive training still needs to be done. In addition to the lack of trained workforce this work requires a balance of someone who is willing to crawl into tight, hot and rodent infested areas, has the willingness to learn building science and who can hold a conversation with a homeowner if required. The last two characteristics can be done by an older generation well, but whom would not likely to be willing to get their body and knees beat up day-in-and-day-out from balancing on studs for 6 hrs a day and have their arms itchy from realigning batts from the field work. That is why it's the millennial generation that is best suited for this work.
How do we as managers and owners get a millennial to stay long term and to work at their peak performance? By nurturing the positive aspects of working well in teams, wanting open and frequent communication with supervisors, playing to a millennials technological strength, and the motivation to positively impact the company you can create a strong work environment and lasting positive culture at your company... that and drawing clear standard operating procedures and customer guidelines to make sure your business operates functionally.
1. Fun days like taking the crew out to a nice restaurant or sports outings. Skybox arena football is a cheap alternative to professional skybox seats and it's still entertaining. In Phoenix, I like to take the guys to a Brazilian style buffet where each person is given a coin. One side of the coin means "bring me more food," and a barrage of waiters come to the table with different meat samples, the other side means "I need a break." We all have fun getting class A-treatment for a night and filing our up stomachs. This is also a good way to spend time outside of a work environment and have fun.
2. Having crew meetings online via Google Hangouts. Having weekly meeting with your crew and/or crew leads is an important opportunity to go over strong areas of the teams and reinforce areas of improvement. Most millennials have smart phones and can download Google Plus so meetings at the office do not have to take place and can be much more convenient for all parties.
3. Spending time finding out what each employee wants to do, and using your experience and knowledge to actually help them reach their goal. Whether they want to just learn the trade, get into HVAC or start their own business if they are dedicated and do good work helping your employees reach their goals shows that you care about their future and gives them the attention they need. The home performance world is small and employees and come and go and come back again, it's prudent to have good relationships with them regardless of if they want to start their own businesses or go to another trade. You will both be happier with open communication, plus they may always come back.
4. The existing crew and company culture you have in place plays a critical part in what good or bad habits new workers will pick up. I've had to start from scratch with crews because holding on to bad employees is like leaving a bad virus to spread to anyone else that comes through your door, and it was one of the best things I did for the business and for my well being. Make sure you have guys that want to work, who know what your company stands for and who share your vision.
The traditional company perks below are typically more important to employees with families or with more experience in the workforce but can also have powerful staying power with your staff.
1. Health benefits can be important for millennials with families to support which can also be a good sign for an employee looking for long term employment.
2. Tailored perks like one week paid time off after one year employment give incentive for a longer term commitment.
3. $25 bonuses for each crew member on jobs that pass post inspection and high customer satisfaction rating. The bonuses are accumulated and paid out every 6 months. The only down side is that you may have several employees leave after on a 6 month interval, but that should not hold you back from trying it or your own variation.
It is a must though that you set standards of work and expectations at the beginning of employment so everyone knows how their performance will be judged and what actions will get them fired (going shirtless). Standard scripts should be developed to help smooth over customer interactions especially if a millennials communication style is less than ideal or working with baby boomers.
Sometimes you'll find they are just lazy, don't want to listen or really don't want to work. In that case your decision should be easy as going, going, gone.
Overview for BPI BA Certification
How do you bypass exam?
You need CEUs. If you have...
CEUs must be earned after you have taken both online and field exam, after you have a BPI BA certification. CEU’s are good for 3 years and are only good to bypass online exam
For BA only
How do you bypass the BPI field exam?
New Certifications are NOT eligible for bypassing the exam including
If your certification has already expired, you have to start from scratch and take full online and field exams. If you take attempt to take the exams for renewal but don’t pass, you are not eligible for bypass renewal process
What is considered necessary experience? There are 4 ways.
BPI has template letters for each of these
You may have heard that BPI has added software modeling test questions to their online exam. This may be rattling to some that have not worked with an energy model before, but the questions do not require you to have experience working with an energy model before the exam. Here are the key takeaways from the software modeling of the exam.
1. It is not specific to any particular program
2. Focuses more on why we use modeling and work scope
3. “What types” of information is found on a work scope
Here is what you need to know for each topic.
What you need to know.
1. It is not specific to any particular program.
a. There are lots of modeling software programs out there, unfortunately most are not free. I did post a link to view an overview of a modeling software though you can view for free here, if you want to see what one looks like. What BPI is saying here is that all the modeling inputs are the essentially the same, they all require the same basic information to perform a heat load calculation on a home. If you create your own field sheets, or you get ours, you can see all the information required for the model. Some of the input fields are:
i. House orientation
ii. Fenestration area and orientation
iii. Insulation R-value
iv. Wall type and insulation
v. Duct leakage
vii. Air leakage
viii. Attic penetrations
x. Zip code for weather data
xi. Number of HVAC units
xii. WH data
xiii. Pool data
xv. Gas or electric appliances
2. Focuses more on why we use modeling and work scope
a. We use modeling to give the homeowner a prediction of energy savings and to prioritize the cost-effectiveness of energy savings improvements.
3. “What types” of information are found on a work scope
a. Quantities – 2000 sq ft of cellulose insulation 7” deep for settled R-value of R-19.
b. Locations – air barriers above kitchen and master bathroom soffits.
c. Details – duct sealing to be done around all joints, seems, collars and flex-to-collar connections with mastic applied to the thickness of a nickel
Good luck and see you on the other side!
Owns and operates Green ID, a residential home energy auditing and contracting company in Phoenix, AZ. He is a BPI Proctor and has trained over 40 energy auditors.
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