This is the first installment of what I hope to be regular blog series about what it’s like for to be a woman in the predominately male HVAC industry. Or should I say what it’s like to be THIS woman. There are a lot of women in this industry – many of whom are far more bad-ass than I will ever hope to be – and I would not presume to speak for them or about their experiences. But I hope to provide a little insight into mine with a little bit of humor and a touch of irreverence. So…here goes.
Confessions of an HVAC Chick
Here’s what you need to know about me. I am a woman. I own an HVAC company. I cannot fix your air conditioner. Or your heater. And I cannot ventilate anything. Unless you count cracking a window. For years, I’ve felt that this is something that I need to apologize for. Something to be embarrassed about. But, here’s the real deal. Twelve years ago, when my father offered me half of the HVAC business that he had started when I was just a kid, I had a choice to make. I could either spend the next twelve years learning how to fix air conditioners, or I could learn how to run an HVAC business.
Now, twelve years later, though I still have much to learn – and truthfully will always have much to learn – I realize that NOT learning how to be an HVAC technician was one of the smartest things I’ve ever done. The fact of the matter is that running an HVAC business actually has very little to do with fixing HVAC units. I think anyone who’s ever run any type of business can probably tell you the same thing. It usually starts out that you are good at something. For example, let’s say you are a fabulously talented widget-maker. So you decide to start your own widget-manufacturing company. But soon you quickly discover that great widgets are only part of the equation. You have to finance your widget-making business and make sure it turns a profit. You must market your widgets, hire people to help you make more widgets, maintain quality control of your widgets, provide customer service to your widget customers, establish excellent relationships with your widget raw materials suppliers, become an expert in public and private widget contracts, make sure you have appropriate widget insurance coverage and so on. And guess what? The skills you need to do all of those things, have nothing to do with the supreme widget-making abilities that got you started in the first place.
Granted, had I had the experience of being an HVAC technician before taking ownership, my job would be just that much easier. But when it comes down to it, there are a dozen people in my company who are really great at fixing HVAC units but there was only one – my Dad – who knew how to run the company. And his goal was to get the heck out of New England and soak up some Florida sun. Which is exactly what he’s doing today, while I and my brother – who is a very skilled HVAC technician – run the company he started more than twenty-eight years ago.
So I confess. I own an HVAC company and I do not know how to fix your air conditioner. And that’s OK. Because I do know an awful lot about how to run an HVAC company. Call me and see.