As of right now, there are over 100,000 HVAC contractors in the U.S. alone and all signs point to the industry only growing as the technology gets more complicated and commonplace across the country. This marks the perfect storm for someone that is starting an HVAC business, but it’s important to understand what that entails. Here’s a closer look at how you can get started on the path to becoming an HVAC professional, as well as putting that experience to use when working on your own.
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Becoming An HVAC Contractor & Starting an HVAC Business
First, we need to cover exactly how you become an HVAC contractor. Technically, you can climb the ladder through getting experience on the job, but nowadays, entering a formal program is more commonplace. This is largely due to the same reason the HVAC industry is getting more popular: complexity. As technology requires more expertise to work with, it’ll be easier for you to break into the industry with formal credentials. This is done through one of two options: an associate’s degree or apprenticeship.
There isn’t a right or wrong decision to make here. Going for a formal degree at a trade school, community college, or technical college is a good method to make sure all the basic points are covered. It’s also especially useful for people who want to go into business for themselves someday. This is because you can supplement your base coursework with other classes on business and computer science. These help prepare you to work with complex systems as well as develop your business acumen.
An apprenticeship, by comparison, is a longer-term commitment (around 2000 hours a year), but has a lot of benefits. First, you can get in as long as you have a high school diploma/GED, and have other basic credentials. However, there are a lot of long-term considerations to make. This excess time will get you valuable work experience in the field, as well as potentially help you make connections for later. Whichever option you choose, to qualify for most HVAC jobs, you’re going to need to have two years of experience at a minimum.
After this, you complete your journey to being a professional by getting your contractor’s license. HVAC licensing requirements vary state by state.
— Work requirements
— Buying insurance/bonds
— Having a criminal background check
Tips on Starting an HVAC Business (that will succeed)
So, with the necessary education and experience in place, what do you need to do to be successful? A key first step is putting together your HVAC business plan. This is essentially the blueprint of what you want your business to be and is something you will be constantly referencing in those early stages and beyond. Some key components of your business plan include:
— The type of customers you want to focus on (demographics, region, size, commercial/residential, etc.)
— What type of profit margin you need to be successful
— Future goals/benchmarks for expansion
— Starting employee profiles/leadership team
— Equipment required to start operations
— Plans to secure seed funding
These are some of the central components of any business plan, but the truth is that every company is going to have their own take on it. Make it your own, but also be sure it’s well-organized so that others can quickly reference information, also. This is because most lenders (banks, credit unions, private investors), will need to see a business plan before loaning you any money.
After this, you can get started actually implementing this plan. One essential thing that you need to do is make sure that you have all the certifications you need for the niche you plan on working in. Examples include EPA certification, gas heating, oil heating, commercial refrigeration, and air distribution. Exactly how much you go for early on is up to you. This presents a time cost, but it may not be a bad idea to look ahead with your certification for areas that you need to work in later on.
The next step is going to be getting the employees and equipment that you need to actually take on jobs. For employees, it may not be a bad idea to look with the union you worked with as an apprentice/during your work experience to try and recruit from there. If that’s not an option, you will need to put out job ads, being mindful of industry rates. For equipment, it’s important that you budgeted your seed money appropriately. For example, having all the tools to do HVAC work is great, but you also need company vehicles to transport them.
Finally, you need a marketing plan to actually get customers. Digital marketing has been a great equalizer for small businesses, trades included, but you need to be smart about it. Good, low budget ways to get started are putting your profile up on online directories like Google My Business or Yelp. From there, you can start moving into more involved methods like social media and PPC ads.
With this information, the stage is set for you to make headway into the world of HVAC contracting. However, the work doesn’t stop there. HVAC jobs and businesses, like any trade business, are going to be a constant movement to try and make a more efficient and profitable company. This is the type of thing that gets more and more difficult as you grow in terms of clients and the scale of jobs. You don’t want to expand your business, only not to have the internal management present to actually handle that scale.
Final Thoughts on Starting an HVAC Business
Technology is the main way to bridge that gap and support your business, in particular, project management software like eSUB. We offer a modular purchasing model so you can get just what you need at any stage. Earlier on, your priority may be just using cloud storage for easily accessible financial records. Later, you may want to upgrade to make use of our mobile workforce management tech and integration with other popular programs.