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HVAC Podcasts Offer Mobile Education to Contractors

Last updated: 05-14-2020

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HVAC Podcasts Offer Mobile Education to Contractors

Driving between calls … during lunch … on a plane … even last thing before going to sleep … the hosts of HVAC podcasts report that their listeners will fire up episodes almost anywhere.

Podcasts make sense as a great medium for contractors and techs who have small windows of opportunity throughout the day (or evening) and who need to run a business and/or keep up with technology trends.

For this sampling of current HVAC podcasts, six hosts spanning contracting, manufacturing, and consulting told us about what they do and how they stake out their own tone and content mix.

The co-hosts of HVAC Uncensored have not allowed being half a country apart deter them from developing a successful podcast since it debuted in June 2018. Gil Cavey, Jr. is general manager for A-Supreme Heating and Air Conditioning in Glen Burnie, Maryland. He reported that with a Facebook following of 30,000 people, the podcast receives 10,000 to 15,000 downloads per episode.

While some podcasts strike a technical/business balance, HVAC Uncensored built its early content by leaning toward one end of the spectrum.

“We have driven more toward the business side because we felt there was a need for that,” said Cavey, whose podcasting partner is Kelley McKay, owner of Service HQ in Augusta, Kansas.

The team has completed 77 podcasts so far, and “moving forward, we will be putting out more technical content,” Cavey said. They shoot for an overall mix that will foster a listener’s “blend of technical ability, sales, and business savvy.”

HVAC Uncensored also welcomes guests that range from industry leaders to those bringing new products to market.

The initial business emphasis left Cavey and McKay free to pick up applicable wisdom and tips from beyond the industry. Asked to name two favorite episodes, Cavey mentioned an interview with Brad and Sarah Casebier, one that may resonate with the many family-owned HVAC contractors.

The Casebiers “run an extremely successful plumbing business,” he explained. “It was a great episode because they have figured out how to run the business together and stay married!”

Elsewhere beyond HVAC, Cavey singled out an interview with A1 Garage Door owner Tommy Mello for Mello’s knowledge and enthusiasm.

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Another member of the podcast class of 2018, The HVAC Jerks have proven listener-friendly despite the name. Co-host Rich reports that they have picked up downloads and listeners in 75 countries so far, although a recent highlight for him was the in-person broadcast before a nice crowd at this year’s AHR Expo.

One part of HVAC Jerks’ accessible vibe is that listeners only know the hosts on a first-name (or first-pseudonym) basis. Rich, Kevin, and Anonymous Joe are, in almost no particular order, a manager for a contracting business, an owner of a contracting business, and “it’s a secret.”

Asked for an overview, Rich describes the podcast as “a fun-loving weekly talk show, discussing everything from current events in our industry to lessons disguised as conversations about everything from load calculations to "why contractors charge so much.”

In the end, Rich says “it’s like havin’ a beer with your three best friends in the business.”

While they serve plenty of free-flowing banter, they also bring in occasional industry guests, including AHRI executives and contacts from manufacturers to talk shop.

The HVAC Jerks have established a fairly prolific schedule as well. They issue a new podcast every Sunday, and the crew has recently started to add some shorter “Jerky Bits” midweek.

Of the shows so far, Rich’s personal favorite is “our episode explaining overhead and why we have to charge as much as we do. Again, most employees think that 50 percent or more of what they are told to charge is going into the owner’s pocket.”

Asked what, after 80 installments, strikes him as the area contractors need to work on the most with regard to their technical knowledge or their business management, Rich responded with a surprising observation.

“Go back and learn/teach the basics of your job,” he said. “Most employers assume that techs know the basics, but they do not.”

That type of candor plus an emphasis on fun has developed an audience that tops 10,000 total downloads per month.

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HVAC podcasts haven’t escaped the eyes of manufacturers looking to improve their connection with the rest of the industry, either. Danfoss’ John Sheff hosts EnVisioneering Exchange for the company, having just launched in December 2019. Sheff is director of public and industry affairs for Danfoss.

Sheff’s goal? “Provide digestible, easy-to-access information about how the trends and challenges impacting industry today are affecting technology and business,” said Lisa Tryson, Danfoss director of corporate communications.

These days, that menu includes evolving refrigerant or efficiency standards and regulations, climate change, and electrification. Danfoss does offer more technically oriented podcasts, so with this, Sheff uses interviews every three or four weeks to aim a little bigger in terms of “fast-evolving trends, and even global megatrends.”

Emerson’s Lindsay Headings also uses a regular interview format, with guests comprising contractors, Emerson experts, and other industry leaders. When not at the microphone, Headings works in the marketing team for the manufacturer’s commercial and residential solutions air conditioning business.

HVAC On Air’s regular habit of talking about conversations with (and sometimes speaking directly to) homeowners may set it apart from others in the category. It seems to fare all right regarding feedback, too — its most popular download was the “Ask The Manufacturer” episode. Countries listening to the podcast the most so far include the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, as one might expect. But Australia also cracks the top five, and apparently, HVAC On Air is comparatively big in Sweden, too.

Headings singles out “Student Perspectives on HVAC Recruiting” as her favorite so far.

“I love this episode because you can hear the passion these kids have for the industry and the trade,” she said. In this case, the students were sharing the experiences and opportunities they had found as part of the Upper Valley Career Center program in Ohio.

This production welcomes listener requests, Headings added, and the podcast is working to expand the ways listeners can submit ideas. In the meantime, she continues to focus on the ever-evolving nature of the industry.

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When she was asked for another HVAC podcast in his own routine, Emerson’s Headings happened to name one already on tap for this article.

“Bryan Orr is a great industry podcast,” Headings said, referring to Orr’s HVAC School.

“Great conversation about relevant topics with lots of ‘how-to’s’ for technicians. Highly recommend!”

While that might suffice as adequate promotion for a solid podcast from an industry veteran, it’s worth getting a bit more insight from the host himself.

“We do a wide range of content from classes to one-on-one interviews with industry professionals, to live episodes where we interact with techs in the field,” Orr explained. “Our mottos are ‘Never stop learning’ and ‘For techs, by techs.’”

Having been in HVAC “my entire working life,” today Orr also is co-owner of a multidiscipline HVAC, general contracting, electrical, and plumbing company in central Florida.

Orr leans hard on the technical side, estimating that takes about 90 percent of the podcast’s content, rounded out with some ethics and workplace best practices mixed in.

“We always try to have clear takeaway topics for the audience,” he said.

This focus, which has fueled 350 podcasts since 2016, has generated over 3 million downloads since HVAC School started. That total, Orr noted, covers the audio podcast only and not audiences via YouTube, the website, or social media.

What do contractors need to work on the most?

More things than he could list in this space, Orr answered, but discussions on electrical diagnosis, refrigerant circuit diagnosis, and best practices for areas like brazing stay in high demand from listeners.

Full podcasts might run 30 to 60 minutes, but like The HVAC Jerks, Orr also produces shorter content on subjects like manometers, inverter voltage, and the intriguing topic of “Science vs. What Works.”

Out of so many episodes, Orr has many favorites. However, he does mention talking with Richard Trethewey of This Old House, along with a few conversations with Dan Holohan.

“These guys are really household names of our industry,” he said, “and it was a lot of fun to get to know them better.”

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Finally, Ryno Strategic Solutions comes at HVAC podcasts from a different position within the industry. Ryno works with clients to develop “top-notch strategies” in areas such as SEO, call listening and reporting, website design, live chat, and other elements.

CEO Chris Yano and “Tall” Paul Redman, WP of sales, picked an interesting time to get into this area, having launched To The Point Home Services in January of this year. The operation has come out of the gate at a quick pace, publishing a dozen episodes as of early April and picking up an average of 2,500 downloads as it gets going.

“We are a good blend of both,” Yano said when asked for their technical/business mix. The pair aims for “action items listeners can take away and implement to help themselves, their employees, and/or the company.”

As far as cross-discipline learning opportunities, the podcast explores marketing and operational solutions for HVAC contractors but also for contractors in areas like plumbing, electrical, and roofing.

Perhaps that perspective contributes to Yano’s answer when asked to name the thing he sees contractors needing to improve the most.

“Being brutally honest … take action. A lot of times, the ambition is there to listen, make notes, and say you’re going to implement. Then they do nothing and go on with business as usual,” he said. “I get it, because we have all been busy, [but] if your action doesn’t match your ambition, it’s useless.”

Yano has no trouble naming an early favorite — “a brilliant podcast” — as the joint interview with Ken Goodrich, CEO of Goettl Air Conditioning and Plumbing and with Michael E. Gerber, author of best-selling “E-myth.”

The hosts have traveled beyond strictly HVAC on other occasions, including hosting former UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver, who talked about overcoming adversity and about mindset and how to apply it in “How To Get Punched In The Face and Keep Going.”

Yano and Redman go the extra mile, writing blog entries about each episode that are available on Ryno’s website.

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