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Quantity or Quality

By Charles Bursey

During my years of being in the trade I have chatted with many contractors about their business plans, which often included, as you might expect, their financial goals.

When I asked how they planned on meeting their goals for a given year, generally they would give an answer that included how many signed contracts they needed in that year in order to remain profitable.

More often than not the number they mentioned left me in somewhat of a state of shock. At times, I almost felt like I was talking to Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon. I would often also consider the companies’ manpower level and I would wonder just how many hours a day they needed to work and just how much overtime was required in order meet their installation sales targets.

Over the years, I have had opportunities to visit some of these installations and I have more often than not been very pleased with the quality of material and the evident workmanship. However, my reaction to some of the installations was: “This is a job that does not meet quality standards.” That’s when I would hear about “Coupling Kings.”

Contractors told me they simply can’t and won’t compete with them. When I asked what a Coupling King was, I was told that it was a low-bidding competitor who simply cuts supply and return piping, slides a new boiler into place, sweats in two new copper couplings, and leaves the old valves, relays and, in some cases, maybe even an oil line under the concrete floor that dates from the time when the original heating equipment was installed.

So I was pleased recently when I spoke with a contractor about how she prepared for new growth for the upcoming year. Her reply was simple and clear. She told me that she had grown up in the family business, working alongside her father, who founded the company. Eventually she took over the family business and in the years since she remembered her father’s words of wisdom, including: Always have a goal of maintaining the highest level of quality workmanship and service. He also frequently reminded her that pursuing the goals of under-committing and over-achieving in every phase of the business would lead to personal and financial success.

I too learned that lesson during my years of involvement with a family-operated business. From the basement to the front office, I did then and still believe in quality over quantity.

With the holidays just a short time away, I want to wish all Fuel Oil News readers a great holiday, a cold winter and a prosperous 2017.

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