Many of you may be saying that ‘business is not the way it used to be” and, of course, you’re right. However, the ways in which we do business have certainly changed in many ways.

Just think about the price of the fuel products we buy on a daily basis, for example, gasoline for our vehicles and fuel oil for the heat and hot water. Did anyone ever think that we would see prices exceed $4.00 per gallon? Think of how the higher fuel cost have affected your daily fleet operation expense and how the high fuel oil cost has affected the way we deliver oil in order to keep our customer base.

I would bet that many oil dealers have received calls from what once were the fully automatic delivery customer who now is requesting 100 gallons or less deliveries. Thanks to fuel oil now being a commodity item and the importation of foreign oil, who knows where it will all end?

I would also suggest that there are many business owners who have found it necessary to ask for an additional line of credit from their loan institutions. Why? Their customers aren’t able to pay the cost of a delivery all at once. Some dealers have said that on a $900 delivery they are getting $100payment and when they call their customer for more, the ‘I DON’T HAVE IT” statement is offered.

On the equipment sales side, come spring we would often have the opportunity to sell and replace some of the 20-plus years and older, less efficient heating equipment that just made it through another winter’s heating season. After all what customer wouldn’t want a new system that would reduce their annual fuel usage bill? Again, they can’t afford it!

However, many people in the HVAC business say that they are ‘slower than slow” and some have tried offering their own stimulus incentives only to find customers saying that they’re still paying on their higher than expected fuel bills. I have heard some company owners mention that they have had some of their loyal oil customers ask for a price to convert to natural gas. Why we ask? The simple answer, the oil customers are being told that gas is cheaper, cleaner and more efficient than oil.

In some states these same oil customers are telling their oil company that they can get a gas boiler installed for free. I may be wrong, but has it not been said if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is? I have also noticed and talked to company owners that tell me they are now going to be doing natural and propane gas service as a means of diversification. Is this really for diversification or survival?

On the other hand, let’s not forget how much the heating systems have changed in just a few short years. Boilers have reduced water content ‘ three pass with built-in low water and management controls ‘ and furnaces have motors that ramp up or down based on the heating requirements. Speaking of controls, we can not overlook the many wireless system management controls that are offered.

By the way congratulation to Honeywell for being named the Manufacturer of the Year at the recent former National Oil Heat Service Managers convention and trade show held in Hershey, PA. The new name for this organization is now National Association of Oil & Energy Service Professionals. Why the change? Their way of doing business had to change with the times as well. So has business changed? You bet it has!

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