Webinar Recap: What’s the Deal with Peer Groups?
There may be many books on how to run a generic business, but an Amazon search on “how to run an HVAC/home performance/solar business” isn’t going to turn up too many useful results (yes, we tried, and the only book we found was written back in the “dark age” of 1994).
Business books aside, what could possibly be more valuable than learning how to better run the day-to-day operations of your business from other business owners that are actually like you, without the danger of competing with them in the same market?
In our most recent webinar, Energy Circle CEO Peter Troast spoke with two successful business owners from each end of the country, Keith O’Hara from Eco Performance Builders in California’s Bay Area, and Scott Needham from Princeton Air in New Jersey, about their experience with peer groups. Here are some of the important takeaways.
Peter Troast welcomes Scott Needham and Keith O’Hara to discuss their experiences utilizing peer groups to grow their HVAC and home performance businesses.
Scott Needham, Princeton Air: “Next year will be 50 years for our business... 31 of those years involved a peer group. 95% of our success is due to us being in and devoted to a peer group.”
Scott Needham discusses the importance of peer groups for his HVAC business, and how it has helped him grow over the course of 31 years.
Keith O’Hara, Eco Performance Builders: “My experience with peer groups has kind of been a grassroots movement… We’ve refined the process and it has been a huge benefit to me.”
Keith O’Hara’s home performance business got involved in peer groups in a grassroots way, starting small and growing as they refined the process.
Getting Started with a Peer Group
The Air Conditioning Contractors of America does offer the Management Information Exchange (MIX) Group program, aimed at increasing contractor-to-contractor networking. However, that’s not the only way to join a peer group, as Keith teased by mentioning his “grassroots movement.” Sometimes all it takes is grabbing a couple of cold ones with a contractor you just met!
Scott Needham explains the process of joining a peer group through the ACCA MIX program, as well as other alternative ways you can get started.
How Peer Groups Meet
“It’s really free-form for the host company… we bring most if not all of them in for day one.”
Scott Needham covers how often his group meets, and what their process is for assessing and consulting another business in his peer group.
Keith O’Hara’s peer group moved from quarterly phone meetings to monthly phone meetings to increase accountability and further refine their process.
How a peer group meets will vary from group to group, as expected. In the full version of the webinar, you can hear about some of the less traditional ways HVAC, home performance, and solar businesses are squeezing the most educational “juice” out of their peer groups.
Is It Important That Your Peers Run Similar Businesses?
“It’s fascinating to see what kind of challenges they’re facing. You kind of put yourself in that role of, ‘Man, when I get there... these are the things I anticipate grappling with.’”
It used to be that Scott’s peer group was assigned by revenue size. However, as they learned, later on, there is much to be learned from businesses that may be bigger or smaller than your own. “It’s how she looked at the services, in analyzing how she's selling them, or approaching them, or looking at the profit margins.”
Even if the businesses in Keith’s peer group focused on different areas, there was still much to learn.
Running Over Financials
The Time and Money Commitment of Joining a Peer Group
It may seem a little invasive to have someone “rooting around in your closet.” But a look into your financials provides insight for your peer group, and can pinpoint where changes may need to be made.
Here’s an in-depth look at how this peer group shares financial information, and how they can set benchmarks for future financial health.
Another Peer Group Option for Our Industries
“The BPA... does very much want to step into the ‘ACCA’ role for the home performance community.”
Starting in the Fall of 2020, the Building Performance Association will begin helping contractors find other, like-minded contractors to begin forming their own peer groups.
Peer Groups Provide Accountability & Education
“I call it my unpaid board of directors.”
Peer groups provide accountability, can help keep you on task throughout the year, and can keep you honest. But you get out of it what you put into it! A pivotal trait of any group is the willingness to let a member go if there is no commitment to growth. Especially as we start to envision the post-COVID way of doing business, a trusted group of like-minded allies can help make that transition smoother, if not a little less lonely!