Finding a Great Career as an HVAC Technician
Intro: Are you a technician who wants to set yourself apart? Then the Trusted Technician Podcast is for you. I'm Derrek Hofrichter, Coach & Trainer at SBE, and on this podcast, we will have experienced HVAC coaches and trainers, as well as top-performing technicians, all sharing their tips and strategies to help you be more successful.
Derrek Hofrichter (Coach & Trainer): Hey, everybody. This is Coach Derrek at SBE, and you're listening to the Trusted Technician Podcast. Got another great episode for you guys. Today we've got Lamont from Worley's Home Services in Virginia. Lamont, welcome to the podcast.
Lamont Page (Technician): Thank you for having me, Derrek. I'm excited to be here, man.
Derrek Hofrichter: Yeah, for sure. Let's start out by just telling us a little bit about yourself.
Lamont Page: Well, I'm an HVAC technician. I'm based out of Virginia. I'm pretty much a jack of all trades when it comes to the technician space. I work on oil boilers, tankless units, furnaces, and heat pumps. Pretty much anything the technicians can't do, they'll say, "Hey, just send Lamont, and he'll figure it out."
So, yeah, I really love the trade. It's something I got into when I was much older. So I had to really take it seriously and make a career out of it. It's done wonders to be able to help me provide a good life for my family.
Derrek Hofrichter: Nice.
Lamont Page: Yeah, I love it, man.
Derrek Hofrichter: You said older. How old were you when you got into it?
Lamont Page: I was about 28.
Derrek Hofrichter: Okay.
Lamont Page: When I started the trades. Most guys that start in the trades they're either early teens, or they may just be coming out of high school, or they may just be coming out of a tech school or something like that.
I worked with a lot of younger guys, and I was envious of them at one point in time because if I would've learned this stuff 10 or 20 years ago, who knows where I'd be? But I think for me, it's humbling being in that position where I'm an older guy trying to do the young man's job, and I can kind of keep up with them a little bit.
Derrek Hofrichter: Yeah.
Lamont Page: So it's pretty cool.
Derrek Hofrichter: For sure. I know you said you didn't get in until 28, but were you always mechanical-minded?
Lamont Page: No, dude, I couldn't turn a wrench. I could not turn a wrench, man. So my background, I actually worked in a call center for about 15 years. So I wore a suit to work every single day.
Derrek Hofrichter: Oh, wow.
Lamont Page: It was just a dead end for me. I couldn't really see myself reaching my financial goals. I wanted to buy a house. I wanted to be in a situation where if my kids wanted to go to college, I could possibly afford it for them. Making $6.25 an hour at my first job sitting on the phones was good for me at 16 years old, but, as I'm 27 years old with four kids, trying to live off $11.25 an hour.
Derrek Hofrichter: Oh, wow.
Lamont Page: Yeah. It just wasn't working for me. A buddy of mine introduced me to a program where I could work for the Marines, and it was a beautiful job, man. I loved it. The only problem was it was a single man's job, so I was gone 27 days a month and then came home for seven days. And, with a wife and four kids, that does not lead to a good marriage.
Derrek Hofrichter: Right.
Lamont Page: So I kind of stumbled into the trades, man. I needed to find something that would keep me home, and I wanted to find something that was comparable to what I was making there because, I mean, it was a huge jump from $11.25 an hour to almost $80 grand a year. But I couldn't sustain it. Do you know what I mean?
So I heard an ad on the radio that said, "Hey, if you wanna make $75,000 a year, call such and such company, and we'll make it happen."
Derrek Hofrichter: And you were like, "I don't know how to turn a wrench." Ha ha ha.
Lamont Page: Haha, I don't know, haha. But that's what I told them. I said, "Yo, I have no experience. The most I've ever done was probably use a hammer and a nail, man." That's pretty much it. And the guy was like, "We'll train you."
Derrek Hofrichter: He's like, "You're hired." Haha
Lamont Page: Yeah. Haha. That particular company, that's what they were known for. They wanted to take people who had not been in the trades, they didn't want any bad habits, and they wanted to kind of groom me to their culture. And it was a cool experience.
Derrek Hofrichter: That's really cool to have that opportunity. From a business standpoint, that's smart and practical because there is a huge shortage of technical trade workers. So if a company is just waiting for an experienced guy to walk in the door, it's probably not gonna happen.
So I like that they're reaching out and like, "No, we'll give you the experience."
Lamont Page: Yeah. And it gave me the opportunity to allow somebody like me to get into the trades. I had some people who were older than me who never turned a wrench before, had one guy, he was 55. Oh, wow. And he was in my training class with me.
And it was pretty cool to see the diversity. We had a couple of female techs. Nice. And they did pretty well. And it's cool because you kind of build a brotherhood there, and I still talk to some of those guys today, so.
Derrek Hofrichter: Nice. Well, let's talk about some numbers.
Lamont Page: Yeah.
Derrek Hofrichter: All right. So, I'm having this conversation with you because you're here at our SBE Conference. We're excited. I'm excited. You're winning an award this year, right?
Lamont Page: Yeah.
Derrek Hofrichter: So last year, 2022, that's the year that you won the award. What was your total revenue as a technician?
Lamont Page: It was somewhere around $802,000 or something like that.
Derrek Hofrichter: Nice. Congratulations. What was your revenue the year prior?
Lamont Page: The year prior, I was probably in the $250,000 range.
Derrek Hofrichter: Okay. $250,000. You know, $200-$250K is kind of like what a typical technician generates in most companies.
Lamont Page: Exactly. Yeah.
Derrek Hofrichter: So there might be a lot of guys listening to this. And they're like, "That's what I do."$200-$250K. And for them, something like going over $800,000 is like a fantasy world. So what happened?
Lamont Page: For me, even trying to reach the milestone of $500,000, I thought was impossible only because I am the guy that fixes everything. And I think it was the mindset. So I was in SBE 2019. We came and did a class in Arizona.
Derrek Hofrichter: Mm-hmm.
Lamont Page: And I was fired up about it, man. I loved it, but I felt like I couldn't execute it. And I kind of got discouraged a bit, and the thing that really got me fired up again were some of the other techs came to an awards ceremony last year, and they told me how much fun they had, how much it was a blast. They went to the Phoenix Suns game, and I said, "No, I'm not missing this one."
Derrek Hofrichter: So you had some FOMO (fear of missing out).
Lamont Page: I had some FOMO, man, haha, but it really was just a mindset change. I never really understood what they meant. Every call is an opportunity, and when I slowed down, and I really looked at the opportunities I was missing, it kind of upset me a bit.
Derrek Hofrichter: Yeah. Tell me more about slowing down because I hear that from a lot of techs. They'll tell me, "You know, my light bulb, I needed to slow down." And I was like, "Well, I'm sure people had been telling you to slow down for a while." When did it actually click of what that meant actually to slow down?
Lamont Page: So, it clicked when I finally got to a point where I was seeing success and some of the things that I was doing. You know, I started off with very small goals. I just wanted to either do IAQ, push duct cleaning, or just do something to where I may not be able to do a full system yet consistently, but if I can just get this one thing, time and time again, it'll help me out. I just focused on one thing, and that was the IAQ. And it helped me have a mindset to understand what I was lacking. And then once I finally got to that point, you know, I worked with the coaches, I worked with my supervisors, and we came up with a plan, and they helped me out.
Derrek Hofrichter: Nice. I want to talk about IAQ for a second because a lot of techs really struggle with IAQ. It's really hard for them. They don't know how to do it. You know, they'll say, "No. I ask everyone if they have allergies, and everyone tells me, "No." So, what did you figure out that made you successful with IAQ?
Lamont Page: Well, so the thing is, I really believe in it.
Derrek Hofrichter: That's important.
Lamont Page: Yeah. I really believe it. I have two children who have really terrible allergies, and I needed something that I could use in my own house and have a story for the customers. So the big thing for me was I was going through the same thing as those customers.
I used to ask, "Does anybody in the home have allergies?" And I was always getting shut down. Even if they did have allergies, even if they were sniffling or sneezing. As you said, "Buyers are liars." So when I said I've got to do something different. The Will Smith "Smell my finger" tricks. That worked for me a bit, and then I really found success with videos and pictures, and then that didn't work for me after a while.
So I said, "All right, well, let me just start taking these doors off. Let me take the panel door off because the biological growth is actually on the panel." I can take it down, show the customer, and if they want to see more, I'll just take them back up to the space. And that right there has been a game changer because nine times out of 10, I was always presenting the price to them and hoping they would buy.
When they see that door panel, it's about 70-80% of the customers that I can get. They'll ask me before they even talked about price, "When can I get this thing installed?"
Derrek Hofrichter: Yeah. So you switched it up. Just show the problem.
Lamont Page: Just show the problem. Yeah.
Derrek Hofrichter: Show the problem and trust that the homeowner is not going to want to have what they see in their house. Correct?
Lamont Page: Yeah. And if they don't respond the way I want to, it's okay. That's their house. And I just move on to something else. I don't let it affect me. I don't know if I have time for a quick story, but my wife and I went to a timeshare meeting.
Derrek Hofrichter: Mm-hmm.
Lamont Page: The salesperson built rapport with us, and she was extremely friendly. And then, when it came time to talk numbers, my wife and I just decided it was not a good idea for us to do it at the time. And her whole attitude changed. Like, she just went from this nice happy-go-lucky lady to someone who thinks, "I just wanna hurry up and get you out of my space."
Derrek Hofrichter: So it was an act.
Lamont Page: It was an act. Yeah. And you know, that feeling there, I was like, I hope my customers would never experience that from me. And I have to be willing to understand that this is their house, this is their life, and they have the ultimate decision to make a yes or no decision in their life. And I just have to deal with it.
Derrek Hofrichter: Yeah. You don't, it's not an act. Right. You do care.
Lamont Page: I do. Yeah.
Derrek Hofrichter: Right. And you do wanna help them.
Lamont Page: Yeah. I'm grateful for the fact that SBE is here because it's opened my mind up to a lot more. Last year I was only doing system sales, and I was excited about system sales. This year, I'm like, well, I was missing out on ductwork opportunities, duct cleanings. I was missing out on add-ons. So my average ticket last year was about $8,000. I want my average ticket this year to be about $13K or 14K.
Derrek Hofrichter: Okay. So you made a massive breakthrough jump from $200-$250K to go over $800K, and you blew past the half-million mark right to $800,000. So what are the goals for this year?
Lamont Page: This year, I want to go above and beyond.
Derrek Hofrichter: Yeah. So you want to get above $1.5 million. Okay. So you mentioned ductwork is going to be a big way.
Lamont Page: Yep.
Derrek Hofrichter: What else? Because now you're basically saying you're going to double what you did last year.
Lamont Page: Yeah. Yeah.
Derrek Hofrichter: So spell out for me the game plan.
Lamont Page: So in December, I kind of did the math, and if I get close to selling 70 systems with add-ons, and the average ticket is about $15,000, that's already a million right there. And I would still have my repair revenue.
I do about 50% repairs and 50% sales. So my repair revenue is going to eat up the other $500K, but it's not just selling the system. It's taking time with the customer. I have a quick story. I can tell. We offer financing and the financing is something that has really transformed my numbers because everybody can't afford $10,000 off the bat.
Equipment is getting really expensive. So a customer called me because she had a smell issue. I pulled the door panel off. The system was about 10 years old. She says, "No, I don't want you to clean it. Replace the entire system." That was a gimme, right? But she had another system downstairs that she did not want me to touch.
And I said, "What I'll do for you when you purchase this system, we'll go ahead and sign you up for maintenance so that I can inspect this unit because I know you're about to sell the house. She says, "Yeah, the only thing I care about is it passing inspection."
I said, "Okay." So I get out there, I look at the unit, and it's a 12-year-old system. So it's going to look the way it looks. She calls me back the next week and says there was another smell issue, but now it's downstairs. So. The rodents had ravaged her ductwork in like a week.
We had a very cold snap where two days, it was like 10 degrees, so they were all in crawl spaces and just tearing ductwork up. She was so adamant that she did not want me to touch that system. She didn't want to talk about that system. All she wanted to do was pass an inspection on that system, and I offered her financing.
One of our financing options was 12 months, with no interest payments for the first 12 months. We worked it out to where she didn't think she would get approved for anything. She got approved for almost $40,000.
Derrek Hofrichter: Wow.
Lamont Page: She put two systems and ductwork on that one ticket. And to me, that was kind of an eye-opener because she was giving me so many objections as to why she didn't want to replace the system.
She's got to go to Northern Virginia for a job interview. She's going to sell the house. She just wants to cut corners to deal with it.
Derrek Hofrichter: Yeah. She was probably completely focused on a big number. And that's all she could focus on. She's afraid of it. She couldn't afford it. So once you made it more approachable and more realistic. It's not that she didn't want the new system. She just didn't want the big numbers.
Lamont Page: Exactly. Yeah. And it wasn't a one-time deal. I went back to her three times in the span of a week, and I just had to make her comfortable because she had a lot going on, you know what I mean?
She's got young kids, and the biggest thing for her was she's already got a kid that's sick. She doesn't want him breathing in those fumes. So it's as you said, man, those pain buckets. If you get to those pain buckets and you can really empathize with the customers and put yourself in their shoes, it becomes more than just, "Hey, I've got to meet my numbers." Just you know, "Hey, I've got to help this family." Do you know what I mean?
Derrek Hofrichter: Yeah. Thanks for sharing that story. That's really good. And for every technician listening to this, get good at financing.
Lamont Page: Yeah. Dude, that's a game-changer, man. Game changer.
Derrek Hofrichter: So, Lamont, before I let you go, any words of advice you want to give to a technician listening to this who's maybe just started, later in their life, or maybe they're listening to this because they're thinking of becoming a tech. Anything you wanna throw out there?
Lamont Page: I'll say, man, stick to a goal and stay focused on it because if you don't stay focused on your goal and you're not tracking your goal or your progress, you may think the three nos that you got the day before is just a rough spell, but you're forgetting the five yeses you got two days ago.
And one thing that I like is that Will Smith said that if you keep focused on your goal, the yeses, and the nos will balance out. And a lot of times, you'll see you're surpassing your goal at the end of the day.
Derrek Hofrichter: That's good. So it's such a good reminder for everyone to keep in mind. All right, everyone, thanks for listening.
Outro: Thank you for listening to the Trusted Technician podcast. If you would like to learn more about SBE, you can find us online at sbeodyssey.com. If you enjoyed today's episode, we would appreciate it if you would leave us a review. Thank you for tuning in, and we'll see you next time.