Level Up Your HVAC Business Plan Every Year to Ignite New Growth
Running an HVAC company on hopes and dreams, or without a solid HVAC business plan, can only take you so far. Sure, you might make it out of the gate as a startup and gain new customers along the way, but then business growth starts to slow down, so you begin looking for ways to get unstuck and grow your customer base.
That’s when you need to simply focus on your HVAC business plan, says Chris Hunter, Principal Industry Advisor for ServiceTitan. Remember that living, breathing document with all of your goals, strategies, and visions? It’s where you’ll find the answers you seek for igniting growth.
“If you don't have any vision of what you actually want to accomplish, the odds of you getting there are very slim,” says Hunter, paraphrasing one of his favorite Yogi Berra quotes. He says it’s a lesson he learned early on as a service business owner and founder of Hunter Super Techs.
“We didn't have a plan,” Hunter says, “It was just, ‘Let's just keep doing what we're doing and hope we get better.’ It was just a bunch of hope.”
Rather than rely on hope, Hunter turned to his mentor Ben Stark to learn more about annual planning and how important it is for growing an HVAC services business. It’s about HVAC business owners creating a strategic roadmap with specific business goals for each department, then holding team members accountable for results on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis.
Hunter says that, once he updated his HVAC business plan following Stark’s annual planning advice, the results were amazing.
“The first year after we did it, we went from single-digit profitability to double-digit profitability, just because we had a plan,” says Hunter, who later joined Stark as co-founders of the Go Time Success Group, a business consulting and coaching firm, and as co-authors of It’s Go-Time in 2020.
With the fight for talent tougher than ever in the HVAC industry, Hunter says HVAC contractors who tend to succeed are the ones who have the vision, the business plan, and the culture.
“And this doesn't happen by accident. They have to be very strategic in creating this, and it’s exactly what you do when you go through an annual planning process,” Hunter says. “You design what you stand for, where you're going, and how you're going to do it.”
To help HVAC contractors get started, we compiled a sample HVAC business plan template. In the guide below, we outline the most important information to include in each section.
Table of Contents
Why You Need a Business Plan Each Year
Before getting into the nuts and bolts of what to include in a business plan, it’s important to understand why you need one in the first place, and how reviewing and refreshing your business plan every year can help to supercharge your HVAC business operations.
Crafting your HVAC business plan gives you a roadmap for becoming a successful HVAC business, providing in-depth analysis of what it’s going to take to get there. A business plan is meant to be tweaked and adjusted as sales forecasts and economic conditions change, and reviewing it each year keeps your small business ahead of the game.
“Every year, you still have to adjust the plan and make sure there's nothing in there that needs to be tweaked,” Hunter says. “What did we do good? What did we do bad? What external threats are there (like a pending recession)? Or what do we need to be aware of?"
Once you understand who you are, where you want to go, and what key performance indicators (KPIs) will take you there, Hunter says it's easy to reverse engineer and execute a successful business model and sales strategy.
“If I want to hit this sales goal, that means I need to produce X number of calls at a certain average ticket. And to do that, we need to generate this many leads,” Hunter explains. “And you can reverse engineer all the way back to your marketing, knowing exactly what we need to do to produce that number of calls, perform at that average ticket, and produce that revenue every month.”
While concerns about trying to grow a heating and air conditioning business in a struggling economy cause some HVAC contractors to hold back, Hunter says now’s not the time to take your foot off the gas.
“Great companies plan for it. They ramp up their marketing during a recession because they know they can grow,” Hunter says. “They make it easier on homeowners by offering different financing plans. They get smart about how they're offering their maintenance agreements. It's also a great time to acquire talent. If other companies aren't planning, and their techs aren't busy or they're laying off, now's the time to get the talent that's available out there in the marketplace.”
Read on to learn how to break down each section of your own HVAC business plan.
HVAC Business Plan
While the executive summary appears as the first page of your HVAC business plan, Hunter advises doing it last so it truly summarizes the overall picture for your company’s short-term and long-term goals.
“We've done all the planning and the strategizing, we know what we're going to do. Now let's just make it really concise,” he says. “This is our summary of, ‘Alright, here's what we're going to do, here are the next steps, and let's go get it.’"
Make your executive summary two pages or fewer, and try to write it in a professional and concise, but enthusiastic, voice. Explain your air conditioning or HVAC systems products, your target audience, and specific goals for employing highly qualified HVAC technicians and growing your HVAC business. If applying for funding, specify the amount and how you plan to use it, and more importantly how it will increase your profit margins.
“Make it very clear and concise, and summarize the plan, so you don't go through a lot of work and then the thing just sits on the shelf,” Hunter advises.
In your HVAC company overview, lay out the details of your mission statement and how you plan to accomplish certain goals and objectives. Describe the marketplace in which you operate, the industry outlook for installing air conditioners and heating systems in your region, and your most important company strengths and core competencies.
Include the following components in the company overview:
Goals and Objectives: Your goals, objectives, and KPIs change every year, so make sure your HVAC business plan outlines a path for achieving success within a certain time period, then measure the results. Look at your goals as destinations, your objectives as progress markers along the way, and KPIs as a tool for measuring overall success.
Marketplace: Define your core customer base and explain your HVAC marketing strategy, including the marketing channels you plan to use. You don’t need to go over the entire marketing strategy or every billboard placement here. In fact, keep it brief. Save the key details for the Marketing Plan section of your business plan.
Industry outlook: Your business plan needs to demonstrate your knowledge about the HVAC industry, including its current state and expected forecast. Is it a growth industry? What changes do you foresee in the industry, short term and long term? How will your company be poised to take advantage of them?
“A contractor can't have their blinders on and only look at what's going on in their company. They need to take time to look around and see what's happening elsewhere with other companies and in the industry in general,” Hunter says.
You can find statistics readily available online from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other organizations and trade groups. Hunter says ServiceTitan customers can see real-time market insights as well as how their HVAC shop stacks up against others in the market by accessing their ServiceTitan Benchmark Report.
Strengths and core competencies: What strengths set you apart from the competition? Will you offer services currently not available in the market? How will you train your staff to succeed? What background experience, skills, and strengths do you personally bring to this venture? Will you offer 100% customer satisfaction on every job?
Legal form of ownership: Describe the type of business you operate. Is it a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or limited liability corporation (LLC)?
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Products and Services
In this section, you’ll outline the most important part of your business: HVAC products and services. It’s also a good place to tweak and streamline the plan each year when you discover a certain product or service isn’t delivering like you thought it would.
“A lot of times, we'll chase after something and realize, ‘My goodness, we're putting a lot of effort into this product or this service and it's really only producing a fraction of our revenue.’ What I love to do during this time is identify the top 20% of what's producing 80% of the revenue,” Hunter says. “I like to see what's producing, then let's figure out, how do we really amp this up?”
Highlight any factors that give you a competitive advantage over other HVAC contractors in your service area. For example, do your service technicians possess advanced skills that enable them to work on high-efficiency HVAC systems or install high-tech indoor air quality systems?
Then, clearly answer the question, “Why us?”
“Why would somebody choose you? What makes you better than the other umpteen companies they can call very easily?” Hunter explains. “By identifying why you're better, whether that's your guarantees or warranties, whatever it may be, it not only helps you with your marketing message, but it also helps your team.”
Next, mention the pricing or fee structures for your HVAC services. Will you price HVAC jobs by the hour, or offer flat-rate pricing? Examine the wage rate in your area to ensure you pay your employees a competitive salary. Also include the hourly rate, how you’ll account for drive time, and billable amount for every job or service you offer.
HVAC businesses utilize marketing tactics to promote their companies, generate new business, and entice repeat customers. Hunter says marketing strategies based on real-time data and brand consistency are the most important factors to consider here.
“If you're using ServiceTitan, pull up your marketing dashboard and let's look at the data. What's the data telling us about our marketing? What's working, what's not? What should we double down on, what should we not? I think the data tells a pretty compelling story,” he says.
Also, don’t lose track of brand messaging throughout the year, and try to keep all content uniform and consistent across your website, on company vans, on uniforms, etc.
Your HVAC marketing plan includes the following components:
Understand the economics of your target market and include a market analysis, such as the current size and demand in the market, median household income, employment rate, as well as growth potential and opportunity for a business of your size.
Products and Features
Describe in detail all of your products, features, and HVAC work. For features, explain what sets your business apart from the competition. For benefits, clearly articulate the value you bring to the customer.
Reaching your ideal customer profile (ICP) requires identifying your target audience, including their demographics, income, geographic location, age, home type, and more.
Describe how you market to consumers, known as B2C marketing, or to other businesses, referred to as B2B marketing. If it’s a combination of both, you’ll likely need to create separate ICPs for B2B and B2C.
Systematically analyze your industry, product, customers, and the competition to determine where your company uniquely fits into the market. This is your niche. In a single paragraph, describe your unique position in the industry and how you plan to use it to promote your HVAC business.
Use various marketing strategies or a mix of marketing channels to reach the right audience at the right time. This may involve digital marketing, such as search engine optimization (SEO), Google ads, and social media, or direct mail, billboards and banners. Bottom line: You want to reach as many potential customers as possible, so don’t be afraid to try different marketing strategies.
Your strategy should also include the average cost to acquire a new customer, and take into account other marketing drivers, such as club memberships and word-of-mouth referral programs.
If you fail to measure or track marketing campaign results, how will you ever know if they worked? Always use data to fuel marketing initiatives, so you can focus your budget on campaigns that generate the most revenue for optimal growth. In today’s digital-first world, HVAC contractors increasingly use field management software to run their marketing initiatives and track ROI.
For instance, ServiceTitan’s Marketing Scorecard ranks all of your campaigns by revenue so you can see which ones generate the most revenue in real-time. With ServiceTitan Marketing Pro, you can build direct mail campaigns, create and send hyper-targeted email campaigns, track your online presence across multiple reviews sites, and easily monitor and identify wasted marketing spend or new opportunities through full-funnel digital ads dashboards that show true ROI.
Explain the daily operations of your business, its location, equipment, people, processes, and surrounding environment.
“This is the part that's so important to involve your team in,” Hunter says. “Have your leaders create their own action plan of how they're going to drive the results in their specific area. Whether it's a service manager, install manager, the CSR manager, the admin manager, whatever it is. If they'll own it, they'll want to drive the change to make this happen.”
The operational plan includes:
Production: How and where are your services produced? Be sure to include production techniques and costs, quality control, customer service, and inventory control.
Location: What requirements do you need in a physical location? Mention the amount of space, type of building, zoning, and utilities.
Legal: Include licensing and bonding requirements, permits, environmental regulations, industry-specific rules, zoning or building code requirements, and liability insurance.
Personnel: List the number of employees, type of labor (skilled, unskilled, and professional), recruiting efforts, pay structure, training programs, and job descriptions.
Inventory and suppliers: Include the kind of inventory (raw materials, supplies, finished goods), the estimated value, and your top suppliers.
Credit policies: Will you sell your services on credit or offer financing? If so, how will you approve customers or determine creditworthiness?
Management and Organization
Describe the key roles and job descriptions for all leadership roles in your organization, including the general manager, operations manager, HVAC technicians, and others. What experience do they bring to the business? Do they hold special or distinctive competencies? Is there a plan for continuation of the business if leadership is lost or incapacitated?
Review your business plan each year to evaluate your current staff, then make sure each employee knows what’s expected of them.
“Do we have the right people in the right seat on the bus? If not, maybe it's time to make some changes or move things around,” Hunter says.
Personal and Company Financial Statement
Include personal financial statements for each owner and major stockholder, showing assets and liabilities held outside the HVAC business and personal net worth. Bankers and investors will want this information if you’re applying for financing.
The financial plan typically includes a 12-month profit and loss projection, cash-flow statements, a cash-flow projection, a projected balance sheet, and a break-even calculation. Together, they present a reasonable estimate of your HVAC company’s financial projections. More importantly, the process of systematically breaking down the financial plan will improve your insight into the inner financial workings of your company.
Compile all materials, details, and studies used in your business plan in the Appendices section, so they’re readily available for future reference.
Hunter offers a final message about annual planning for HVAC contractors.
“The best companies out there, the ones that are highly performing, they're all doing this,” he says. “If someone's not doing this, it's never too late to start. Don't be intimidated by it. You don't have to be perfect the first year, you just need to get started. Every year you do it, this thing can get even better.”
>> Ready to set your HVAC shop up for growth and success? Download our free HVAC business plan template.