I recently had the opportunity to sit in the back of a meeting room and watch a presentation to Atlanta mortgage brokers.

I realized that there are 40 percent less brokers in Atlanta than there were a year ago and about 40 percent of the real estate market has dried up. The presenter asked, “How many of you are having a better year than you did last year?” In a room of about 75 people, only six or seven hands went up. About 10 percent were having better years than they did in the past.

Why? These 10 percent realized the market had dramatically changed. Instead of fighting the market, wishing that it would change to the way it once was and bemoaning the difference, these people found a way to take advantage of the changed market. They changed their attitudes. They changed the way they looked at the market and found a way to satisfy the new needs of the market.

They weren’t listening to the doom and gloom of the media. They were creative and found a way to increase their businesses, even in a down market.

In crazy economic times there are always some who survive, thrive, and do incredibly well. It’s all about attitude.

So how do we thrive in crazy economic times in the HVAC industry?

Keep your attitude positive. This is probably the most important and perhaps the hardest thing to do. Turn off the negative news. Listen to positive audio CDs and read positive, uplifting stories. Don’t get caught up in the negative spiral.

But you say being positive won’t increase revenues. You’re right. Be proactive rather than reactive. If the telephone isn’t ringing, call customers and prospective customers. The phone will start ringing. What are you going to do for customers that will save them time and cut their costs?

Keep marketing. Those monthly postcards do work. Will they produce phenomenal results the first month? Not unless you just happen to hit the market at exactly the right time. However, over a year or two, you will see dramatic results. Keep going, even in the slower times of the year.

Give out as many business cards as possible. When was the last time you gave your business card to the manager or owner of the restaurant that you regularly go to? Your service technicians and office employees need cards, too. They meet people all the time who could use your company’s services.

Resolve not to have all your business in one market segment. If one customer has more than 20 percent of your business, you may be in trouble if that customer goes out of business or decides to use a competitor. Find others.

Speaking of comparing business this year to years past, I was reviewing past Contractor Cents and I found this one from 2003. I was amazed that it is still applicable today. Here’s what I wrote in 2003:

The economy is uncertain. No one has a crystal ball. So how do you prepare and keep your business moving in a positive direction?

Some people are focused on doing only the things that they have to do to get by right now. Others are forging ahead and not allowing the political climate to affect how they act. Obviously, you want to find those who are not afraid of spending money. However, spending money still has to make sense. The likelihood is that people may stop spending a lot of money on things that they think may be discretionary. Or, they may spend money on their houses rather than traveling, which would be good for your businesses. Either way, now is the time to change your marketing focus.

In uncertain economic times most people are concentrating on ways to save money. They want to decrease costs. So, your message to them must be how they can save money by using your services. How do your service agreements save them money? How do they lessen the fuel cost increases that most everyone has experienced this winter? All of the information that you give to the customers must focus on things that they are interested in right now. That includes writing smaller checks to utility companies.

Back to today: Perhaps we go through uncertain economic times every five years? The reality is that we are in a cyclical business and will always have good times and slower times. Today, most consumers think air conditioning is a necessity; not a luxury like decades past. Just like gasoline, people have to have it. They may not be buying the most efficient equipment. However, they are still buying.

Your stable customer base will take you through the good economic times and the slower ones, too.

Copyright Ruth King. All rights reserved. Write to Ruth King, 1650 Oakbrook Drive, Suite 405, Norcross, GA 30093. Call (800) 511-6844; e-mail ruthking@hvacchannel.tv.