Starting a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) company is a lot like starting any sort of company, at least in terms of the basics. You’ll need a solid business plan before you get started, and training and experience working with HVAC equipment and machines is also really important. Many of the most successful business owners started out as technicians and laborers, but training is also offered in many trade schools and institutes. In addition to know-how, you’ll also need good parts; one of the most important aspects of owning a business is owning or leasing your own equipment. Finally, you’ll need clients. If you’ve been working in the industry for awhile you might already have relationships with some people and companies, but in order to expand and remain profitable for the long-term you’ll also usually need to bring in new business, which can take some work. As your company grows, you might also need to think about hiring employees, which brings a host of payroll and benefits concerns.
Create a Business Plan
Starting an HVAC business isn’t simply about hanging a sign stating you are open for business. Just like starting any service-related company, having a solid business plan and references of the quality work you perform is key to a successful new venture. A careful inventory of the level of services you are qualified to offer is a good place to start.
Plans can vary depending on your situation, but they usually include things like costs, funding, and projections for growth and profitability looking forward a few years. You don’t necessarily need a lot of business expertise to craft this sort of document and it isn’t usually required — but it can be really helpful.
Formal plans often are required if you’re thinking of legally incorporating, though. Incorporation is a way to formally register your business as a specific entity, for instance a limited partnership or a private company. There are many reasons to think about incorporating, but in most places tax incentives are a major factor. The formal process of incorporation is usually limited to paperwork, but it can be complicated and, if this is a path you’re thinking of taking, it might make sense to meet with a lawyer with business experience.
Most jurisdictions require HVAC technicians to have and maintain “service licenses,” which are basically credentials that represent a basic level of training and experience. The specifics can vary from place to place, but in most instances you must get proper HVAC training from an accredited school in order to obtain a license to practice HVAC contracted services in your locality. If you intend to actually perform services as a business owner, this is something you need to keep in mind, and it’s equally important for owners who will be delegating the work to hired contractors or staff. Whoever is doing the work needs to have the proper credentials. It would be not only irresponsible but in many cases also illegal to provide HVAC services to customers without the correct training and licensure.
Broad Importance of Experience
Experience is important for more than just getting a license, though. A familiarity with the way the systems work is one of the most important things you’ll need when you start an HVAC business. Some of this can be studied and learned in a formal academic setting, but a lot of it is built from on-the-job experiences. If you don’t already have a lot of hands-on HVAC experience, you might consider doing some basic work or repairs for friends or colleagues in exchange for a reference or testimonial of your performance as a contractor. Not only are references important, but these experiences will also build your portfolio and boost your confidence.
Invest in Quality Equipment
It's also important to obtain the equipment needed to perform this type of work. Some of the tools of the trade may include a work van, temperature and pressure gauges, hand tools, gas and air measurement equipment, and duct and tubing connectors. In most cases it’s perfectly acceptable to do some work on your own time using your own equipment while you work for another HVAC vendor, but it is never a good idea to use your employer's equipment or vehicles to perform work for your own clients. In addition, it's important to provide yourself and anyone who works for you with safety equipment and commercial liability insurance in case of any accidents or problems.
Solicit and Maintain Clients
Clients are one of the most important parts of any successful businesses. You may not have a long roster of clients when you first start an HVAC business, but you should make it a goal to slowly build your base and forge new relationships as time goes on. If you have previously worked in the field you may bring a number of contacts already, but even so it’s important to look towards the future when it comes to growth. Thinking about advertising and promotional deals is often an important part of this.