“Is Your House Making You Sick?” the billboard asked, as it perched high in the sky, up above Cleveland Highway in Dalton, Georgia. The logo was unmistakable. My dad had another sign up in town for his HVAC business.

I was a junior in high school and worked in my dad’s business as what I considered to be the Office Manager position. Typical boss’s kid, right? We always think we’re worthy of the more important roles, when in reality, I wasn’t the Office Manager; I simply answered the phones and ran parts to job sites. A few of my high school friends worked in the business, too, as install helpers. Yes, I thought it was cool that my dad owned his own business, and I enjoyed boasting about it to my friends. “My dad’s shop is the big building under the overpass up the North bypass.”

But back to the question posted on the billboard: “Is Your House Making You Sick?” This all-too-familiar question wasn’t just on this billboard; it was in surveys, flyers, postcard mailers…and often, the phone would ring from across the U.S. somewhere.  Someone not even in our hometown would call my dad, looking for help. These folks would call because a beloved family member had an illness determined to be coming from within their home, but they hadn’t been able to find and solve the problem. People would hear about and find my dad on the internet after looking for what they usually said was approximately two years. Two years of searching for someone to help them with their Indoor Air Quality. What an underserved market.

IAQ was our specialty. I knew that; everyone in town knew that, and the question, “Is Your House Making You Sick?” was the line that marketed the IAQ leads my dad would go on to sell the high-ticket jobs that all too often kept our HVAC business out of famine.

What others shrugged off as a customer who was impossible to please, my dad understood as someone who simply hadn’t gotten their problem solved yet.  He didn’t stamp them as complicated or frustrating; he stamped them as a person who was seriously uncomfortable and unwell, and he saw an opportunity to make a difference.  My dad had (and still has) a deep-rooted passion for helping people and solving their problems, and nothing made him happier than knowing that he finally solved someone’s health issues…well, that and the big check that came with it, of course.

Yet still…I didn’t grasp the ‘ah-ha, oh my, wow’ discovery until last week.Even after 25 years in the industry and a lifetime of IAQ talk, I still hadn’t internalized how crucial IAQ work was until last week…and then I connected the dots.

Fast forward 25 years of being in the industry, and a lifetime of hearing my dad talk about IAQ, yet it didn’t hit a chord until recently. That’s right.  Here at The New Flat Rate, we determined to write a menu pricing system for Indoor Air Quality, a pricing system that would help contractors learn to price this type of work, paired with a training system and “how-to” check list of materials, supplies, and best practices.

Sitting in that conference room, armed with white boards, smart boards, laptops, recordings, stacks of data, and the lifetime experience of Rodney Koop and John Ellis, who had spent most of their lifetime in the pursuit of helping homeowners discover and solve their Indoor Air Quality issues, my eyes began to open. I started to connect the dots.

Day after day, Rodney and John discussed the environment of the home. Keeping what’s ‘in’ in and keeping what’s ‘out’ out, sealing off contaminants, infiltration, ionization, weatherization…and many more ‘ation’ words…the list went on.  With every menu we wrote, I grasped even more understanding of how underserved the need is, and how the industry as a whole is underequipped to help homeowners with their IAQ from discovery to resolution and ongoing maintenance.

I walked to our bedroom and rolled up the gorgeous 4” thick, 12×12 shag area rug and had my husband haul it out to the dumpster.

And I went home Friday night, poured a glass of champagne, toasted with my husband, and said, “Honey, we’re making some changes because our house is making you sick;” then I walked to our bedroom and rolled up the gorgeous 4” thick, 12×12 shag area rug and asked him to carry it out and haul it to a dumpster. That’s right.  Even I, who had heard that question my whole life, didn’t grasp how important IAQ was for my family and how important it was for my contracting members and friends to have an easy way to offer, price, and serve the IAQ market in their areas.  And the market is huge!

Think about it with me.  Don’t you know those people who are always sneezing or sniffling?  Who have the constant nuisance of a cough or a tickle in their throats? Who always just feel a little under the weather?  They simply chalk it up to “Oh, I’ve always had this cough.”  I’ll bet at least one person has popped into your mind just thinking about it.  We might all have ‘always’ had a pesky symptom, but it doesn’t mean we are supposed to, and it doesn’t mean we have to!  Let me rephrase that.  It doesn’t mean your friends and family and community members have to be sick, and you can be the one to help them!

This is not a promo for our product. This is a wow. True expertise is developed over time, and if you’re looking to get into the IAQ market to help bring diversification to your business, or perhaps you’ve experienced the satisfaction of helping a customer who desperately needed your help, but don’t know how to market for more of those leads in the future…then the question for you is, “Is Your House Making You Sick?” Test it in your marketing and let me know what happens. My guess?  You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Danielle Putnam
President, The New Flat Rate

Advisory Board Member, Women in HVACR