It’s the missing link to third-party TAB services.

This year, I had the opportunity to provide a class to TAB technicians, supervisors, and TAB business owners at the annual TABB conference in San Jose. I outlined the existing opportunities for TAB firms, the process associated with implementing a third-party TAB business plan, how to develop the business plan, business development strategies, and selling the services.

I found the discussion well received with a lot of good questions, but I left with the feeling they don’t get it. For the most part, TAB firms’ major source of business is to be contracted by a mechanical contractor, and they are hired (more often than not) based on the low bid. For the most part, they are a commodity similar to engineers-to-architects, and their scope of work and fee reflect the inevitable results.

To actually think they could be in control of their business opportunities and be able to follow the procedures outlined in the books they sell on “how to balance air and water systems” appears to be too much of a leap of faith for them. At first, I found this disappointing, but then it hit me: they need to create a limited liability contract (LLC) consulting company to break the mold they are comfortable in.

LLC PRIMER

So for all you TAB firms out there, as well as commissioning groups/firms and consulting engineering firms, here is my plan, using the traditional TAB firm as my example:
  • Set up a separate third-party TAB consulting firm. Why: Need to break away from current company policies and procedures for doing business and to be perceived as a consultant and not a TAB person with a new name.

  • Hire an experienced consulting HVAC engineer to manage the manage the firm, create the business opportunities, and facilitate the TAB work (using the TAB parent company to do the actual TAB technician work). Why: Need to start with someone who already thinks like a consultant and who can train others to be a consultant. Consultants are good at performing surveys, writing reports, etc.

  • Use the TAB 1-2-3 process to establish the TAB consulting standards that also compliment the TABB, AABC, and NEBB organization standards. Why: Every consultant firm has office standards for surveying, writing reports, completing field visits and punchlists, etc. The TAB 1-2-3 process has been developed by a consultant to provide TAB consulting services by taking the best that each TAB organization has to offer.

  • Direct the business opportunities by networking with HVAC consulting engineering firms, building owners (who have capital projects each year), owner representatives, commissioning engineering firms, construction managers, and integrated project delivery (IPD) facilitators. Why: A third-party TAB consultant isn’t competing with design engineering firms any more than third-party commissioning firms are. Calling on owners is what consultants do because owners don’t usually have the in-house resources to provide these services. Commissioning firms should welcome the third-party TAB consultant as a partner in getting the HVAC systems commissioned (although some people think TAB is commissioning). And, finally, the more educated construction managers and IPD facilitators will recognize and appreciate the importance of third-party TAB based on all those capital projects that never quite met the owner’s expectations because of the air and water balancing.

  • Draft up a business plan and projected sales revenues to benchmark each year’s performance. Why: Any business venture requires a good business plan that is well-documented and not something in someone’s head.

  • Market the services through organizations such as APPA (colleges and university support services), ISPE (pharmaceutical market), ASHE (health care market), and USGBC (LEED® new and existing building projects). Why: All of these organizations have a need for third-party TAB if they have a need for third-party commissioning
For the TAB firm venturing out in this consulting LLC initiative, they aren’t abandoning their core business any more than construction management abandoned their core business when they started to bring on engineers in-house.

The business strategy is to win one project and then double sales with a second win. Right now, a third-party TAB consulting firm would be ahead of the curve, with the only competition being the ability to “sell” TAB consulting services in sync with owner’s buying commissioning services. Just think, a TAB professional providing consulting services in the design phase followed by facilitating the required air and water balancing by their TAB parent company.

And I haven’t even touched on all those energy retrocommissioning job opportunities. Check out this month’s “Back2Basics” or February and May “Back2Basics” to begin to see the TAB consulting service opportunities in this down-turn economy. The byproduct of TAB consulting will most likely create problem solving TAB work for the parent company. ES

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