by Jim Hinshaw

By now you realize I am part of the Service Roundtable, a forum for HVAC, Plumbing, Connected Home and Remodeling contractors. We share best practices in all these trades and we see some concepts that will work in all those disciplines. Last month we saw one of our members, Corey Hickman, who owns Comfort Matters in Minneapolis, take the concept of service to the community and expand on for local businesses and customers. He began by asking, what can we do about this? And then taking action to make a difference.

He started with the concept of helping his customers who couldn’t get out during this Pandemic. He put together a campaign called: “Are you stuck at home?” The message was, we have trucks driving around town all day long, if you need an essential item, be it milk, bread or Tylenol, we can help. Give us a call, we will pick up those essential items, drop them off at your home. That campaign was viewed on FB close to 12,000 times.

He then took the concept up a notch, looked at his local area and saw a lot of small restaurants that have been involved in the community for years and they were hurting. You know, the same ones we ask to support our little league teams, soccer teams, school sports of all kinds. They are now shuttered, some are able to do carryout, but that is a fraction of their normal business. So Corey decided to go to his FB friends again, this time for the mom and pop restaurants. His concept was easy, buy a gift card from a local restaurant in his area, send him a copy of that receipt and he will buy a gift card from that same restaurant and send it to you, up to $75. Or offer you a 20% discount on you next service call, your choice.

The response was amazing, he felt good, but just as important, the employees were engaged by giving back to the local community. But wait, there’s more! Corey was on a networking call with some local businesses when the someone made the comment that local hair salons were really facing a tough time. All those chairs are empty, and most are owned by the hair stylist. They have nothing coming in, their income is gone in some cases. So the company started a plan to help a different segment of the local marketplace. This time the offer was based on buying a gift certificate for a local hair salon, massage professional or nail salon, send the receipt over to Comfort Matters and they would buy a gift certificate at that same location and send it back to you. He put a cap of $50 on this offer but was amazed at what happened. Corey said people were buying $100, $200, even some came in at $1000 even though his match was $50. Confirmed what he thought, that hairstylists are very, very capable of spreading a story.

Corey said that he believes that the campaigns pushed about $30,000 into the local community, at a time when it was needed the most. They then looked at what else they could do.

Masks. Corey is not making masks, rather he is making a slide in filter insert for a cloth mask. You see, a cloth mask does not do a lot to protect the person wearing it, most virus particles can get thru it. But when you add a Merv 13 filter insert, it becomes much more effective at stopping those germs. On Comfort Matters website, they have a set of instructions on how to make a cloth mask with a “kangaroo pouch” to slide in a Merv 13 filter element. He does not make those masks. There is a link to people in the area who will make the masks with the pouch. On his website, Corey will let you sign up and receive a couple of the filter inserts delivered to your home, no charge.

His website also has videos on how to make a mask if you have the sewing ability in your family, as well as how to care for the mask and inserts. You can actually heat the mask and filter material up to 170 degrees for 30 minutes and that will kill any viruses on the media. It can then be used again.

This was another positive way Corey and his team are showing that they are servant leaders in the community. Now, how about your company? I hope this article has given you some ideas on how you can be of service and help out your community, especially those who are small businesses, they need our help today like never before. Corey said it was OK to copy his ideas, in fact, we have had 20 or 30 of our members do exactly that. Steve Miles with Jerry Kelly Air Conditioning in St. Charles, Mo was moved to action. He has produced at least 11 videos of him in front of a small locally owned business showing that he will buy gift certificates to people in his market who buy a gift certificate and send him a receipt. A quick count of those videos showed that they had been viewed 8500 times, shared hundreds of times, and liked almost immediately after posting. One of the first was viewed 2800 times, a great number for a video of a guy standing in front of an ice cream shop.

So, give some thought to how you can support the small businesses around you, take action this week. They will remember you and you will be blessed for it. Thanks for listening, we’ll talk later.