Finding new niches

The past few weeks have been eye-opening. I attended Connect 2011, WaterSmart Innovations, and interviewed Doug Dougherty of The Geothermal Exchange Organization. What do these three events have in common? Finding a new niche is necessary to grow your business and expand your knowledge. The two go hand-in-hand.

At Connect 2011 positivity and finding new niches were themes of the conference. Even though economic woes can bring anyone down, it is important to remain positive and look for hidden opportunities. You may have to dig deep to find them, but they are out there.

Kirk Alter, president of Fast Management Inc., associate professor at Purdue University’s department of building construction management and program director for the PHCC Educational Foundation management courses, told attendees that even in a bad economy contractors can have a heyday if they take advantage of their opportunities.

The key to finding opportunities is to look for trends, and expand businesses based on those trends, such as sealing building envelopes, offering energy and water audits, etc. And it is also important to know what others are doing. The U.S. Military is already using energy and water efficient technologies, which contractors can learn from. NASA is also employing technologies contractors would find interesting.

Check out the articles Energy use is reduced by 30% at new U.S. Army barracks and NASA Sustainability Base uses state-of-the art technology for mechanical systems. These are just two impressive projects by the U.S. Military and NASA.

Another way to expand the business while staying in the HVAC arena is to offer geothermal. Doug Dougherty is a big believer in geothermal technology. However, he said that it’s tough to change the mindset of mechanical engineers since they often have a hard time doing a 180-degree change. Click here to read more from Dougherty in the October feature about geothermal technology.

“They are comfortable designing chillers and boilers and using natural gas and electric in a traditional way,” says Dougherty. “When you say what about geothermal heat pumps they think that they now need to deal with drillers, pipes in the ground, finding someone to size the units and accurately design the loop field. Often they don’t think they can make that transition, and decide just to keep doing what they have been doing.”

It’s easy to keep doing what we have been doing, but no one can have that mindset any longer. If we do, we will not grow as individuals and our businesses will not grow either.

So, going back to what Alter said in his presentation at Connect 2011, educate yourself and stay current by attending workshops and learning about conservation technologies. By looking to the opportunities that present themselves today and thinking outside of the box, you can create a niche and grow your business.

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