Someone needs to fill ‘Doc’ Rusk’s shoes.

I don’t know how many of you knew my old friend “Doc” Rusk, but during the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s he was a superstar in our industry.

He was one of the first to travel the country putting on seminars for HVAC contracting and service companies (under the auspices and support of Honeywell) to explain the advantages of selling HVAC accessories, such as humidifiers, electronic air cleaners and programmable thermostats.

Of course, Doc did much more than that. Since he owned a service company, which was physically located just across the river from downtown Cincinnati (under the Interstate bridge crossing the Ohio River), Doc was also willing to share his successful company’s secrets and paperwork with all who attended. And although in his later waning years I wrote his magazine columns each month (under Doc’s direction), he always beat me in the readership polls.

You see, Doc was an innovative man in an un-innovative industry. Why back in the early 1940s, he actually bought the service company from the local gas utility in Cincinnati, rather than vice versa, as today. He was also one of the first and most progressive when it came to realizing the financial advantages of promoting HVAC accessories. Honeywell took note of this and was eager to promote his seminars.

Although Doc’s programs were very popular, they were primarily for contractors. However, supply houses also promoted them since they, too, had much to gain. Doc’s message was: “You can add much to your company’s bottom line profits by promoting accessories, because they net a higher profit margin.”

Nothing has changed since that message is still true today. Of course back then, contractors had Doc Rusk to explain this to them. But in your area, it’s just your company to fill this gap. So, what are you doing to explain the advantages to the less creative?

The nice thing is that we have so much more to offer than they had in years past. Now we understand so much better what is really needed to get healthier, more comfortable indoor air. Yes, providing humidity to the air during the winter in northern climates is still important, since it reduces nasal problems and cold-related illnesses, while eliminating those nasty shocks from static electrical discharges. At the same time, electronic air cleaners (which reduce pollen, dander,  even bacteria from the indoor air) have become far more effective. But now, we have such great new ideas as ultraviolet lights that totally sanitize the air, some of which also provide small amounts of ozone, which can clean up dirty ducts and coils.

Ah yes, and then there are the whole-house ventilator systems, which can eliminate buildups of unhealthy humidity, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, aldehydes and other air-borne contaminants. Other accessories can reduce indoor humidity even more, including the growth of mold spores. Some programmable thermostats can also be operated from your cell phone!

So, what are you doing to promote your business? Unfortunately, this is still a business dominated by the unimaginative, and we no longer have Doc Rusk to speak for us. Is someone in your company up to the task of filling his very large shoes?