These days, it’s easy for just about any business to say they offer 24-hour emergency service. But it’s not always what it seems. If you have a plumbing or heating emergency — say your furnace goes out in the middle of a cold winter night — and you call up a heating specialist that advertises 24-hour service, who do you expect to talk to?

Most of us would say someone who actually works there. However, that isn’t always the case. More businesses are relying on an outsourced phone-answering service. And then, after you call the emergency service number, that service isn’t always guaranteed.

I’ve had plenty of conversations with other plumbing and heating businesses that advertise a 24-hour emergency service but don’t always follow through. What the customer considers an emergency might not be what the business considers an emergency. They’re not going to take time out of their night to help someone who’s toilet may be overflowing. Situations like this happen all the time. People are left to wait until morning for service.

What you consider an emergency shouldn’t matter. This is why we take our office phones home at night. When you call the 24/7 emergency number, you get one of us. It might be Lynn, myself, or anyone who happened to take a phone home that night. The point is, you get someone who can help and you get your emergency taken care of, no matter the hour.

When I’m asked what sets Lewis MacLean apart from our competition, I may say, “Well, we offer true 24/7 emergency service,” but in all honesty, it goes much deeper than that. I recently had a call from one of our suppliers. He mentioned a new heating and air businesses was struggling to get off the ground. They had the technical details down — they knew how to service heating systems — but for what they had in service knowhow, they lacked in actual business experience.

I gladly offered my advice and shared some of the insight I’ve gained from years of running businesses. I’ll help in any way I can. To some, it might seem odd to help a competitor, but I don’t mind at all. I simply love to help people, whether it’s our clients or the competition!

For a friend of mine who lives down in Rhode Island, it was a different story altogether. He loves to help people in much the same way. One day, he was having a conversation with the owner of a competing HVAC company. This company was running into a few problems and, as it happened, my friend had answers.

So he offers the competition his playbook, but this company didn’t want anything to do with it. They were worried my friend had an ulterior motive. What that ulterior motive might be, I couldn’t tell you, but they were willing to lose out on perfectly good advice. I suppose that’s their prerogative.

From where I sit, there isn’t any reason why everyone can’t win. The great thing about plumbing and heating businesses is that we’re all different. I do things my way, and others do things their way, for better or for worse. All I know is that our clients appreciate our approach to doing business. I suppose that’s why they keep calling us.