ACCA Elects New Chair
|Laura DiFilippo, vice president of DiFilippo Service Co., Paoli, Pa., has been appointed ACCA’s 2012-2013 national chairman. She is the first woman to serve in the role.|
The Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) will proudly appoint Laura DiFilippo as national chairman during its 44th annual conference and expo, March 5-8 at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas.
DiFilippo, vice president of DiFilippo Service Co., Paoli, Pa., served as ACCA board of director’s senior vice chairman last year and will serve a one-year term, replacing Joe Nichter, of Comfort Systems USA Southwest, Chandler, Ariz.
DiFilippo is the first woman to serve in the role.
“It is truly an honor to represent the members of ACCA as their chairman. I’ve served with many great chairmen over the years and to be part of this elite group is humbling,” she said. “I realize how important it is for me to be a role model, as many great women in our industry have been role models for me. I am ready for whatever challenges lie ahead and look forward to interacting with our membership and industry partners.”
DiFilippo grew up in Upper Darby, Pa., and graduated from Upper Darby High School in 1986. She studied music education at West Chester University before working as an administrative assistant for Transport International Pool’s national headquarters and as an institutional representative for The Vanguard Group.
In 1989, she married her husband Vince and the two welcomed their first child, Marcus, in 1992. Vince operated a family-owned HVAC business and needed some help with the finances. Laura stepped into the role, dedicating one night a week to paying bills, reconciling bank statements, and allocating the company’s books.
“When I started helping out, I realized how much work was involved with running a small business. I started slow, coming into the office one day a week and then began taking meetings with vendors, insurance companies, accountants, and anyone else essential to running the business. By taking on those responsibilities, it allowed Vince to focus on what he was doing,” she said. “I discovered that I really liked the work and that I could structure my role in the company around my role as a mom. By the time Lexi was born in 1996, I was working two full days in the office and one night doing the books. As our children grew and went off to school I continued to work more hours.”
In 2010, she assumed the role of vice president.
Since she began manning the books, DiFilippo’s Service Co. has accumulated multiple awards, in-
cluding ACCA’s Residential Contractor of the Year; National Comfort Institute Contractor of the Year; Main Line Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year; and six consecutive Best of Life – Main Line Life Readers Choice awards.
“Vince and I make a great team. He loves the technical end of the business and I love the business side,” she said. “He knows he can trust and rely on me to get things done.”
DiFilippo’s first involvement with ACCA occurred with the Delaware Valley Chapter in 1996. Her participation was spearheaded through the state’s decision to deregulate utilities — which allowed larger companies to competitively enter the market.
Following the ruling, larger companies and national corporations stormed the market, looking to purchase HVAC contractors, in an effort to build customer lists, increase market shares, and monopolize utility customers.
DiFilippo turned to ACCA for support.
“ACCA gave those of us who wanted to continue our businesses and compete with this newly developed market a place to band together. We found comfort knowing that we had a safe place and other individuals to lean on while things continued to change,” she said. “We formed a networking group called QWIX and began implementing ACCA’s Quality College into our businesses. The good news is that those companies weren’t successful in their attempt to dominate our market. We learned that we could be better businesses through stronger relationships because all members of the chapter were important.”
DiFilippo was asked to sit on the Delaware Valley Chapter’s board of directors in 2000, serving as secretary and then chapter president from 2001 to 2006. During her Delaware Valley Chapter tenure, DiFilippo met then-chapter president Skip Snyder. In 2003, Snyder became ACCA national chairman and encouraged her to follow in his footsteps.
“I was already participating in the national organization on the professional development committee, so I decided to run for election and won,” she said. “Over the past eight years, as an ACCA national board member, I’ve chaired and served on many committees and in every officer position. My passion has been workforce development, working with Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) and Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors (PHCC) on the apprentice manuals, chapter relations, and organization governance.”
2012 and Beyond
DiFilippo expects 2012 to be a challenging year for contractors and the HVAC industry as a whole, but believes cooperation and collaboration could provide the simplest path to prosperity.
“I think we are already seeing that 2012 is going to be a challenging year for the HVAC industry. Unseasonable weather patterns, cautious consumers, and lower SEER dry equipment has affected companies across the country this January. And with regional standards breathing down our necks, R-22 prices rising, and the elimination of tax credits, 2012 is off to a pretty scary start,” she said. “This unsettling environment is going to require our industry to work together to find the right solutions so that we can all benefit. It’s going to require some real soul searching on what we want this industry to be and where we see it going. Communication is going to be vital. We can’t just keep going on as we have in the past. We have to realize we are all in this together.”
While revenue is down, some contracting businesses may elect to cut association membership costs. DiFilippo believes ACCA membership is especially important when times are tough, insisting membership has positively impacted her entire company and continues to influence her day-to-day decisions as a contractor.
“As a small business owner I can’t do everything; ACCA is like having another employee who knows and does everything you don’t have time for,” she said. “ACCA’s unlimited resources provide contractors with the tools they need today to survive in these trying times. When the economy is down, that is the best time to join or get more active as you have an opportunity to learn new techniques and practices, see and learn about new products, and get the advice you need on employees and consumers.
“But even more importantly, ACCA is working on things most contractors don’t know about or understand. These items may have a great impact on their businesses. We say our members are the best contractors in the country and that is true. Why wouldn’t any business owner in our industry want to surround themselves with the best? ACCA inspires me to be more.”
As chairman, DiFilippo vows to not lose sight of her roots.
“In the end, I’m a small HVAC contractor,” she said. “I work every day in our business, just like our members. I understand them because I am them.”
Publication date: 3/5/2012