ACCA Imaginations Run Free

March 5, 2007
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Large crowds are characteristic of the many ACCA educational seminars. There are 26 seminars planned over a two-day period in Orlando.

ORLANDO - In the magical and mystical world of Disney, children are encouraged to use their imaginations and dream of what it would be like to fly with Peter Pan or cross swords with Pirates of the Caribbean. These dreams are played out daily in the many Disney theme parks in Orlando, Fla., which is also the setting for the 2007 Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) Conference & Indoor Air Expo.

And it is no coincidence that the theme for this year’s meeting is “Imagination in Action.” It’s also no coincidence that the event, March 6-8, is staged at the Disney Coronado Springs Resort.

“Walt Disney demonstrated what you can do with a vivid imagination, which is why he and his brother Roy built the happiest place on earth,” said Skip Snyder, owner of the Snyder Co. and former national ACCA chairman.

“Just imagine what you can do with a little imagination, you know, outside-the-box thinking when operating your business. After all, I’ve said many times a ‘plain vanilla’ contractor will probably get plain vanilla results.”

ACCA literature states that, “If you can imagine it, you can make it happen - and the 2007 ACCA Conference is all about creating new opportunities for your business.”

The three-day event attracts some of the leading speakers and exhibitors in the HVAC industry. What makes this event such an important business tool for ACCA members is that the topics featured are all born out of suggestions from member contractors. ACCA asked its members what they wanted to hear and have responded with a full schedule of 26 seminars including the latest business and technical topics.

SEMINARS: DAY ONE

The seminars are kicking off with six topics on Wednesday, March 7 at 8 a.m.

First up is the “High-Performance Marketing Makeover” hosted by marketing “guru” Adams Hudson of Hudson Ink. Hudson is to tell the story of three contractors from three different cities with three separate challenges. Each contractor took three marketing steps that increased their sales and set records. As Hudson said, “Come see what they did, copy the strategies, and take ’em home to try in your business. Beware: No theories, no fluff - just pure insider marketing techniques that work. See actual ads, real numbers, and real results from real contractors ready to share how they overcame the exact challenges you face ... and won ... big.”

Skip Snyder is to discuss cash flow in his seminar “Cash Is King: Understanding Cash Flow & How to Keep Afloat.” Snyder is to talk about 20 ways of generating cash in an HVAC business.

“The cash flow class will cover some of the basics, but I’ll also touch on some creative ways to enhance your cash flow, things that some, if not many, contractors have not utilized or even thought of,” said Snyder. “The intent of this seminar is to challenge your thinking and expand your world of possibilities.

“I’ve found the best ideas I’ve used came from discussions with other business people; it works every time. Join our discussion on cash flow and hopefully come away with a few ideas that will set your imagination free.”

Energy designs and building codes are also on the Wednesday morning agenda.

Don Colliver from the University of Kentucky will host a seminar titled “Advanced Energy Design Guides: Small Office And Small Retail.” In it, Colliver will highlight the Advanced Energy Design Guide (AEDG) series. The guides are easy-to-use documents that will assist designers, contractors, and owners in constructing and operating buildings that use significantly less energy than those that just meet the energy codes. The first guides are aimed at developing buildings which are 30 percent towards a net zero energy building.

Changes in building codes are to be discussed by Jay Peters of the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) and Bob Guenther of the International Code Council (ICC).

The seminar, “Building Code Changes That Affect Your Business” reinforces the codes and the standards their organizations develop, distribute, and enforce. These codes and standards are meant to level the playing field. ACCA has an active interest because it is working to ensure that its members have a voice in the codes process.

Skip Snyder (left) of The Snyder Co. will host a seminar on the importance of cash flow. He is pictured here with Rex Boynton of North American Technician Excellence (NATE).

Later that day at 1 p.m., six more seminars are scheduled, including “The Price Is Right: Knowing Your True Costs and Setting The Right Price.” It is hosted by former NEWS’ “Best Contractor to Work For” winner Hugh Joyce of James River Air Conditioning. Joyce is to talk about how much a contractor should charge for his or her services. The discussion will include the following topics:

• Determining target gross margins;

• Flat rate service pricing systems and reports;

• Time and material service pricing;

• Replacement installation pricing strategies;

• Overhead and gross margin to labor ratio analysis;

• Estimating sheets and templates;

• Warranties.

“The goal is to simplify the mystery of pricing and then lay out a plan to monitor actual versus estimated results,” said Joyce.

“The James River Air Conditioning proprietary “Flat Rate Pricing Sheet and Cookbook” will also be presented and interfaced with the industry benchmarked pricing strategies. In short, we are looking at how to set prices based on overhead and field labor, and the ratio of the two.”

Several speakers will participate in a two-part discussion on performance contracting. Titled “Home Performance Contracting,” the series is to highlight the differences between what contractors have historically done and the new market processes of home performance contracting.

Speakers Larry Taylor of Air Rite Air Conditioning and NEWS’ contractor consultant, Steve Saunders of Tempo Mechanical, Chandler von Schrader of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Brendan Reid of the Comfort Institute are to talk about the components of home performance contracting, i.e. attic insulation, attic ventilation, thermal bypasses, infiltration, energy consumption, pressurization and other issues related to building science.

Six sessions wrap up the Wednesday schedule beginning at 2:30 p.m. Ray Isaac of Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning is to talk about finding people that are the right fit for an HVAC contractor.

His seminar titled “The Art of Hiring: Finding People Who Are the Right Fit for Your Company” explores the problem of technician shortages which affect contractors across the U.S. His approach to finding the best people does not necessarily mean finding the best skilled people, it means finding the best people.

“My presentation is on positioning your company to be the employer of choice, and how this enables you to attract and retain qualified employees, with an emphasis on the definition of qualified,” said Isaac.

Green is the color of choice in the seminar titled “LEED the Way: How Commercial Contractors Can Benefit from the LEED Process” presented by Ellis Guiles of TAG Mechanical Systems. This session is to review LEED criteria for commercial buildings and their impact on the construction process, and show how mechanical contractors can set themselves apart from the competition, positively impact the environment, and increase profits. In other words, it’s easy being green.

Some of the educational seminars at ACCA meetings get so crowded that there is standing room only. It’s a good idea to arrive early. Having a writing pad and handout for each seminar is a must, especially if attendees plan to share information from one of the many topics covered at the ACCA meeting.

SEMINARS: DAY TWO

Four seminars kick off the Thursday, March 8 schedule at 11:15 a.m. Contractors can learn some ideas on employee incentives from two of the leading contractors in the residential and commercial markets. Tom Gabrilson of Gabrilson Heating & Air Conditioning and Larry Cook of TDIndustries are to share their thoughts in the session moderated by NEWS’ Business Editor, John R. Hall.

Gabrilson and Cook are to outline a specific incentive program that kept their employees involved and motivated. Hall will recap some of the incentive ideas from each of the winners of The NEWS’ 2006 “Best Contractor to Work For” winners.

Brooke Duncan of Adams & Reese is to show one of the darker sides of employee misbehavior: embezzlement. His seminar, “When Employees Steal: Protect Yourself Against Embezzlement” is to look at lessons contractors learn before they find out the hard way about dishonest employees.

“That’ll never happen to me!” is what Duncan noted as a common excuse from business owners. “That’s what a lot of contractors say - right before they discover that a trusted employee has quietly stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he said in his seminar description.

The four Thursday afternoon sessions, beginning at 2:15 p.m. are very diverse and include a look into how contractors can become better trainers. That seminar is entitled “Train The Trainer In Training: Becoming A Better Trainer For Your Employees” presented by Greg Goater of Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning.

ACCA describes the seminar this way, “It doesn’t matter if your staff meeting involves one person or 100, as a contracting business owner, it’s your job to keep your employees trained and motivated. Whether it’s about safety, sales or service, there’s more to training than talking, and more to presenting than PowerPoint.”

Goater said, “Research shows that there are at least seven distinctly different learning styles, and the more styles a trainer can incorporate into their presentation, the more likely it is that the students will grasp the material.”

Frank Menditch of PlusOne Solutions hosts another seminar in the same time slot that is geared toward HVAC contractors who are looking to succeed in the new construction market. His seminar, titled “How to Succeed in a Changing Residential Construction Market” is timely because of the slowdown in residential new construction.

“Work has drastically slowed,” he said. “Builders are demanding deep price cuts. Competition is cut throat, bidding low on every one of your existing jobs. You want to avoid layoffs and hold on to your workforce and your jobs without dire economic consequence. What will you do?”

BEYOND THE EDUCATION SEMINARS

One of the most popular returning features is the ACCA signature CEO/Contractor Forum.

It is the only residential and light commercial forum that brings together the chief executives of major HVACR manufacturing companies and contractors. The CEOs take questions from the audience and engage in dialogue on issues of concern to all sectors of the HVACR industry. It is to be emceed by Mike Murphy, NEWS’ editor-in-chief at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

One of the most fun and informative sessions of all offered at the convention is often the “I’ve Got a Big Idea!” session.

The session as described by ACCA: “What’s your best business idea? Maybe it was a new marketing twist you tried, a new way to manage inventory, an improvement in technician efficiency, a community service project - any idea that you’ve implemented which made a difference to your company. We want to hear it, and you might win $250 if your idea is picked as one of the top five - and you might even win $1,000 if attendees at the conference pick you as the top idea!”

The session will be presented at 4 p.m. on Wednesday. People with imaginations are urged to attend.

For a complete listing of all events, including a full schedule of special activities, visit www.acca.org.

Sidebar: 2007 Award Finalists

The Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) announced the finalists for the 2007 ACCA Awards for Excellence.

“These are the most prestigious contractor awards in the industry,” said Paul T. Stalknecht, ACCA president and CEO. “Each of these companies deserves accolades for the commitment to excellence that brought them to this pinnacle. Just making it this far is an honor.”

The winners will be announced at ACCA’s Annual Conference and Indoor Air Expo in Orlando, Fla., March 6-8. The finalists are:

ACCA Award for Excellence in Residential Contracting: Apollo Heating and Cooling (Cincinnati); Atlas Butler Heating and Cooling (Columbus, Ohio); Great Dane Heating and Air Conditioning (Clinton Township, Mich.); and Robert H. Ranck Inc. (Lancaster, Pa.).

ACCA Award for Excellence in Commercial Contracting: Deiter Bros. (Bethlehem, Pa.); Hobaica Services (Phoenix); and TDIndustries (Dallas).

Jeff Forker Award for Excellence in Training: DiFilippo’s Service Co. (Paoli, Pa.); Energy Management Specialists (Cleveland); Halco Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning (Phelps, N.Y.); and Morris-Jenkins Co. (Charlotte, N.C.).

“The finalists represent the best in our business,” concluded Stalknecht. “They are the leaders in customer service, professionalism, and community involvement.”

Publication date: 03/05/2007

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