Murphy's Law: Join the Club, but Bring a Paddle

September 21, 2009
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Mike Murphy

“I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.”
- Groucho Marx

Aside from parenting two teenage girls, in my spare time, I am the membership director for a community group that raises money for a variety of charities. I don’t agree with all the rules and tenets of the group. I don’t attend all the meetings. I don’t get along with all of the members. My membership card really did get torn up in the washing machine, which means someone literally has to vouch for me to get in the door even though I know the secret password. (To enhance your reading pleasure, I often make stuff up for this column, but I’m not kidding about the membership card.)

A friend of mine has turned down successive offers to join our little club, always citing the famed Groucho Marx line whenever I happen to approach him about jumping on the bandwagon. Others often tell me they are too busy to join. Some just never return phone calls or e-mails - one person openly wondered how I got through the Do Not Call listing he had established.

The bottom line is that this community group sorely needs a better membership director.


Today I bring my questionable skills to this industry. What will it take to drive more people to join the variety of HVACR clubs that are much in need of your participation? As many of you are aware (the percentage of our readers who belong to industry associations is higher than the industry norm), there are tangible benefits to belonging to a club that would have you as a member. Having attended a number of local, state, and national meetings with a variety of groups, perhaps the one most constant benefit I have witnessed is the process of networking among friends, enemies, and competitors. The degree to which these members often share private information with peers for business improvement is truly amazing. By doing so they really are lifting all boats with a rising tide.

Being a member of any industry club does not inherently make a contractor better than Groucho down the street. Certainly not; good people are good people regardless of whether they belong to any particular organization. It simply provides an opportunity to become better at conducting one’s own HVACR business.

This field is one of the last service industries with as few barriers to entry as it currently has. As new HVACR technicians arise from the ashes of any number of professions crippled by economic layoffs, and as new contracting businesses spring up overnight, wouldn’t it be nice if every new entrant to this fine industry was required to join one of the many clubs available? Think of it as an apprentice program for newcomers. Upon completion of a one-year membership, the Grouchos would be able to quit their respective clubs, but after one year of diligent attendance at club functions, many would realize the benefit and most likely renew of their own accord.

Ah, herein lies the key to a successful first year: diligent attendance. Case in point: If I were to attend more of my own club’s meetings, I might be better able to understand the needs of our membership, thereby becoming a better membership director. Likewise, faithful HVACR followers who are immersed into their club’s activities, even just standing around talking to other contractors, will likely become better HVACR businesspeople.


In the coming weeks, The NEWS will be attending a variety of industry events, from the MechanicalXchange, a gathering of North America’s top commercial mechanical contractors in Phoenix, to the Air Conditioning Contractors of America Commercial Roundtable and Service Manager’s Forum in New Orleans, and the Mechanical Service Contractors of America annual conference in Bonita Springs, Fla. A common thread through all will, no doubt, be the hallway conversations that usually bring as much value, if not more, than any of the educational sessions that accompany the meeting formats.

Regardless of one’s decision to join or not to join a club, perhaps another Groucho Marx quotation would be less appropriate:

“I aughta join a club and beat you over the head with it.”
- Groucho Marx

Interestingly enough, Marx eventually became a member of the Motion Picture Hall of Fame. If it’s good enough for Groucho …

Publication date: 09/21/2009
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