One of the highlights of the annual Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) conference has come to be the “I’ve Got an Idea!” session. At the 39th ACCA Annual Conference & Indoor Air Expo, the event was transformed into “I’ve Got a BIG Idea!” with bigger-than-life Bob Ring Jr., president of the Meyer & Depew Co., Kenilworth, N.J., again playing the role of master of ceremonies.

Bobby, as he is known to hundreds of contractors and friends, kept the pace of the program lively and entertaining. His 6-foot-6-inch New Jersey presence was only overshadowed by his choice of colorful attire: bright red shorts, a yellow shirt, and a much-maligned red Rutgers baseball cap.

This year’s program took a different twist as the best ideas from a group of preliminary offerings made their way to the big stage in the form of five contractors with interesting stories to tell. The audience voted with remote electronic indicators, à la television game show style, for the best idea of the day. Contestants were vying for a grand prize cash award of $1,000.

Gary Floeter of CHC Mechanical, Cookeville, Tenn., offers his employees one free day off for achieving a continuous safety record.

Floeter said, “I was surprised to find that the entire company is earning several days off each year with this program. It might sound like a lot at first, but the total savings to the company because of less lost time is paying for the program.”

Floeter and Ring discussed the details of the program as they talked of reducing modification rates that affect insurance costs for the company.

Theo Etzel, of Conditioned Air Corp., Naples, Fla., also had come up with a program for reducing insurance costs. He instituted a program whereby employees earn reward points for safety that can be redeemed for gifts in a high-end catalog program.

“The employees love the opportunity to choose their own gifts,” said Etzel.

Jim King of Power Engineering, Wilkes-Barre, Pa., offered his “Leave Early, Get Paid” program. The company’s service team was empowered to handle small construction projects instead of handing them off to the construction team. The crux of the idea is that once the job is completed and has met the quality and time parameters that have been set, an employee can take the rest of the day off. The program was met with a barrage of questions from Ring and the audience, and appeared that it might be the front-runner for the grand prize because of its unique approach.

Clyde Tauriainen of Easco Total Comfort, Huntsville, Texas, promoted his radio advertising program and onsite broadcasting.

The grand prize winning big idea eventually was presented to Robert Alexander of Bay Area Air Conditioning, Crystal River, Fla. He described an introduction class to the HVAC business, which he effectively uses to attract new employees into his company.

As technician recruitment is often cited as the top challenge facing HVAC companies, the audience obviously saw this big idea as one that was not only unique, but very appropriate to help them with their own recruitment initiatives.

Publication date:04/16/2007