Networking with peers is often the No. 1 reason why ACCA contractors attend national meetings. Here, Laura DiFilippo of DiFilippo’s Service Co. exchanges ideas with fellow members.

ORLANDO - There are a lot of positives for holding an annual meeting in a warm climate that caters to tourists of all ages and interests. That’s why places like Orlando and Las Vegas are so popular as host cities. The 2007 Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) Conference & Indoor Air Expo in Orlando is attracting record numbers of registrants and exhibitors, in part because of the location. But that’s not the main reason why HVAC contractor members are lining up for their chance to visit with manufacturers, learn from educational seminars, and network with peers.

Contractors are going for the net benefit - a more profitable bottom line. Whether they get great ideas from peers, seminars, or products, they want to leave the meeting with at least one idea that will improve their bottom line. Most get more.

“The ACCA convention is the place where I can network with contractors and learn more about trends in the industry than any other gathering,” said Larry Cook of TDIndustries, Dallas. “If you listen, you can learn from all-size contractors things that will be affecting your business in the future, plus we can see the latest products from manufacturers that will be in the marketplace before others. If I don’t learn something new at the ACCA convention, it is my fault because the opportunities are there.”

Cook touched on a key point about the meeting: networking with contractors. Besides seeing old friends and going to social events, the knowledge gained from sharing ideas is priceless.

Aaron York of Aaron York’s Quality Air Conditioning, Indianapolis, andNEWS’consultant, said, “The annual conference is the place where like contractors can meet like contractors from across the nation. All these contractors freely exchange information to aid each other in the operation of more successful businesses. Friendships are established that last a lifetime. Pick up your phone and call one of those people with whom you have exchanged business cards and you will find a gold mine of assistance.”

York added that a chance meeting at a conference can result in future up close and personal encounters with HVAC contractors. “Visit one of their towns,” he said. “You will find them with open arms to greet you as they tour you through their facilities and freely exchange data. I recall spending a day in Montgomery, Ala., and called such a member. He exuberantly received me, showed me through his operation, and gave me one idea that made me thousands of dollars for years to come and still is today. Try putting a price on that.

“Tens of thousands of dollars are made by participating contractors every year from the info they receive.”

John Sedine likens his meetings to a religious experience - of sorts. The contractor from Engineered Heating & Cooling in Walker, Mich., said, “The ACCA convention is like going to church; it gets you revitalized and refocused on the things that are important. You can read all the books you want or watch all the videos out there, but there is nothing that can take the place of a discussion between two people.

“Personal networking opportunities abound at the convention. Where else can you speak with the president of the company who makes the equipment you install or the man who wrote the manual you use almost every day? If you have a HVAC-related question or problem there is someone at the convention who can help you with it.”

It isn’t all work and no play at ACCA meetings. Attendees get a chance to step out and visit with some inanimate objects like this robot, from last year’s meeting in San Jose, Calif.

Another Michigan contractor said he enjoys the exhibits and booths at the ACCA meeting because he has a chance to visit with more exhibitors without being overwhelmed by the enormity of a larger show.

“The trade show is one of the most relevant to our company in order to stay up to date on the trends in the industry,” said Craig Jones of Slasor Heating & Cooling, Livonia, Mich.

NEWS’consultant Larry Taylor of Air Rite Air Conditioning Co., Ft. Worth, Texas, thinks this year’s meeting is special for another reason. “If you don’t do anything else this year ... don’t miss this event,” he said. “Not only will you gain information at the conference but being at Disney World with your eyes and mind open will allow you to experience a new insight into customer service from the experts in customer satisfaction.”

In the end, all HVAC contractors attending this event will have to make a substantial investment to be there, both in the cost of the registration, hotel, airfare, and entertainment; and the cost of being away from their businesses for several days. But for most, their reasons for making the investment can be summed up in what contractor Bobby Ring of Meyer & Depew Co., Kenilworth, N.J., said.

“I’m attending because over the years I’ve learned that the ACCA annual conference is by far the best investment of my time and money to help me and my business.”

Publication date:03/05/2007