One of the draws of the ACCA Convention is its various and abundant workshops, which are on the program for 2008. “We don’t just bring in eggheads and consultants to teach our workshops,” said Tommy Castellano, 2008 chair of the ACCA Program Advisory Committee. (Feature photos courtesy of ACCA.)

Sure, Tommy Castellano could be considered slightly biased on the subject. After all, the owner of Castellano Air Conditioning of Tampa, Fla., is the 2008 chair of the ACCA Program Advisory Committee. It’s only natural that Castellano believe the multitude of workshops to be offered at this year’s ACCA Conference are going to be exceptional.

“The reason that the ACCA Conference is so much better than anything else out there is that the program isn’t set by one person or some committee,” he said. “Every year, ACCA staff conducts surveys of our thousands of contractor members, and they tell us what they want to know more about, and that’s what goes into our program.

“And we don’t just bring in eggheads and consultants to teach our workshops. We go out and find successful working contractors who know what works on the ground, and are willing and able to share their knowledge. Oh sure, for a few of the sessions we bring in some of the leading outside experts because they have something important to tell us. But the programs at the ACCA Conference are designed to be nuts and bolts stuff you can put to use to make more money right away, not pie-in-the-sky.”

Time will tell. However, based on the lineup at previous conferences, plus comments from pleased attendees from past gatherings, here’s betting the 40th annual meeting will be a success, too. ACCA said it has taken the “XL” to heart in creating an “extra-large” program of educational and networking sessions, all designed to help contractors “excel” in their business and personal life.

“I can’t even tell you how many ACCA Annual Conferences I’ve gone to - more than 15, I’d say,” remarked Tom Hawkins of Hawkins Air Conditioning, Abilene, Texas. “They just keep getting better and better. There’s nothing like the ACCA Conference in our industry ... ACCA is really dedicated to our well-being and success. They listen to us, and that’s what makes the conference so valuable. The speakers are experts in their fields and the knowledge they share with us is on the cutting edge. If you only attend one industry event all year, it should be the ACCA Annual Conference.”

NEWS editor-in-chief Mike Murphy (far right) will once again emcee the CEO/Contractor Forum at the 2008 ACCA Convention. Participants last year included (from left) Tom Huntington of York/Johnson Controls and Dave LaGrand of Nordyne.


ACCA said it has put together more than 25 workshops for the Feb. 5-7 conference. Here is a brief rundown of what to expect.


• Implementing Performance-Based Pay Programs -Kyle Gargaro, managing editor forThe NEWS,will emcee a panel discussion with Steve Saunders of Tempo Mechanical (Dallas) and Ron Collier of Collier Consulting (Dripping Springs, Texas). Discussion will revolve around how successful contractors get high performance from their employees by rewarding the right stuff.

• Website Makeovers -Back by popular demand, Brian Kraff of Market Hardware Inc. (Bethesda, Md.), will provide 10 best tips designed to make a contractor’s Website competitive and marketable in 2008.

• Creating Living Business Plans -Brandon Jacobs of Contractors Financial Opportunity (Houston) is to show, as he put it, “how to unlock the mystery of accurate financial forecasting and create a winning business plan that can be incorporated into your day-to-day business.”

• Using the ACCA Residential Maintenance Standard to Improve Profits -This session will discuss the association’s new Residential Maintenance Standard’s minimum level of acceptable compliance, inspection checklists, and implementation strategies for profiting from the new standard. Hosting the discussion will be Pat Murphy from North American Technician Excellence (NATE) and John Sedine of Engineered Heating and Cooling (North Canton, Ohio).

• Commercials Control Design & Diagnostics -Mitch Slavensky of ACS Controls (Sacramento, Calif.) is scheduled to assist HVAC service providers into better predicting the future when it comes to HVAC preventive maintenance. Slavensky said attendees will learn how one can project equipment breakdowns and determine the “hidden” costs of inefficient HVAC operation - “vital information for service and maintenance scheduling, and necessary for making cost-effective replacement decisions,” he said.

Larry Sambrook, of Indoor Air Quality Network (Staunton, Va.), stresses a point at a workshop session he guided at last year’s ACCA Convention. More than 25 workshops are available at the 2008 convention.


• Enhance Profits by Improving Workplace Safety -Greg Goater of Isaac Heating and Air Conditioning (Rochester, N.Y.) will be on hand to discuss what his company did in regard to committing to safety. “Safety is our fundamental responsibility to our people and our customers - and it also happens to be a profit center,” said Goater.

• Employee Benefits That Work for You and Them -In this workshop, hosted by Tim Vibrock, find out what innovative benefit programs that employees love “and that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.”

• IAQ Opportunities for Contractors -This presentation, from Glenn Fellman of the Indoor Air Quality Association (IAQA), is scheduled to delve into state legislation adopted in 2007 and/or introduced in 2008 to license indoor environmental professionals and how these new regulations may affect the HVAC contracting industry.

• Using the ACCA/ASHRAE Commercial Maintenance Standard to Improve Profits -Ellis Guiles of TAG Mechanical (Syracuse, N.Y.) will provide information regarding the standard, which outlines the minimum acceptable maintenance requirements. Guiles said his session is designed to help contractors use this new standard to educate building owners and operators, “set yourself apart from other contractors, and make more than a few bucks all at the same time.”

• Selling Air: Marketing HVAC as a Service, Not a Box -Presenter and contractor Larry Taylor of AirRite Air Conditioning (Fort Worth, Texas) said he plans to show attendees how to convince customers “that you’re selling quality of life - at a premium price.”

• Creative Collections: Getting Paid What You Deserve -Ramon Fouse of TransWorld is scheduled to provide 10 steps to getting past-dues from customers “that can dramatically improve your results.”

• Building Codes: What Changes Does the Industry Need Next? -Jim Heritage from Energy Audits is to discuss proposed code changes that may affect HVAC contractors. In addition to a certified code official, this forum will include leaders from the major building codes, Doug Fredrickson of International Association of Mechanical and Plumbing Officials (IAPMO) and Jay Peters of International Code Council (ICC).

• Learn How to Create a Powerful Marketing Buzz in Your Area -“Learn how to leverage free media to generate buzz in your local community - without spending anything other than a little time and sweat,” said presenter Jeff Lee of Goyette Mechanical (Flint, Mich.).

• How Small Contractors Can Implement Employee Training Program -According to ACCA, one of the industry’s best trainers - Jack Rise of Jack Rise HVAC Technical Training (Tinton Falls, N.J.) - is to show attendees how one can put together a rock-solid education program for employees that produce results.

• Employee Incentive Programs for Residential Service -This panel of contractors, which will include Vince DiFilippo of DiFilippo’s Service Co. (Paoli, Pa.) and Paul Wadsworth of P. K. Wadsworth Heating & Cooling (Solon, Ohio) - is scheduled to discuss incentive programs designed “to help maximize residential service revenue.”

• The New Manual N -The original Manual N, considered the standard for quality-minded contractors, has been thoroughly revamped to account for the multitude of changes in construction practices and materials. Providing input on the new manual will be Jack Bartell of Virginia Air Distributors and Kenny Watson of Roscoe Brown Inc. (Murfreesboro, Tenn.).

• Health Insurance Options for Lowering Costs -Tim Vibock will provide straight talk about programs and services a contractor can use to lower premium costs, and how they will really impact a company and its workers.

• Making Sales Presentations That Seal the Deal -Presenter Rick Hutcherson said he will provide information that “can make the difference between making the sale - at a profitable price - and going home empty-handed.”

• A Brand Is Not a Logo: Projecting a Consistent Image of Quality and Professionalism -Per ACCA’s preview press release, “Learn how one award-winning contractor has become the market leader in its community through consistent branding and quality service.” The presenter will be Robert Wilkos of Peaden Air Conditioning (Panama City, Fla.).

• Getting #1 on Google: Growing and Defending Your Business on the Net -Brian Kraff of Market Hardware (Bethesda, Md.) is to explain exactly how to make sure that consumers “find your Website when they need it most.” In a real-life example, Kraff is to explain how he helped double an ACCA member’s Web business in 90 days using Internet marketing.

• Measuring Airflow -At this workshop, Rob Falke of National Comfort Institute (NCI) is scheduled to provide the basics of live field measurements, “and know for sure how well your systems are - or aren’t - performing.”

• How to Make Money with “Quality Installation” -Ellis Guiles of TAG Mechanical (Syracuse, N.Y.) will tell the ins and outs of quality installation.

• Expanding from “Just HVAC” Into Other Services -A panel of contractors is to show attendees exactly how they identified markets and services, researched the move, and executed. Scheduled panelists include Skip Snyder of The Snyder Co. (Upper Darby, Pa.), Josh Kahn of Kahn Mechanical (Dallas), and Steve Hardesty of Hardesty Team (Oklahoma City).

• Hey Dude! Managing the Next Generation of Workers -Jeff van Kooten, from the Center for Generational Studies (Aurora, Colo.), is set to teach how a fifty-something should lead a twenty-something. “You must understand the values and attitudes of both new and experienced workers,” said van Kooten.

• R-410A: Smart for the Environment and Business -Karl Zellmer of Emerson Climate Technologies (St. Louis) is scheduled to supply information regarding the deadline for transitioning from R-22 to more environmentally friendly refrigerants. Per Zellmer, “This seminar will address both residential and commercial air conditioning markets.”


• Running a Successful HVAC Restoration Business -Tom Yacobellis of DUCTZ International (Ann Arbor, Mich.) will show attendees how to run a restoration center, including startup strategies, hidden management bottlenecks, financial breakdowns, and staffing requirements.

• Becoming an Effective Communicator -Sarah Michel, a communications consultant with Perfecting Connecting, said she “will show you how to get your message across - the right way, for the right audience.”

• 50 Ways to Leave Your Customers Wanting More -ACCA said it collected some of the best ideas from ACCA member contractors to keep customers coming back for more. Guiding the workshop will be Bobby Ring of Meyer & Depew (Kenilworth, N.J.).

• Whole House Diagnostics -A panel of contractors will discuss the business challenges and strategies of incorporating home performance and how Energy Star could help position a contractor in the marketplace. Panel members will include Chandler von Schraider of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Steve Saunders from Tempo Mechanical (Dallas), and Larry Taylor of AirRite Air Conditioning (Fort Worth, Texas).


Wilkos, of Peaden Air Conditioning, is looking forward to participating in the workshops.

“Ever since I attended my first ACCA Annual Conference, I have set aside the time to go every year,” he said. “Why? I believe it to be healthy to stay in touch with the industry as well as be knowledgeable about future trends and different perspectives, especially in our company’s own niche.”

The No. 1 reason why Laura and Vince DiFilippo of DiFilippo’s Service Co. (Paoli, Pa.) go to the conference is to renew relationships the couple have built with other contractors from all over the country.

“It’s a great opportunity to network and brainstorm,” said Laura DiFilippo. “ACCA is also on the cutting-edge as far as seminars go. They’re not the ordinary, run-of-the-mill workshops you find at many conferences. And the keynote speakers are incredible. They’re captivating, knowledgeable, and well-known. They always set a tone of excitement.”

For more information or to register, call 703-824-8856 or go to

Publication Date:02/04/2008