The NEWS Publisher, John Conrad (left), talks with ACCA President/CEO Paul Stalknecht about the disaster relief efforts in Galveston, Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. Conrad sits on the Disaster Relief Committee with other industry leaders. Stalknecht presented $1,000 checks to six companies immediately following the devastation to help them get in operating condition, and presented $250 checks to individual employees of companies that had been displaced.

HOUSTON - The Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) put its first National HVACR Service Managers Forum into the annals of Texas history. Kevin Holland, ACCA vice president said, “This exceeded our wildest expectations. We actually had to turn people away.”

More than 300 service managers from nearly every state (and two Canadian provinces) signed up for this new educational event designed exclusively for the men and women who manage HVACR service departments.

The forum was held at the Doubletree Hotel Houston Downtown, Oct. 9-10. The theme of the event was to create an impact on attendees’ lives, careers, and businesses.

Randy Creech, from Beyer’s Mechanical in San Antonio, is one service manager who was pleasantly surprised with the results. He said, “It is amazing to see so many service managers at a meeting like this. Usually, we have a tendency to think we’re too indispensible to leave the office for any length of time. But, I’m really glad I made this trip.”

At the National HVACR Service Managers Forum, sponsored by ACCA andThe NEWS, highlights included keynotes from two nationally recognized speakers. Garrison Wynn and Sarah Michel explored how to get great results from your employees, and how to communicate with your team, bosses, and colleagues in order to succeed. Both speakers blended important information with a sense of humor, and gained high marks from the attendees.

In addition, presentations by leading contractors and experts focused on how to improve service department operations and build a better career and bottom line.

Presentations included: Structure Your Service Department for Profit, by Rick Hutcherson, RHI; The Perfect Service Call, by Eric Knaak, Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning; How to Stay Cool When Customers Get Hot, by Steve Coscia, HVAC Customer Service; Finances for Service Managers, by Skip Snyder, The Snyder Co.; and Taking Your Service Agreement Program to the Next Level, by Michael Goater and Jessica Morriston, Air Conditioning by Jay.

Fifteen sponsoring vendors took an active part in the meeting with their booths strategically positioned in the center of the meeting areas, and many of them moderated roundtable discussions during one of the lunch sessions. Sponsors included: Jackson Systems, Equiguard, Johnson Supply, Rawal Devices Inc., Sawin Mobile, Data-Basics Inc., Jonas Software, Appion, Ultimate Tech, Copper Development Association, Discrete Wireless, Pure Chem, Davisware,, and Polar Technology.


At the opening session, Garrison Wynn combined results from the largest management survey ever conducted with real-life management and leadership solutions. Wynn is a former professional stand-up comedian who has hosted television specials and radio programs, and is a former Fortune 500 corporate department head that has developed and marketed industrial products.

Wynn connected with the audience through a mixture of very real-world examples and his natural tendency for humor.

Sarah Michel keynoted the closing luncheon with an artful twist on communications techniques. Using a four-quadrant approach to personality styles, Michel stepped through each style from the perspective of a service manager as he or she would work with a variety of people throughout a normal workday. She also mixed a myriad of experience with some good-natured humor, and involved the audience in the discussions. Michel said she would make her slide handouts available to everyone. Attendees can download the handouts at A link to her presentation will be near the bottom of the page.

According to surveys conducted at the meeting, 94 percent of attendees said the forum far exceeded their expectations, and over 90 percent said they would be back for the next one.

Larry Hopton, of Mechanical Contractor Inc., said, “Thank you for having the Forum for Service Managers. This gave me a lot of good information to take back and put into practice. It gave all service managers the opportunity to increase sales and performance opportunities.”

For more information, visit

Rick Hucherson of RHI, speaks to a packed house during the ACCA National HVACR Service Managers Forum in Houston. Hucherson’s Leading Effective Meetings and Training Programs training session focused on using weekly and monthly meetings, and training opportunities to maximize profits.

Sidebar: Change Management

HOUSTON - Service managers play a key role in the success of a contracting business. In addition to usually being the key technical troubleshooting resource in a company, they often manage the largest single department in the company. At a meeting developed exclusively for service managers, more than 300 attended a variety of management training seminars.

Garrison Wynn, a leading authority on change management, opened the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) National HVACR Service Managers Forum on October 9, with an entertaining and educational keynote address about leadership and communication.

Wynn, a former standup comedian, kept the attention of the audience with a humorous knack for relating his own experiences, both the successes and the failures. He sent the audience home with many take-aways that could be practiced by each when they returned to the world of work. Some of his key points included:

• Agreement is the foundation of accountability.

• People are more likely to agree with people who agree with them first.

• People buy into what they can understand quickly.

• The most successful people can define value in less than 20 seconds.

• People want the same things: love, money, and prestige. Therefore, there are multiple solutions for a single problem.

While talking about effective communication, Wynn reminded the audience that their own leadership is critical to the success of the people they are managing.

“The people you manage are usually at a different level of understanding. If you talk at the height of your intelligence about what you do, you may not communicate effectively,” he said.

Wynn also discussed how managers must understand the difference between more experienced and younger workers. “People under 30 are accustomed to being praised and rewarded along the way, before they reach the end goal. Over-30s expect to get praise and reward at the end.”

According to Wynn, it is a very different mindset and requires an astute manager to understand how to manage both types effectively.

Wynn co-authored “Speaking of Success” with Steven Covey and Ken Blanchard; it is available in bookstores. For more information on Wynn’s offerings, go to

Sarah Michel, CSP, of Perfecting Connecting® spoke to more than 300 service managers attending the ACCA National HVACR Service Managers Forum about demystifying the four communication styles. Michel had been the highest-rated presenter at the 2008 ACCA Conference, and was invited to share her expertise with the service manager group in Houston.

Sidebar: They Have Style, Too

HOUSTON - Raise your hand if you think good communication skills are essential tools needed to be effective in your job? Keep your hand up if you think you do it well?

Sarah Michel begins every training session on communication styles with the same introduction, to emphasize a point. Most of us understand the importance of good communication, but somewhere between understanding and execution, we lose our way.

Michel is a communications and personality style expert. She works with companies and organizations that want to make their work relationships work. On Oct. 10, she was in Houston delivering a keynote luncheon speech to more than 300 service managers attending the first National HVACR Service Managers Forum sponsored by Air Conditioning Contractors of America andThe NEWS.

Michel demystified the four communications styles so that attendees would be able to connect with anyone, anywhere, anytime.

First, attendees identified their own preferred style of communication. Though some had been involved in similar classes in the past, it was interesting that many noted a change in their own communication behavior during a period of years.

Michel joked with the audience, “It is amazing how we find that as we age, and grow in experience, we become so much more perfect.” In reality, noted Michel, people do tend to naturally possess all four-communication styles and as we mature, it is not uncommon to become more centered among the four styles; whereas in our youth we might lean more strongly toward one particular style.

The theme of Michel’s session for the service manager audience was to help them find ways to connect with an assortment of people that they work with on a daily basis. According to Michel, successfully managing people requires a knack for getting the most from everyone regardless of whether their style matches with yours. Great ideas for improving a process in the business are useless if the manager can’t create a rapport with the person who possesses those ideas.

Michel is president of her own speaking, training and consulting firm, Perfecting Connecting. For more information visit

Publication date:11/03/2008