One of the obvious benefits of belonging to any group of business peers is the camaraderie and good times shared by fellow members. But the most important advantages are the networking opportunities and idea exchanging. These benefits can have a huge impact on the successes of businesses like HVAC distributors, who seek to strengthen existing business ties with contractors and reach out to new customers, too.
One example of how HVAC distributors reach out to contractors is through their memberships in local and regional chapters of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA). Through their associate memberships, distributors have been able to market their businesses to customers in ways that otherwise might not have been available to them. As a chapter member, distributors gain access to many new and existing customers through regular meetings, special social events, and training programs.
In return, many distributors offer incentives and discounts on equipment and parts, as well as providing facilities for training purposes. This reciprocal arrangement is very beneficial to all members of the ACCA chapter.
“Distributors bring with them a group of contacts that are outside the normal circle of contractor members,” said Mark Norenberg of Air Comfort of Kentucky, Louisville. “Our chapter is pleased with the participation of our distributors as associate members. Several are members of our board of directors.”
“ACCA chapters could not function without associate members,” said Jeff Miller of Al-Don Services Inc., St. Louis, Mo. “Our associate members are awesome. There have been years they kept our chapter alive.”
BRINGING IT TO THE TABLEThere are a number of contributions distributors provide to other members of each ACCA chapter. Todd McAlister, executive director of ACCA-Texas, listed a few of these contributions.
“As many other chapters will tell you, a local distributor with ACCA ties gets a much more personal relationship with an actual decision maker within the member company,” he said. “This, many times, leads to benefits on both sides of the equation. As well, many times, the supply houses are able to offer filler training at a discounted rate for ACCA members - training that perhaps the local ACCA chapter doesn’t offer and/or maybe cannot afford to sponsor.
“For the industry, this turns into a win-win as we all agree that training is a key aspect of our industry.”
Jan Anderson of the Western Michigan ACCA chapter agrees. “Distributors are a reliable training resource for both equipment and training knowledge,” she said. “And if they don’t have answers to training needs, they know where to go to get the information.”
One ACCA contractor said that chapters rely on distributors to sponsor a number of different events, including training. “ACCA local groups could not be effective without the distributors’ sponsorships,” said Peter Arbeeny of All HVAC Service Co Inc., Brooklyn, N.Y. “It’s all about sponsorships, sponsorships, and sponsorships.”
Karl Roth of the A.N. Roth Co. LLC, Louisville, appreciates distributors because of their involvement with monthly meetings. “Our distributors here in Louisville sponsor our meetings,” he said. “They are allowed to present information on new products and programs at these meetings.”
Mark Kidd, executive director of the Michigan ACCA chapter, said that sponsor members help in supporting many of the events that the association puts on. “It is good for the sponsor members because they can get their name out with their products and services,” he said. “They can meet contractors that they might not see regularly, and contractors can see other products. Some events make it easy for both contractor and associate/sponsor member to interact and to expand their sphere of influence.”
Kidd said that distributors help the other chapter members in a number of ways. “They support the trade/supplier show in both the west side and east side of the state,” he said. “They help in getting out the word of upcoming training events for the association, help with prizes and financial support of events, let the association use their training facilities at no charge, and offer some discounts on products and services.”
Arbeeny estimates that about 30 percent of his chapter membership is made up of distributors. That number is even higher in Norenberg’s chapter - about one-third - but he added, “Not all associate members are distributors. There are some banks, accounting firms, fleet management companies, etc. They have seen value in being able to network with contractors outside the office.”
“Many distributors see the value of supporting the industry through not only ACCA, but other like-minded industry groups,” said McAlister. “ACCA contractors are the cream of the crop, so suppliers and distributors know they are getting a quality company when they develop that relationship.”
Noel Turner of Boaz Air, Sherman, Texas, was impressed by his first encounter with distributor members at his local ACCA chapter meeting. “While the company I work for has been a member for a while now, I have just recently attended my first ACCA meeting,” he said. “I was impressed with the way things were run and the information provided.
“I knew a few of the distributors who were present - and I left knowing more. From that meeting, I learned of products offered by distributors that will better fit some of our needs. When I presented a particular problem, a distributor who I had just met walked me over to another distributor and told him of our needs, and he in turn was able to offer a much better solution at a better value than what we were doing. So, all in all, I think having distributors there as associate members is a good thing for contractors as well as for the distributors.”
Anderson believes it is all about business survival for HVAC distributors and contractors. “They need each other to survive in this industry,” she said.
There are different levels of membership, i.e., Michigan offers bronze, silver, and gold sponsorship opportunities. The total membership dues vary for each level.
For more information on ACCA and membership applications, visit www.acca.org.
Publication date: 10/18/2010