As Bobby Ring counts down the days until he is officially installed as chairman of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America’s (ACCA) board of directors, he can’t help but wish his father was still here to share in the moment.

Ring spent 32 years working with his father Robert at Meyer & Depew Co., in Kenilworth, N.J., and it was Robert who accompanied Bobby to his first ACCA function, a North Jersey chapter meeting, back in April 1981. In 2011, because of the progression of ACCA’s board, it became apparent Bobby Ring would become chairman in 2013, and he expected his father to be there with him as he gave his inaugural speech at the Chairman’s Banquet.

But in 2011, Robert Ring was diagnosed with cancer. While given two years to live, he died two weeks later. Now, Bobby said he intends to proudly serve as chairman in memory of the man who helped him become the person he is today.

“I’m going to be thinking about him,” Ring said. “He taught me an awful lot. I told him when we left the hospital, when he was initially diagnosed with cancer, that I was looking forward to seeing him in two years at this conference.

“It’s hard enough losing your father, but when you work together for 32 years, it’s even that much more difficult.

“When I started working for him, I was 20 years old, still living at home, and we would drive to work together, work all day, then come home at night and enjoy a family dinner. We spent a lot of time together. I miss him immensely.”

Learning Life’s Lessons

Having served on ACCA’s board of directors for the greater part of the last decade, Ring is no stranger to what makes ACCA tick. He said he’s had a long time to think about being chairman, and is “pretty excited” about the opportunity.

“Serving as chairman is a fantastic honor, it really is,” he said. “There are some very, very qualified people who serve on the board of directors that I’ve been honored to work with for a number of years, and I continue to learn from them. I think of some of the people that have served in this position before me and what I thought of them 30 years ago when I was a 20-year old. I kind of have to remind myself that I’m going to be that guy, and people are going to be looking up to me that way.”

As senior vice chairman in 2012, Ring often met with then ACCA chairman Laura DiFilippo for lunch to discuss business. With Ring based in New Jersey and DiFilippo in Paoli, Pa., the two would take advantage of being less than three hours apart and would commonly meet halfway.

“I always make sure halfway is in New Jersey,” Ring said, laughing. “Lunch meetings allowed us to get caught up on things, which is great. It’s been great for us to be able to meet face-to-face to discuss whatever was going on.”

And for DiFilippo, the support Ring provided her the past year has been priceless. “It’s so important to have that second person,” DiFilippo said. “They need to be your partner in this. I might’ve been chairman, but Bobby was my partner through it all. We’ve been working very closely the past year.”

Taking Care of Business

As chairman, Ring said his first goal is to turn the association over to the next chairman in “as good, if not slightly better shape” than it is now. He noted each chairman usually has a project or initiative they work to accomplish. For him, he wants to initiate a national program for the industry that instills contractors with the right business savvy, to help make their businesses as successful as possible.

“There are a lot of people who came into our business from the toolbox side and a lot of people who came in from the briefcase side. The guys who came in from the briefcase certainly realize they’ve got to hire guys with toolbox skills to install the jobs and service the equipment,” Ring said. “But sometimes the guys who come from the toolbox, it’s not as readily apparent to them that they need somebody to come into the company with briefcase skills. I think there’s a tremendous opportunity to help our entire industry, contractors and manufacturers, if we can bring a little more awareness to that.”

Ring said his idea fits the mold of North American Technician Excellence (NATE), calling it a “NATE-like” endeavor, where instead of it focusing on the technical side, it focuses on the business end.

As for making that plan a reality, Ring said the work has already begun. The pitch was well received by those he’s shared it with, and he remains optimistic, yet realistic in terms of an implementation timeline.

“I’m going to continue to talk about it,” he said. “I recognize that it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. It might take several years to get something like this off the ground; I really just hope to heighten awareness on the topic.

“It can’t just be an ACCA program. It has to be an industry program. It must be a national industry program that’s supported by the three-legged stool that makes up our industry: the manufacturers, the wholesalers, and the contractors.”

ACCA president and CEO Paul Stalknecht said Ring “brings great experience and value to the table” as ACCA chairman, especially in regards to government relations, which figures to play a big role during Ring’s tenure.

“We are certain that he will help ACCA ensure that contractors continue to have a strong voice in D.C. and will be a strong force in encouraging contractors to get involved on all levels to ensure that the laws and regulations that will affect the industry, and the way contractors do business, have input from the industry,” Stalknecht said.

On top of that, DiFilippo believes Ring is in a great position to succeed as ACCA chairman because of both his background and experience.

“Paying your dues is important, and Bobby has been a figure in the North Jersey chapter for a long time,” DiFilippo said. “I think Bobby is an outstanding ACCA contractor. We go about business everyday being professionals, doing work with integrity, honesty, with morals, and ethics, and I think he represents that in his own company.”

Publication date: 2/25/2013