NASHVILLE — The 2014 ACCA Conference demonstrated to contractors from around the world how they can improve their businesses during the annual three-day event at Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn.

The conference featured several MainStage sessions, more than 30 Learning Labs, and the IE3 Expo, giving contractors heaps of knowledge to take home and implement in their business practices.

2013 ACCA chairman Bobby Ring relinquished his role as chair, handing the keys over to David Kyle, Trademasters Service Corp., Lorton, Va. In his opening remarks, Kyle discussed how contractors must be willing to evolve at the breakneck pace of the ever-changing industry.

“2013 was another interesting year from start to finish and Bobby’s leadership helped ACCA stay ahead in the unpredictable environment that small businesses must work in,” said Paul Stalknecht, president and CEO of ACCA. “Dave Kyle now brings his own unique energy and outlook to continue the association down the path that has been set. He is enthusiastic about moving our industry forward and educating the public that our contractors don’t simply install boxes, but provide integrated indoor environment and energy services to their communities. ACCA members can be confident that we are prepared for another productive and successful year regardless of what the next 12 months have in store.”

MainStage Sessions Delight

In addition to the Contractor/CEO Forum, the MainStage sessions featured the return of the popular “I’ve Got An Idea,” program, where contractors shared unique ideas with one another in a large group setting. For each good idea, host Vince DiFilippo gave participants $10.

Among the ideas presented, contractors discussed unique interviewing ideas, including using technician ride-alongs as an interviewing technique, with the goal of using it as a screening process to find out if someone will fit in with the company and the other technicians.

One contractor talked about how they offer customers a discount if they defer service during busy times for non-urgent matters.

One contractor talked about his work with the Veterans Administration and using the GI Bill to help fund veterans’ HVAC training, and how this has been beneficial for his company.

ACCA also brought in two speakers for the opening and closing MainStage sessions. Bestselling author and motivational speaker Larry Winget brought his no-holds-barred mentality to the stage, going on a rampage for 45 minutes against idiots, installing a message that individuals must take accountability for their own actions. He said to take away all excuses and whining, and to work hard for what you want in life.

Doc Hendley told his story about his company Wine to Water, an organization he founded to help provide clean drinking water to impoverished areas. Having traveled the world, Hendley really struck home with a story of his first journey to Africa — where he spent a year in the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan. Hendley emotionally shared many near-death experiences, including one in particular where a bullet improbably missed his head by mere inches as he raced through a war zone. He also talked about how he connected with the people there, and had to help bury one of his newfound friends who was killed by the Sudan government.

The idea for Wine to Water came to him one night while lying in bed, and a few months later, he was raising money for the cause with really nowhere to go with it. He eventually caught on with a company before starting his own nonprofit charity. His story detailed his transformation from his work as a bartender —
and not a particularly good one, if you ask him — to being named one of CNN’s Top 10 Heroes of 2009. The presentation drew a standing ovation from the crowd.

Learning Labs

In one Learning Lab session, Mike Atchley of Atchley Air Conditioning & Heating, Fort Smith, Ark., discussed how contractors can offer warranties in-house and not have to rely on other companies.

“Sometimes you have to offer extended warranties because your competition is offering them, and you reduce complaints for the next 10 years,” Atchley said. “Some folks just want peace of mind, it encourages maintenance, and additional sales are usually a good thing.”

Atchley said some common concerns he received when implementing an in-house warranty program included price, people concerned about investing then moving, and customers concerned about what happens if the company goes out of business.

To counter these issues, Atchley offers his warranty on a monthly basis, with the customer charged via a credit card or Automated Clearing House (ACH) transaction.

“It eliminates sticker shock, and it eliminates the customer potentially losing money paid in advance,” Atchley said. “You will need a decent software program, a bank to work with, and an online merchant processor.”

Contractors Honored

ACCA honored its residential and commercial contractors of the year during the conference.

We Care Heating & Air, Murietta, Calif., was named the 2014 Residential Contractor of the Year, while Haller Enterprises Inc., Lititz, Pa., earned the 2014 Commercial Contractor of the Year honor.

Rusty Cochran, owner, We Care Heating & Air, accepted the award on behalf of his company.

“We’ve gone from a one-man company to more than 80 employees,” Cochran said. “It’s been a tremendous growth and a lot of fun along the way.”

ACCA also handed out the inaugural Skip Snyder Humanitarian award, named in honor of the late ACCA chairman who was well known for his charitable efforts. Following a video tribute to Snyder, and with Snyder’s widow Laurel on hand, Ray Isaac, president, Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning, Rochester, N.Y., accepted the award on behalf of his father Jim Isaac, who was unable to be at the event.

“Skip was a very giving individual, of his time, talents, and treasures,” Ray Isaac said. “He did things for the right reasons, and was constantly trying to make something better.”

Jim Isaac has worked with Habitat for Humanity for more than 26 years, completing more than 125 houses in that time span.

“To be able to represent someone like my father at an event like this, where he’s receiving recognition … it’s a great honor,” Ray Isaac said. “My dad doesn’t do things for recognition or awards. He does things because it’s the right thing to do.”

The conference also featured the 2014 IE3 Expo, presented by ACCA and the Indoor Air Quality Association (IAQA), which included more than 35,000-square-feet of exhibit space, 200 exhibiting companies, and more than 2,000 contractor attendees.

The 2015 ACCA Conference and IE3 Expo will take place March 16-19 at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, Texas.

SIDEBAR: ACCA Names 2014 Board

ACCA named its board of directors for the upcoming year at the 2014 ACCA Conference. Dave Kyle will take over as chairman. Joining him on the executive committee are Phil London, Thermal Concepts Inc., Davie, Fla., senior vice chairman; Steve Lauten, Total Air and Heat Co., Plano, Texas, secretary/treasurer; Jerry Bosworth, Bosworth Air Conditioning, Galveston, Texas, vice chairman; Ellis Guiles, TAG Mechanical Systems Inc., Syracuse, N.Y., vice chairman; and Matt Todd, Entek Corp., Longview, Wash., vice chairman. Bobby Ring will serve this year as immediate past chairman.

Also on the board, but not serving on the executive committee are Dan Foley, Foley Mechanical Inc., Lorton, Va.; Paul Hobaica, Hobaica Services Inc., Phoenix; Lanny Huffman, Hickory Sheet Metal Co. Inc., Hickory, N.C.; Eric Knaak, Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning, Rochester, N.Y.; Don Langston, Aire Rite Air Conditioning and Refrigeration, Huntington Beach, Calif.; Steve Pape, Pape Service Co., Desoto, Texas; Steve Schmidt, Frederick Air Inc., Frederick, Md.; Brian Stack, Stack Heating & Cooling, Avon, Ohio; and Dan Weis, Weis Comfort Systems Inc., Fenton, Mo.

Publication date: 4/14/2014 

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