PHOENIX — The Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA) traveled to Phoenix recently to “Exceed Expectations” at the organization’s annual conference. This included 4 1/2 days of education, networking, and fun.

The opening session kicked off with a presentation by CNN political commentator David Gergen. The former presidential advisor talked about where America was in the world and how it should move forward. But the real highlight of the opening session was John Odom, the recently retired chairman of Murray Co., receiving the MCAA Distinguished Service award, MCAA’s highest honor.

Following critical injuries sustained during the April 15, 2013, Boston Marathon bombings, Odom underwent numerous surgeries to remove shrapnel and repair nerve and artery damage caused by the blasts. He spent more than a month at Boston Medical Center and over a month as an inpatient at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, then another several months as an outpatient there before returning to California.

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away,” said Michael Cables, MCAA outgoing president, while presenting the honor. “Being able to present MCAA’s highest award to John Odom on this day, after all he and his family have been through, is truly a moment that takes our collective breath away.”

Education Sessions

After the morning session concluded with a singing of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” in honor of Odom, the contractors were off to educational sessions.

Dave Nelson of Dialog Consulting Group presented on social media. He explained to contractors how to use social media and why they can’t ignore it.

Nelson introduced contractors to, which bills itself as an inside look at jobs and companies. On this site, current and former employees can rate the companies they’ve worked for.

He explained that it is where your former employees go to write about a business. People can also find out the salaries at specific companies on this website, he said.

Nelson told the story about one of his son’s friends who had recently graduated from college. He had an offer to interview with a company, but after looking them up on, the recent grad decided that was not the type of place he would like to work.

“Their former employees are affecting their ability to attract future talent,” Nelson said. “My message here is information is flowing freely. Things like corporate culture, hiring and firing policies, and customer support policies really matter.”

Nelson also spoke highly of LinkedIn. His philosophy was to be more thorough when deciding who to connect with so you are sure you have a circle of people that can help you. Adding every contact that requests a connection can leave a person with a big, but unproductive, group.

“Ask yourself if you know them professionally, if you respect them professionally, and if they asked you for help, would you be delighted to assist. If you would be delighted to assist them, they would probably be the same to assist you,” Nelson said. “It is not a game of quantity; it is a game of quality. Don’t be a promiscuous linker.”

While LinkedIn gives you three degrees of separation, Nelson believes the second degree is the most valuable. He also warns that 70 percent of LinkedIn members are not on the site in a given month. This means it is not a good connection engine. Instead of using the mail feature on LinkedIn, Nelson recommends picking up the phone and calling the connection if you are in need of some help or a favor.

“You use LinkedIn as a tool to uncover relationships that you can put to work in business,” Nelson said. “You should never meet with someone without checking out their LinkedIn profile to learn some more things about them. You can learn a lot of great stuff that can help you build a relationship.”

Nelson said you can also use LinkedIn during the hiring process. You have instant access to an applicant’s former coworkers and bosses. This allows you to do a “blind” reference check to get some additional information on a candidate. Nelson recommends you let the applicant know you are doing this, and if they do not feel comfortable with your process, they have just opted out of this job search.

New President

In the closing session, Chuck Fell, founder and president, CFI Mechanical Inc., Houston, assumed the position of MCAA president. “It is a distinct honor to be chosen to lead MCAA as your president,” Fell said. “I have some big shoes to fill and I will do my best.”

Fell mentioned that, as he grew his business, he used many of the MCAA educational resources and management tools. His goal as president is to continue to build on the momentum the association has achieved thus far.

“We will continue to provide members with the industry’s best educational resources. We will further our joint strategic planning efforts with our labor partners at the Unified Association,” Fell said. “And we will remain at the forefront of efforts to ensure congressional passage of much-needed pension reform legislation. It is MCAA’s most important legislative goal this year.”

Also at the conference:

• The student chapter of specialty contracting (mechanical/electrical) at Southern Polytechnic State University received top honors for their efforts in the 2013-2014 student chapter competition. During the competition, 24 teams from schools across the country submitted written proposals for this year’s project, which involved the partial retrofit of a food processing plant outside of Chicago.

• Daphene Koch of Purdue University received the MCAA 2013 Educator of the Year award. The committee chose Koch for her mentoring ability, industry knowledge and involvement, and active participation in MCAA’s student chapter program activities.

• Tom Stone of Braconier Plumbing & Heating Co. Inc., Englewood, Colo., was elected senior vice president and treasurer while Steve Dawson of Harrell-Fish Mechanical Contractors Inc., Bloomington, Ind., was named MCAA president-elect. Greg Fuller of North Mechanical Contracting, Indianapolis, was elected vice president and assistant treasurer.

Publication date: 4/28/2014

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