The National Comfort Institute (NCI) kicked off its 12th annual Summit last month with a distinct gold-mining theme, having fun with its San Diego venue. The event drew about 115 attendees, including record attendance from NCI’s California members, according to Dominick Guarino, chairman, NCI.

The Summit schedule offered four breakout sessions which featured two distinct paths toward implementing HVAC performance and home performance. The sessions were then further broken down into seven suggested training tracks: HVAC Performance, Home Performance, Fundamentals, Advanced, Advanced HVAC and Initial Home Performance, Technical Topics, and Sales Topics, presented by a mixture of NCI staff and contractor members. The event also featured a tradeshow with 15 exhibiting companies, a contractor panel discussing performance-based services implementation challenges and success, and a Coaches and Members Roundtable where attendees and NCI Coach partners held open discussions.

According to Guarino, the last three Summits, including this one, have built upon one another. “They’re not just random seminars,” he said. “This year, it’s about implementation — it’s been so important to get to that point where they’re [contractors] actually doing what they’re learning.”

NCI works hard to formulate interesting and educational topics for the Summit each year. A lot of it is based on feedback from members who attend the event. “We really spend a lot of time trying to get them to fill out evaluations of both the sessions and the overall summit,” Guarino said.

Many attendees and NCI staff alike were most excited to hear Denis Waitley speak. Waitley, an author and lecturer, gave the keynote address during the event and received a standing ovation. He engaged the audience by telling fantastic stories about driving with Paul Newman, and holding conversations with Neil Armstrong and Bill Gates.

“Winners dwell on the desired result while losers look back at missed opportunity and have reason to complain,” Waitley said. “Real winners train instead of complain.

“The body and the brain are hardware; the software is the mind,” he continued. “The way you program the software determines the outcome. One of the greatest things you’re doing is not only going to the breakouts, but you’re interacting with each other and sharing both your opportunities and frustrations.”

Communicating with Customers

John Boylan, general manager, and Tom Jacobs, service team leader, Lakeside Service Co. Inc., Brighton, Michigan, presented a session about making money in home performance. “Consistency is the key,” Jacobs said. “Every employee should know what to say every time. Every field person does the same thing with every customer.”

Boylan stressed the importance of keeping the presentation simple and understandable.

“Plan your statements, responses, and use visual aids,” he said. “Customers really need to know what it’s going to do for them, what problem it’s going to solve. Use the words they use, talk to the customer the way they talk to you, and build rapport by using their language. You don’t have to show them how smart you are. This validates what you’re going to say. Say what they need to hear, the way they would like to hear it. It’s a very difficult thing to do.”

David Richardson, curriculum developer and instructor, NCI, also stressed keeping it simple when talking to a customer during his breakout session, “Take Your Home Performance Training to the Next Level.”

“The quickest way to lose a customer is to get technical,” Richardson said. “They will not have a clue what you’re talking about and, then, at that point in time, they’re trying to get you out the door. Keep it simple or you will talk yourself right out of any potential sales. That’s why medical terms work so well. Blood pressure works well with static pressure because it’s something everybody understands.”

Richardson also advises contractors to let their customers use some of the tools, especially a thermal imaging camera. “Let them be the detective in their own homes. Help your customers understand what these differences and colors mean, and, if you’ve got this huge change in temperature, it’s going to make a difference when you’re making your presentation.”

Recognizing Excellence

In addition to the classes and general sessions, NCI recognized several member companies for their accomplishments in numerous categories during the Summit’s closing banquet and awards ceremony. NCI presented three Contractor of the Year Awards for 2015. Air Force 1 Heating & Air Conditioning, Canyon Lake, California, won the award in the small size category; Home Energy Experts, Reno, Nevada, medium size; and Pippin Brothers, Lawton, Oklahoma, large size.

Contractor of the Year Awards are given to companies showing implementation of performance-based testing, performance-based business culture, a strong service department, system renovation sales, and a company culture involving training.

Boylan also accepted the 2015 Chairman’s Award on behalf of Lakeside Service Co.

For a full list of award winners and to learn more about Summit 2015, visit the NCI website at

Publication date: 4/6/2015

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