ST. LOUIS — More than 250 contractors from around the world came to the home of the 1904 World’s fair to learn from experts and their peers at Service World at Comfortech.

The members of Service Roundtable and Service Nation Alliance gathered for meetings, networking, and the company’s “trade show within a trade show” at the Sept. 13-18 event, held within the America’s Center Convention Complex in St. Louis.

The staff of Service Nation Inc. arrived early to coordinate meetings of Service Nation Alliance members on Monday, Sept. 14. Members enjoyed the kickoff keynote address by Sgt. Matt Eversmann, the hero of “Black Hawk Down.” The International Roundtable half-day session commenced on Tuesday, Sept. 15, for Service Roundtable members. Throughout the week, had access to exclusive member seminars as well as the Comfortech sessions. In addition, the Women in HVACR organization combined its welcome event with the Service Roundtable member-only party on Monday evening.

The Service Roundtable’s Preferred Partner Pavilion inside the Comfortech exhibit hall provided a hot spot of activity for 43 exhibitors, offering a juggler, magician, and one crazy guy on stilts, which maintained a high energy level in the tradeshow aisles.

Matt Michel, Service Nation’s CEO and chairman of the board, along with several other well-known industry educators, provided the content for Service World.

First, Michel and David Heimer, Service Roundtable COO, made a special presentation of the organization’s Servant Leader Award to Joe Groh, of the Joseph S. Groh Foundation. A tragic bicycle accident in 2008 left Groh a quadriplegic. Since then, Groh’s foundation has provided financial and resource assistance to numerous tradespeople and their families who have also experienced career-altering injuries. In a videotaped award and acceptance speech, Groh said he was humbled by the award, and looked forward to continuing his work to support the industry.

Michel, in his Tuesday “Business Delivers” keynote presentation, stressed repeatedly to the Service Roundtable audience that successful business owners take risks and do the things that other people will not do. According to Michel, “Business is the only thing that delivers. Does talent deliver? Does the government deliver? No, the government redistributes wealth. You can have what you want in life because your business delivers. It delivers for owners, salespeople, and field service. But, it only delivers if someone does the driving. You can drive your business to deliver everything you want.”


In addition to the Service World education sessions, there were several networking opportunities available exclusively for Service Roundtable members. The members-only opening reception was held at the Anheuser-Busch brewery Monday evening.

Chris Hunter, owner of Hunter Heating and Air in Ardmore, Oklahoma, served as International Roundtable emcee on Sept. 15. Hunter was recently named to The NEWS’ list of Top 40 Under 40. He transformed his company from a startup in 2006 into $3 million in residential/light commercial retail sales. The organization often calls on members to emcee events rather than enlisting staff members to host events.

T. Scott Gross spoke of “Positively Outrageous Service” as he translated his entrepreneurial years owning and managing a Church’s Fried Chicken franchise into keeping customers coming back as satisfied HVAC customers. “Marketing is something you do; not something you have an agency do for you and not something you assign to someone else,” said Gross. “If you want your employees to give positively outrageous service, you have to be willing to do so yourself.”

He blended his humorous one-liners with a few marketing morsels throughout the presentation and left the crowd with questions to answer about their own businesses.

“An area you probably really need to drastically improve is how you publicize your own customer successes. Ponder this: If you treat a customer really well, but you don’t tell anyone about it, did it really happen?”

A series of roundtable discussions took place on Tuesday morning with successful contractors and consultants moderating a variety of topics. Steve Miles, a Service Nation Alliance advisory board mentor and local St. Louis-area contractor, led a question-and-answer session focused on service business. He shared one of the programs he runs at Jerry Kelly Heating and Air Conditioning in St. Charles, Missouri.

“We dispatch for opportunity. In other words, we have selling techs and maintenance techs. One tech may wave at another as they cross paths on the street wondering why the other didn’t simply get dispatched to that nearby location. We match our techs to the job that fits them the best,” said Miles.

Miles stressed the concept of focus as being an all-important but difficult strategy. “We focus our efforts within a restricted zip code access area — to a fault. We turn down work that might only be a block outside of our area. It might seem crazy to turn down those opportunities, but when does a block become just a mile outside our area, or a few miles? We believe that until we completely own our market, it does not make sense to go outside of it,” Miles said.

Allan Ferguson, owner of Omega Plumbing in Sydney, Australia, spoke to the group about his recipe for success. Ferguson has been a Service Roundtable member for many years and is the managing director of Service Nation Alliance Australia.

“If your thinking doesn’t change, then absolutely nothing else in your organization will change,” Ferguson said. So enamored with managing change is Ferguson that he brought in a new partner specifically to enact change in the organization — to effectively become a mentor to Ferguson. It must have worked, because he started his company in 2004 with seven plumbers and today has more than 70 people generating more than $1.25 million per month. Ferguson asked the group, “Who is leading you? Do we allow ourselves to stop being led because we think we know it all?”

Service Roundtable members are provided with marketing and business support and online advice in a group setting. Service Alliance members receive hands-on help with an extensive program that includes expert coaching, custom marketing design, and a platinum rebate program. For more information about Service Nation’s member services, attend a Success by Design Day in your area or make plans to attend the 2016 Service World Expo in Las Vegas. For additional information, visit

Publication date: 12/14/2015

Want more HVAC industry news and information? Join The NEWS on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn today!