Steve Lauten, a 48-year HVAC industry veteran, is preparing for the next chapter of his illustrious career as he assumes the role of ACCA National Chairman of the Board during ACCA’s annual conference, March 10-13, in Charlotte, North Carolina.
A FAMILY AFFAIR
Lauten, president and CEO of Total Air and Heat Co. in Plano, Texas, started working in his father’s residential HVAC business as a teenager. During high school and college, he gained employment with a commercial contractor, spending 13 years working with one large mechanical contractor before joining the family business in 1987.
Under Lauten’s third-generation leadership, Total Air & Heat focuses on both residential and commercial service and replacement work. The company, which employs 35 individuals, averages 15-20 percent growth annually, said Lauten.
“In Texas, everybody needs air conditioning in the summer,” Lauten said. “To be honest, Texas was not nearly as populated prior to air conditioning becoming widely available. This is a great place to live and it’s growing very fast — you don’t see many retired folks moving North.”
TAKING ON A NEW ROLE
Lauten’s father, Fred, introduced him to ACCA many moons ago.
“My dad certainly influenced my career. He was, and is, part of the greatest generation ever,” Lauten said. “I learned to stop complaining about things I didn’t like and get involved. I was very fortunate to have strong leaders who were involved with ACCA that helped me understand the importance of having representation locally, at the state level, and on Capitol Hill.”
“I’m very excited to represent ACCA’s members as incoming chairman,” Lauten said. “I’m also very grateful for the support of my peers. There’s never been a more important time to be involved. The furnace AFUE rulings are being discussed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) Confined Spaces ruling for residential work is being debated, and the refrigerant recovery and handling rules and requirements are being revised by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The list is very long for actions that will impact the industry and determine the role HVAC serves in the future.”
Paul Stalknecht, president and CEO of ACCA, said Lauten has the experience necessary to lead the organization, having served on ACCA’s Board of Directors for many years.
“Steve truly understands where ACCA is, how it got here, and where it needs to go in the next months,” Stalknecht said. “He is the right leader at the right time for the association. He has a strong vision to push ACCA forward, and, with the support of the rest of the board and ACCA’s staff, he will undoubtedly be extremely successful. As the association continues to face challenges from outside sources, Steve’s vast knowledge of the industry will help ACCA continue to be the strong voice that contractors need.”
Phil London, vice president of residential services for Thermal Concepts in Davie, Florida, and current ACCA chairman, said ACCA is fortunate to have Lauten as its incoming chairman.
“While there are many professionals in our industry willing to serve, Steve’s ability to motivate, energize, and lead has prepared him to be a leader among leaders,” London said. “Steve will quickly learn that in his role as chairman he will have ACCA’s ‘Class A’ support staff ready and willing to assist him at any moment. In addition to ACCA’s staff, working closely with Paul [Stalknecht] will be an experience he will cherish forever. Together with staff and the support of the board of directors, Steve will be able to face, deal with, and tackle many of the challenges our members are confronted with on a daily basis.
“While the current board has dealt with a complete revamping of ACCA’s business model, there will be ongoing challenges associated with that change. With an emphasis on growing membership, Steve will also be the voice of ACCA when meeting with our industry partners and will continually present the value-added resources of our association. Our industry is rapidly evolving, and our business models are changing. Our shortage of quality technicians is a continuing problem, social media puts everyone and everything under a microscope, and government intervention is increasing daily. With all that said, I feel confident that, as an industry leader, Steve will be an outstanding chairman who will guide our board of directors through this maze of confusion.”
FUTURE OF THE INDUSTRY
While Lauten has overcome many challenges in the industry, the things that worry him most are those he can’t control or anticipate.
“That’s where ACCA comes into the picture,” he said. “ACCA is specifically focused on contractors’ best interests. I’ve survived all of my challenges in business with ACCA contractors by my side. That’s something you can’t get anywhere else. What makes ACCA even better is its industry partnerships.”
The HVAC industry faces numerous challenges in the coming years, and Lauten is urging contractors to take notice and get involved.
“Technology is changing at a rate that is faster than many contractors can keep pace with, which is leaving the door open for others, such as communications and cable companies, to get involved,” Lauten said. “We don’t have enough support from all HVAC contractors across the country. We need every contractor to get involved in helping us control the future to ensure the EPA, OSHA, and DOE don’t make decisions without our input. There’s not enough room to cover all those topics today.
“I urge anyone who reads this article to get involved. President Obama said, ‘It’s not your business,’ and our government is moving ahead with that statement in mind. I respectfully disagree and intend to help make the HVAC industry’s voice heard on Capitol Hill.
“As things stand today, costs used for many of the decisions made by these agencies are flawed and inaccurate,” Lauten continued. “Progress has been made to hold up some of these regulations from being implemented without a consensus being reached by the affected parties. However, there is no assurance the end product will be acceptable. ACCA has urgently reached out to the leaders of these governmental departments to have productive dialogue and that will continue. Additionally, ACCA is in the process of working with industry partners to develop scholarships to attract qualified applicants to the industry, and I hope to see that project go live in 2016. I’m proud to say, now more than ever, all parties within the industry have united to put forth a concentrated effort to act in the industry’s best interests.”
Publication date: 3/7/2016