HVAC industry professionals converged March 10-13 in Charlotte, North Carolina, for the return of the ACCA 2016 conference and IE3 Expo: The Indoor Environment & Energy Expo. The combined events drew more than 1,500 people from all over the country and featured 35 workshops in seven different tracks, including leadership, commercial contracting, residential contracting, business operations, radiant and hydronics, quality assurance, and building performance, which were assembled by some of the nation’s most successful contracting professionals.

Denise Webb, service manager for St. Louis-based Welsch Heating & Cooling Co., which won ACCA 2016 Residential Contractor of the Year, said she really enjoyed this year’s mix of keynote speakers, learning labs, and forums.

“The thing I like about the ACCA conference is that contractors are leading the presentations [during the Learning Labs]. They walk in our shoes; they know the struggles and hurdles we face. They do the same work we do, but in different parts of the country. And, they’re not here to try to sell you something; they’re here to help the industry as a whole.”

Matt Marsiglio, operations manager for Flame Heating, Cooling, Plumbing, and Electrical in Warren, Michigan, said ACCA 2016 was one of his favorite conferences yet.

“It’s about learning from people who do it better than you,” he said. “Some of it is just reaffirming the things you already do and knowing that you’re on the right track.”


During the kickoff MainStage keynote session, Carey Lohrenz, the first female F-14 Tomcat pilot, discussed leadership as she related her flying combat missions to business ownership; and Tim Kight, a business visionary, shared six things contractors must do in order to control the ‘Response Factor’ in every situation.

One of the most popular sessions was the interactive ‘What’s Your Problem’ MainStage, where a panel of contractors shared real-world experiences as audience members asked questions. This year’s contractor panel included Rick Busby, owner of Busby’s Air Conditioning and Heating in Augusta, Georgia; Linda Couch, COO of Parrish Services in Washington, District of Columbia; Sam DeAngelis, CEO of Colorado Climate Maintenance Inc. in Englewood, Colorado; Brian Hooper, vice president of operations at MSI Mechanical Systems Inc. in Salem, New Hampshire; and Ray Isaac, president of Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning in Rochester, New York.

Vince DiFilippo, president and owner of DiFilippo’s Service in Paoli, Pennsylvania, served as host of the session, which covered topics ranging from the pros and cons of various contracting software packages, how to manage recurring service agreement payments, tips on how to handle the slow season, and suggestions on how to create incentive programs for employees.

Busby addressed the topic of how to best handle the slow season. “Weather always plays a role in our industry — it’s going to have an influence without a doubt, but there are things that can be done to take a lot of the unpredictability out of it. A good maintenance agreement program is one of the best things you can have. We have a maintenance department that works year-round, so people don’t expect just to have it done in the spring or the fall.”

“The beautiful thing about weather is all of your competitors have to deal with the same conditions,” Isaac added. “So, if you have a better game plan and strategy than they do, you can overcome those abnormal weather seasons.

“We’ve expanded our services and gotten into home services, such as pool heaters. Summer in Rochester is great, and it’s even better if it falls on a weekend so people can go out and use their pools. And, of course, they want their pools warm, so we offer that type of service when we’re not fixing air conditioning. We’re also doing doors, windows, insulation, and home performance. If you can find things that are countercyclical to the HVAC side, it’s a good strategy to offer them. You have to think outside that proverbial box and offer strategies and alternative services to customers who are not dependent on the weather.”

This year’s conference also featured a revamped CEO/Contractor Forum: Building Our Future. The event was moderated by Wade Mayfield, president of Thermal Services Inc., and included a panel of eight manufacturing executives: Chris Nelson, president of North American HVAC systems and services, Carrier Corp.; John Galyen, president, Danfoss North America; Brent Schroeder, president, air conditioning business, Emerson Climate Technologies Inc.; Pete Alexander, senior vice president, Goodman Mfg. Co.; Gary Michel, senior vice president and president, residential solutions sector, Ingersoll Rand/Trane; Gary Bedard, vice president and general manager, Lennox Intl. Inc.; Steve O’Brien, vice president, residential business, Mitsubishi Electric US Cooling & Heating; and Mike Branson, vice president and general manager, air conditioning division, Rheem Mfg. Co. This MainStage session also featured live polling, allowing attendees to vote live via the ACCA & IE3 Events app. Poll questions covered topics ranging from direct Internet sales, connected buildings, certifications, and more.

Mayfield also polled the audience about its choice for the 2016 presidential election. ACCA reported the audience’s top pick was a tie, with approximately 30 percent selecting Ted Cruz and 30 percent opting for Donald Trump, while 21 percent selected none of the above.

“The conference was fantastic,” said Rich Biava, vice president of GAC Services in Gaithersburg, Maryland. “We got to meet a fighter pilot in the morning and attend breakout sessions that were terrific later that day. These sessions allow me to rethink and refocus on new ideas or take an idea that we’re working on and rethink it from someone else’s perspective. We learned a lot from a variety of industry leaders.”

NEW IN 2017

ACCA announced it will be trying something different in 2017. Next year’s show will feature a completely new program, format, and name, as the event will now be known as The IE3 Show. The conference will take place March 20-22, 2017, at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, Tennessee, and will feature a new three-day schedule; technique-based workshops led by innovative contractors; and an expo that includes hands-on demos, interactive learning theater, skills competitions, new product introductions, and more. For more information about 2017 The IE3 Show, visit www.ie3show.com or acca.org.

Publication date: 4/4/2016

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