ORLANDO — Mechanical Contractors Asssociation of America (MCAA) contractors from across the country traveled to Florida recently for the association’s annual convention.

The seats were filled during the opening session as former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning spoke to attendees on teamwork and leadership. Fresh off his February Super Bowl championship, Manning looked out at the audience that was sporting its fair share of his Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos jerseys.

“Every business has its share of powerful leaders and frauds that hold leadership roles,” said Manning. “There are also plenty of leaders who are under construction and are working toward becoming someone others will follow, even when good sense suggests to run in the opposite direction. Nobody starts out as a leader. Leadership isn’t handed to you with a title. You need to earn leadership. It’s the ability to influence others.”

The quarterback also built on the “Better than Ever” conference theme.

“This convention is about MCAA and its members being better than ever at what they do and how they do it,” Manning said. “If you are reaching for something you have never had before, you most likely need to do something you have never done before. Or, at the very least, do it in a different way than you’ve done it before. I can tell you from personal experience, it’s extremely difficult to do it all, especially if you have to do it alone. One thing that has helped me is to rely heavily on top-notch teamwork.”

Manning welcomed MCAA members into the huddle, sharing stories from his time at the University of Tennessee and the NFL. And, while those stories were entertaining to the audience, the speech always came back to what one needs to do to be a great leader.

“Leaders need to know how to pivot, which is the new word for nimble,” he said. “It’s the ability to change strategy without changing your vision and remain nimble enough to take what the marketplace throws at you. Every organization or business needs to experiment with new ways to compete and win. When you’re a competitive person, this is part of your fiber,” Manning said.

Also during the opening session, Bill Hite, general president of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States (UA), received the first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award from the MCAA.

“We hope this will remind you always of how much we appreciate what you have done for your members and MCAA contractors who are now better than ever as a result. You have inspired us personally. We thank you and honor you for your many, many achievements,” said Steve Dawson, outgoing MCAA president and president of Harrell-Fish Inc. in Bloomington, Indiana.

Much learning was also done in the many breakout sessions that occurred at the conference. Commercial HVAC consultant John Koontz shared with attendees the attributes that make a great mechanical contractor.

“I go into a marketplace, and it is not hard to tell if the company is one of the great ones. Your customers and competitors know if you are a great one,” Koontz said. “It is not just because you’re big. It’s not because you do $300 million worth of work. I know great companies that do $11 million or $6 million. Greatness is greatness. You can be a great high school football coach or a great NFL coach. Those are two different things.”

Koontz spent 10 years as a project manager for two mechanical contractors before becoming a professor at Purdue University. About a year ago, he began providing consulting and training services to MCAA contractors.

He explained to the audience that there are three types of mechanical contractors. Koontz believes 5-10 percent are great, 5-10 percent are lousy, and the vast majority qualify as good.

“There are a lot of really good contractors, but there are not that many great ones. That is because contracting is a difficult business. It is hard to be great, and it is even harder to stay there, because everyone is trying to knock you out of that position,” Koontz said.

A few of the differences Koontz pointed out included:

• Good contractors are very profitable during economic upturns while great contractors are double that — often much better;

• Great contractors always have a competitive advantage in their marketplace while good contractors must always manage cost well to remain competitive; and

• Great contractors negotiate a large portion of their revenue while good contractors bid a large portion of their revenue.


Southwest Town Mechanical (STM) of Chicago was honored with the Safety Excellence Award for the third time in four years.

A long time MCA member, STM first implemented its revamped safety program in 2012. The company has reported zero days lost every year since restructuring, and, according to company reps, the camaraderie at work is stronger than it’s ever been.

“As individuals and as a company, we are dedicated to having an injury-free year, every year,” said Lindsey Grilec, spokesperson and service consultant, STM. “It’s an awesome accomplishment, and we’re very, very proud.”

The motivation for implementing the new program was care and concern for employees. The reason for the company’s success, Grilec believes, is the top-down approach, with the CEO driving safety with upper management and so on.

“We had a few really bad accidents a few years ago and there was a realization that accidents were preventable and that we needed to step up our safety culture,” Grilec said. “We’ve even implemented a unique policy where anyone, whether it’s an apprentice on their first day on the job or a long-time veteran, can shut down a site if they don’t think it’s safe. And, that’s something we encourage. They don’t get in trouble for it, and in fact we are appreciative of it if they notice things that do not meet safety protocols and they make this decision for the good of our workers. It’s the right thing to do.”

Employee resistance has been extremely low because they’ve seen the program working. Safety glasses and headgear are mandatory on all sites at all times and STM has given their technicians a ‘no-talk’ challenge to eliminate cellphone talking while driving.

“In the end, it’s all about keeping our employees safe and making sure they’re taken care of,” Grilec said. “We want every year to be a safe, accident-free year. That’s the greatest reward for us.”

In addition to Manning, MCAA once again had an impressive list of major session speakers. These included former basketball player Shaquille O’Neal and Navy Seal Rob O’Neill. Attendees also were entertained by Andy Grammer and Sheryl Crow during evening events. The 2017 MCAA Convention is scheduled for March 5-9, 2017, at the San Diego Marriott Marquis. For more information, visit www.mcaa.org.

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