NASHVILLE, Tenn. — “Why is good the enemy of great?” Rob Shallenberger, CEO and senior consultant of Becoming Your Best Global Leadership LLC, asked a room full of HVAC, mechanical, and home-services contractors. “Because good contractors are settling. They’re putting a cap on their greatness. How can we get to where we want to be if we’re satisfied with where we are today? Is your sales team thinking the same way? Are they settling?”

The statement was met with a wide number of nods.

“There’s good, better, and best,” Shallenberger continued. “Never let it rest until the good is better and the better is the best.”

Shallenberger’s message set the pace for the Electric & Gas Industries Association’s (EGIA’s) Leadership Academy Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, where more than 200 contractors and business owners honed their sales, business development, and leadership skills from good to better to best.


EGIA — a Sacramento, California-based nonprofit organization created to provide contractors with the knowledge, skills, products, services, tools, and training necessary to build high-growth, profitable businesses — brought its Leadership Academy Conference Tour to five locations throughout the U.S. in early 2016. The day-and-a-half seminar made stops in San Antonio; Napa Valley, California; Miramar Beach, Florida; and Chicago before closing its expedition May 5-6 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Each date offered three keynote presentations and supporting breakout sessions that focused on specific sales, leadership and operational topics related to running a successful home improvement business and overcoming common challenges that contractors currently face in today’s marketplace.


During his opening keynote presentation, Shallenberger challenged contractors to be proactive rather than reactive.

“You’re either disruptive or you’ll be disrupted,” he said. “There is always someone out there thinking how they can serve your customers better than you. If you’re not paying attention, your customers will soon become their customers.”

Shallenberger shared several examples of once seemingly bulletproof companies that are now struggling to keep up with the times.

“Just a few years ago Yellow Cab felt as if it was untouchable. Then, here comes a little startup called Uber. Now, Yellow Cab is in serious trouble,” he said. “Blackberry once owned the mobile phone market. Then, Apple introduced its iPhone and its much larger screen. Blackberry said, ‘We don’t need to adapt – we’re Blackberry.’ And, you all know how that turned out for them. And, how do you think Gillette feels about Dollar Shave Club? It can happen to any business of any size in any industry.”

Business owners must set challenging goals and take the transformational steps necessary to achieve them, concluded Shallenberger.

“Eighty percent of New Year’s resolutions are broken by January 15. People claim they’re too busy, have a fear of failure, and lack accountability,” he said. “Create a vision and get excited about it. When you have a personal vision, you don’t need any extra motivation. Achieving that goal is all the motivation you need. Prioritize your time, plan accordingly, and do whatever it takes to achieve this goal.

“Transformational leaders take and make time to transform lives and achieve success,” he said. “They get involved in their employees’ lives and inspire them to be the best they can possibly be.”


To find success, Drew Cameron, president of HVAC Sellutions and Energy Design Systems Inc., said HVAC contractors need to step outside of their comfort zones.

“You have to stop being contractors and start being businessmen,” he told the EGIA audience.

“You need to be a sales and service machine. Become a servant leadership organization and work to serve to the happiness of the customer.”

Cameron listed organizational leadership among his five core occupational pillars.

“If employees don’t do what they’re supposed to or don’t show up on time, we, as owners and managers, consider that insubordination. But, if we fail to achieve our duties, or fall a little short, it’s considered procrastination. Why is that? Why are we holding ourselves to a lesser standard? What sort of example does that set?

“Everything good or bad starts with you,” he continued. “If you foster mediocrity, that’s what you’re going to get,” he said. “Don’t mistake effort for achievement. Don’t hold on to people who are hurting your company. And, that applies to you owners, too.”

Cameron’s remaining pillars include: operations and administration, marketing and sales, human resources, organizational leadership, and finances.

“Your company’s success depends on your people, and too many contractors are making mistakes when it comes to recruiting, onboarding, training, and coaching. You have to grow your people. Focus in on how you can improve each of these areas. And, when you’re doing well, share the company’s rewards, because you wouldn’t have these perks without your people.”

When it comes to HVAC sales, Cameron insisted that companies need to stop selling features and start selling solutions, feelings, and experiences.

“People don’t care about things, they care about sleeping better at night or ridding their kids’ allergies,” he said.

Cameron closed by stating it’s improper to expect perfection, but essential that, over time, each member of your team improves his or her skills.

“It’s tough to be a contractor, and it’s very difficult in today’s market to find quality help, but if you fail to employ people who catch that fire of winning, you’ll be finding retirement sooner than you’d like. The love of winning is second only to the hatred of losing.  You must focus on how you can better yourself tomorrow. Challenge yourself. No more excuses. You’re better than that. You don’t have to be bigger, but you have to be better.”


Weldon Long was once a poverty-stricken drug addict caged behind bars with no hope.

After serving part of his life — more than 13 years — in prison, the once troubled teen had grown into an adult with absolutely nothing.

Today, 11 years removed from his last prison term, Long boasts a list of achievements that includes successful HVAC contractor, motivational speaker, author, and sales trainer.

Long, who built his empire on personal responsibility and proven sales tactics, shared some of those traits with EGIA’s Nashville audience.

“Right now, there are about 6 million things your brain could notice in this room. But, how many can you concentrate on at one time? Two or three? Maybe four? You can’t worry about everything. You must focus on the most important things. Prioritize your time and actions, do the right things that produce the right results, and let everything else take care of itself.”

Long said every HVAC sales visit must come with a plan.

“Some of you are letting the homeowner run the call. But, you wouldn’t let them run your install, would you? So, don’t let them take ownership of the sale.”

And, inside a home, building trust is an absolute necessity, said Long.

“The four most powerful words in sales are: Will you trust me. Early in the process, you must ask: ‘Mr. and Mrs. Homeowner, if I’m able to solve your problem within your budget, and you feel my options and expertise are a good fit, would you be willing to trust me with this project?’

“Now, this doesn’t work every time as trust has to be earned,” added Long. “If you simply walk into a house and drop off a bid, you’ve failed to earn their trust. You have to be of high character and highly competent to be considered trustworthy, but, people are much more willing to do business with those they trust than those they don’t.”

Long further discussed his relationship with author Stephen Covey, how Covey’s book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” changed his life, and how he continues to rely on the book’s principles personally and professionally.

“Your emotions are always a reflection of your thoughts and actions lead to results. Whatever you think is going to happen will happen. The power of thought is immensely potent,” he said. “Random actions provide random results. You need to figure out what you want and it has to become a burning desire within you. You have to want these things so badly that you absolutely can’t live until they happen. Once that happens, nothing will ever stop you.”


Other speakers, including Geno Gruber, founder of Profits Up; Eric Howarth, vice president of contractor services, EGIA; Mike Robinson, director of partner services, EGIA; J.C. Shore, founder of CreoMC; and more, shared their expertise at the event. Additionally, a tradeshow floor welcomed several vendors, including Daikin, Payzer, Greensky LLC, Wells Fargo, and others. 

Feedback from attendees was extremely positive.

“Every single moment of this conference was not only educational, but life changing” said Nathan Rankin, manager of operations, Air Heat North Texas, Plano, Texas. “There is so much in my personal and professional life that I will apply this knowledge to. I learned more than I ever thought I would in such a short time.”

Larry Gallagher, owner, Complete Comfort, Hohenwald, Tennessee, called it the best conference he’s ever attended. “Man, these guys pretty much confirmed that I’m doing everything wrong,” he joked. “I’m going to go back and start changing some of the things we do so that we can do them better. But, seriously, I absolutely loved this event. It was, by far, the best conference I’ve ever attended.”

For more information on EGIA, visit

Publication date: 6/6/2016

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