Synergy Solution Group (SSG), a new association for independent mechanical contractors trying to gain a business advantage, is picking up momentum in the HVACR marketplace. And, while SSG is a relatively new association, many might be familiar with the group’s leadership.

Jim Bartolotta, who has been in the industry since 1981, is heading the organization. Bartolotta previously worked for Air Comfort in Chicago and also was a major player with The Unified Group association, which was launched in 1998 as a group to help independent contractors find a competitive edge.

“In January 2016, my employment with Air Comfort came to an end, which meant that my role with Unified Group also ended,” Bartolotta said.

The industry veteran is now employed by Arlington Heights, Illinois-based Atomatic Mechanical Services but still yearned to be involved with a national association of HVAC contractors.

Taking matters into his own hands, Bartolotta, along with executive director Julie Bishop, and sales and marketing director Allison Rodgers, established the SSG.

Bartolotta hoped Synergy would attract 15 members in the first couple of months. In what could only be described as a pleasant surprise, after doing little more than sending a single email to contractors around the country announcing the new group, SSG had 40 members within its first month of operations. These members included many contractors who previously identified as members of The Unified Group.

“I was blown away by the support,” Bartolotta said. “It was a testimony to what Julie, Allison, and our members had contributed. They found it to be a good use of their time and financial resources. It was heartwarming to know that so many people wanted to come onboard and join us. The Unified Group is still in existence, and we all want to see them do well. There is plenty of room for groups like this in the country.”

SSG presently boasts 41 members. Bartolotta is quick to point out that he has no interest in becoming the biggest association and does not advertise for that reason. Instead, much like a solid HVAC contracting business, the great majority of the group’s new members come from word of mouth and referrals.

The association is quite diligent in making sure incoming contractors are a good fit for the group. SSG has an aggressive vetting process where it will perform a site tour of the prospective member.

Being a smaller group, the association can make sure that no members are competitors.

“We are very careful about who we bring into the group,” Bishop said. “Much like a business, it does not take much more than a bad apple or two to spoil the bunch. Our members never have a hesitation to share challenges or best practices. They’re invested in each other and want to make sure the new companies we bring in fit the Synergy culture. We want to find really great companies and people.”

The journey of the new group began with an election of a founder’s board, which grants contractors a voice in what SSG would and should look like. The group had a collective meeting in Chicago, where it did some big picture thinking on what they wanted to see from the group.

Throughout the year, the group has five different training opportunities around the country. There are also many other face-to-face meeting with members visiting each other’s businesses.

“Relationships are so important,” Bishop said. “We are trying to push Synergy through the entire organization for the members’ companies. This is not a president’s club or only for the CEOs. We want to develop the bonds within the organization to help us all become stronger.”

These days, the organization is helping its members tackle issues facing all HVAC contractors, such as finding and retaining good talent in the field and keeping up with the changing technology being offered by HVAC equipment manufacturers.

Some of the goals for 2017 are to establish strategic purchasing partnerships, provide training opportunities that the members can’t get elsewhere, and continue to implement feedback and ideas from the founders board and entire Synergy membership. The group is excited about the future.

“Our noncompetitive peers provide a cohesive environment of companies who are willing to share the knowledge they have gained without fear of losing a customer base,” said Jack Fanneron, president of The BP Group and Synergy founder’s board member. “We are proud to be a part of Synergy and look forward to playing our role in making HVAC better for companies throughout the nation.” 

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Publication date: 6/26/2017

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