WASHINGTON — Considering how much the federal government affects the HVACR industry, it was only natural for ACCA to hold its 2018 Annual Conference and IE3 Expo at the Gaylord National Harbor in
Washington, D.C.

It was a historic meeting, as Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta became the first sitting cabinet secretary to appear at the ACCA Conference. Acosta hit all the right notes as he talked with the contractor audience about workforce development, apprenticeship programs, and technical training.

“Air conditioning has very much changed the way Americans live,” Acosta said. “From this administration’s perspective, air conditioning is a lot more than just cooler homes. Your industry is a source for quality, family-sustaining jobs. One of my top priorities as secretary of labor is to give you and your businesses the flexibility you need to invest and create even more jobs.”

Acosta talked about the administration’s goal of creating regulatory certainty to empower HVAC businesses to grow. He also introduced what he termed a “big idea” concerning apprenticeship programs.

He believes that in order to help make sure job seekers have valuable technical skills, the important people in a student’s life need to make sure that the student is aware of the broad range of career options available.

“We need to do that early on,” he said. “We need to make sure people have all options available. The vast majority of people find their job through skilled trade and other areas. We need an education model that responds to the demands of the workplace.”

Acosta also introduced a phrase he calls demand-driven apprenticeship and stated President Donald Trump wants to expand the apprenticeship programs. He went on to mention the American Bar Association and the American Medical Association and how these organizations certify the training programs for their respective area of expertise. Acosta would like to see that happen at the trade level. His perspective was that industry, labor, and the educational institutions should be responsible for developing the curriculum and certifying the programs for their own industries.

“We want to empower you to do what is right, so you can create high-quality apprenticeship systems,” Acosta said.

Acosta also highlighted the administration’s efforts to ensure access to more affordable health care for small business owners. He believes the current health system places burdens on the small businesses across America that create the majority of jobs. The small business health care proposal is designed to reduce much of this burden and level the playing field.


In one of the general sessions, Jay Baer gave advice on how contractors can turn their customers into even more customers. Baer has spent 23 years in digital marketing and customer experience, consulting for more than 700 companies — including 32 of the Fortune 500.

Baer told the audience that by 2020, a majority of buying decisions will be made by customer experience and not price — across all industries. While he said some people tend to overcomplicate customer experience, it is just how a business makes their customers feel. Those feelings are driven entirely by expectations.

Every customer a contractor comes in contact with has an expectation on how the interaction with that business will go. They have an expectation of when the service appointment will happen, who will show up, and what will happen when they are in the home. Baer believes when you can exceed those expectations noticeably in one or more ways, that is where a great customer experience lies. And when you fall short of those expectations, that is where a terrible customer experience resides.

“One of the best things you can do is understand that, today, customer expectations are different,” Baer said. “They used to say that is a pretty good customer experience for HVAC. They no longer do that. The greatest companies in the world are teaching your customers what to expect from you and your technicians. They will not give you a pass anymore because of your industry or your size. Customer expectations continue to go up. Good is no longer enough.”

Baer believes it is important for businesses to give customers a story to tell. That is how a business gets referrals, since very few people will talk to their neighbors about an adequate experience. And homeowners who get referrals from friends are more likely to be satisfied with their contractor regardless of the service level. It is a psychological impact on customer satisfaction.

“Everyone in this room cares about word-of-mouth,” Baer said. “One hundred percent of companies care what people are saying about them. But fewer than 1 percent of all businesses have an actual plan to create word-of-mouth to give customers a story to tell.

“Here is something that is 19 percent of the entire U.S. economy [referral business], and nobody has a strategy for it,” he continued. “We just take it for granted. We assume word-of-mouth is going to happen. Let’s stop assuming and do it on purpose.”


At the conference, ACCA presented Kevin Sharkey, owner of Sharkey Air LLC, Stuart, Florida, with the 2018 Skip Snyder Humanitarian Award.

Sharkey was recognized for his decades of work helping families who are coping with illnesses. From personal experience, Sharkey knew that families often need a sanctuary and place to be together while family members undergo medical treatments. Sharkey’s daughter, Molly Sharkey, was diagnosed with chronic myelocytic leukemia, and throughout the family’s struggles, they often found comfort in Ronald McDonald Houses across the country as they searched for a cure.

Before passing away in 1992, Molly Sharkey told her father she wanted a haven for families in her home town of Stuart, Florida. On Sept. 21, 1996, her dream came true as Molly’s House opened its doors to ensure families could be together in times of need. Since 1996, Molly’s House has been a sanctuary to more than 22,000 people while they or their loved ones received medical treatment.

The association also presented the Distinguished Service Award to Tom Jackson, CEO of Jackson Systems LLC in Indianapolis. The Distinguished Service Award is presented to an ACCA volunteer displaying extraordinary support to ACCA and its mission to promote contractor professionalism and excellence.

Jackson serves as a volunteer on three ACCA committees: the Professional Development Committee, the Standards Task Team, and the ACCA Conference Task Force.

“I am humbled,” he said. “It is a great honor to be recognized by ACCA, a tremendous organization dedicated to professionalism and excellence. I am accepting this award on behalf of the entire team at Jackson Systems, who share my passion for the industry and my vision for supporting ACCA members.”

The annual conference concluded with Chairman Steve Schmidt’s pledge to galvanize contracting professionals and strengthen their national trade association. Schmidt noted that baby boomers have dedicated decades of work to create a robust trade association, but contractors must ensure the association is adapting to the needs of younger business leaders.

“ACCA is actively identifying the benefits contractors desire from their national trade association and uncovering the core challenges that all contractors struggle with,” he said. “As chairman, my goal is to modernize ACCA and meet the needs of all contractors and help them break into new markets.”

Schmidt resolved to enhance ACCA’s value proposition and increase the value of membership. He also pledged that, under his leadership, ACCA will enhance membership experiences and further engage students and young professionals.

To accomplish these objectives, Schmidt vowed that ACCA will be redeveloping the value of ACCA membership and creating innovative programs to solve members’ problems.

He also acknowledged that young business owners share a desire for strong communities.

“ACCA will be a community of engaged contractors with a shared desire to professionalize the contracting industry and work together for the betterment of society,” he said. “Our association will adapt to the needs of young contractors.”  

Publication date: 3/26/2018

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