HVAC, plumbing, and electrical service contractors let the good times roll as they descended upon The Big Easy — also known as New Orleans — in April for Service Roundtable’s 2018 Spring International Roundtable event. Contractors were met with riveting keynote speakers, powerful breakout sessions, and interesting new products and services from Roundtable Rewards Partners.

“We think it’s really important to get people together because we learn from each other,” said David Heimer, senior vice president, Service Nation Inc. “You have this great opportunity to talk to other people who are trying to do the same things you are trying to do — grow their businesses. When you’re walking down the path to success, it’s so much easier if you’re walking with people who are trying to do the same things that you are, that have been there and done that, and have suffered through the same problems that you have suffered. It’s a great opportunity. So first of all, it’s the networking component. The second part is you have to refresh yourself every now and then. And when you’re in this kind of peer tribal group with a bunch of people who are excited and get each other pumped up, you get exposed to new ideas.”

Heimer said the goal is for attendees to take home their new ideas, sort them out to find which ones will benefit them the most, and execute a couple of those to help them grow their businesses.

“We just want to make sure that people come, they learn, and have a lot of fun,” he added.

Attendees were treated to unlimited networking opportunities during evening events, which included a party at the House of Blues in the historic French Quarter and an invasion of the National World War II Museum.


Breakout sessions covered a number of topics, including marketing and branding, sales, customer relationships, achieving goals, using IoT as a customer retention mechanism, and more.

Dan Antonelli, president, KickCharge Creative, Washington, New Jersey, and one of the IRT presenters, discussed the benefits of becoming a disruptive HVAC brand. He explained in length about why having a polished brand is critical for service businesses and how that translates into getting better return on investment (ROI) in marketing endeavors. KickCharge Creative strives to change the perception of businesses to make it so that when a customer is looking at a brand, they understand the key takeaways about why that company is one they want to work with in the future, Antonelli noted.

“When you think about branding, most small businesses and a lot of service businesses do not have a very polished brand,” he said. “If you have 10 competitors in your space, and suddenly, you’re the one who really has your act together in terms of how you present your business, how your business looks, what your business says about you, the colors that you use, and the image you project, that's being disruptive in your space because no one else is really embracing that. When that happens, we see those businesses do so much better and get a much better ROI on the marketing dollars they’re spending because it connects better with the people they’re trying to sell to.”

Antonelli added that events like International Roundtable are great because there are plenty of takeaways for attendees and vendors alike.

“It’s really great for contractors to get the pulse of some of the different things happening in the marketing space and get ideas from each other on what works and what doesn’t work,” he said. “We take a lot away from these events as vendors because we hear what the members are talking about in terms of things they are struggling with or things they need help with. It’s a great interactive forum for people to come together and just speak freely about the things that are working, that aren’t working, and how to improve their business.”


During the event, Service Roundtable announced its 2017 Contractor of the Year as Huntsville, Alabama-based H.C. Blake Co. Jim Batson, CEO of the company, accepted the award on behalf of his 134-year-old family business. Batson joined Service Roundtable in 2010, after purchasing the company from his uncle, right as the recession hit. At the time, H.C. Blake was 90 percent new construction, and Batson wanted to expand his portfolio. He went looking for an organization to educate him on the service side of the business.

“The first event I attended was also in New Orleans, and I met Ron Smith and Matt Michel and drilled them on best practices,” Batson said. “After that first meeting, I got on a plane and visited the top companies in the country.”

After learning from industry leaders, H.C. Blake has evolved to 50 percent commercial construction and 50 percent retail service, as well as grown from 35 employees in 2010 to approximately 115 employees today.

“I’m on a conference call every week, and I still attend one to two events a year — I also attend the EMA conference for marketing and some ABC [Associated Builders and Contractors Inc.] events,” Batson said. “Attending events is the easiest way to scale your business by gaining knowledge. You can jump on somebody’s coat tail really quick at a meeting and learn what they are doing, then go back home and implement it.”

Edward McFarlane, vice president of learning and development, Haller Enterprises Inc., Lititz, Pennsylvania, said he was specifically looking to share ideas and best practices to address the growing labor shortages that face the HVAC industry.

“I think everyone’s talking about the hiring issues, and so we’re looking for new strategies on recruitment, new strategies on hiring, and we’re getting some great ideas,” he said. “I just talked to a contractor last night and got some ideas based on the little things they are doing to retain people. That’s all part of the solution as well.”

Attending events like International Roundtable gives contractors the chance to rub shoulders with peers that are facing similar challenges, who can possibly shed some light on it, McFarlane added.

“It’s better to learn from other people than to slough through on your own,” he said. “We’re always looking to learn from the best.”

For more information on Service Roundtable, visit www.serviceroundtable.com.

Publication date: 5/15/2018

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