BROADVIEW, Ill. — The HVAC industry is always changing, and businesses must continually adapt their strategies to stay ahead of the competition and improve workforce productivity.

That’s why The Unified Group — an association of leading independent HVAC commercial contractors — hosts an annual Service Management Forum. The group encourages members to share best practices and learn about new technology that can help save time and money within their organizations. This year’s event, held in Fort Myers, Florida, drew more than 40 attendees from 22 member companies.

“These meetings rejuvenate me to start the year off with a bang,” said Chris DeMers of CMC Corporate Solutions. “I always wish we had more time with all of these great leaders when the conference ends.”

Jeff Ruby, RedRock Leadership founder and CEO, kicked off the first day with his session titled “Design & Build Your Foundation for Success.” Ruby specializes in helping owners of emerging growth companies and their leadership teams to prioritize, set goals, grow sales, increase profits, and create better leaders.

Each attendee completed a DiSC profile, which measures an individual’s dominance, influence, steadiness, and conscientiousness. The model is used to provide a common language that people can use to better understand themselves and adapt their behaviors with others. Members then discussed the book “Traction” by Geno Wickman and learned how to have more effective meetings and use the Identify/Discuss/Solve system to solve problems. The end goal is to reduce micro management and become a mentor to protect your organization’s culture and motivate your team by holding everyone accountable.

The second day saw a large group discussion on finding, hiring, training, and retaining technicians. Jeff Zenoniani (B&I Contractors) and Dave Robistow (VHV Company) shared their dispatching rules and guidelines to ensure the right person is on the job. Chris DeMers and Joel Knight (Harvey W. Hottel Inc.) showed the group their process for monitoring quality control in the field and the impact it is having within their organizations. Mike Devito (Air Comfort Corporation), Mike Kerner (Cox-Powell Corporation), Frank Quintanar (J&J Air Conditioning), and Desiree Cespedes (Standard Plumbing &Heating, Inc.) presented the benchmarks and KPIs they have in place for measuring technician productivity and days to bill.

Mike Devito began the final day with a discussion on using technology to streamline operations and communicate more effectively. Chris DeMers challenged all in the room to take time to focus on personal growth during the coming year. James Sandoval (J&J Air Conditioning) shared his experiences on managing change. He discussed the many changes that he has faced during his career and how he handled them, asking the group for feedback on what he could have done differently.

“This was one of the most open and vulnerable presentations I've heard,” said Chris Stokes of Air Controls. “James really put himself out there. This is a great example of the commitment and importance of The Unified Group.”

Throughout the forum, members broke into groups to discuss technology, their biggest challenges and possible ideas to solve them upon returning to their organizations.