It was early 2019 when Peirce Phelps Inc., our local distributor of Carrier and Bryant products, held its annual dealers’ meeting and my company was invited to attend.

The meeting consisted of a technician training session in the morning, where a factory presenter went over common problems the factory saw last year and that techs experienced in the field; the main event with a few speakers and a keynote speaker, designed more for the managers and the principals of companies; and then a trade show where a bunch of vendors showcased their products.

The dealers meeting was held at the Valley Forge casino near King of Prussia, Pennsylvania and at that time, I was looking forward to it mostly to eat some good food and nonstop desserts, drink endless coffee, and have a surefire excuse if anybody tried to reach me that day.

That year, the keynote speaker was Gary Elekes, founder of EPC Training. Prior to that day, I had no idea who he was, and I kind of figured he was another know-it-all or some sleazy salesman who would try to sell us something.

That speech Gary gave changed my life. It changed the life of my company, and it’s the reason why I am sharing this story with you three years later. That day, he talked about company culture and why it is important. He said that the companies with the best culture will win and will grow, and he explained what he meant in detail.

That made me think. So I researched him and decided to ask him to come in for a day and talk to us. At the time, I was a pretty close-minded person — but there were signs of some hope. Part of me thought, “Why do I have to pay a good amount of money for someone to come here for a day and teach me how to do what I already do, and what I am good at?” Another part of me thought, “Maybe this person knows something that I don’t and there is a reason why people are willing to pay him that much, and this may benefit me and my company.”

So we booked Gary for a day. He came to us prepared; prior to the visit, he requested a ton of information from us, and he pretty much gave us a shock therapy crash course on how to run our business. A few things that stood out: the daily huddle, the 45-step perfect service call process, and the restocking process of the vans. Plus, we received tons of Excel documents that explain how to price add-on replacements and service work.

As a result of Gary’s visit, our company doubled in size and revenue. We added a few things that encourage company culture, which I’ve written about in previous ACHR NEWS articles: our cleanest truck competition, our company newsletter. We definitely adopted a daily huddle routine — and perfected it to the point that this year, I will be presenting at the dealer meeting and showing a video on how we run a daily huddle. We celebrate every team member’s birthday, recognize techs who receive the most reviews in a given month, and hold yearly company awards where everybody votes to select the winners.

I wanted to share this with you since I agree with Gary that it is much better for our industry if we compete on culture, not who is cheaper. I told my team recently that we are not HVAC “guys.” We are specialists, and the specialists charge and the specialists win, not the “guys.”

So next time you are at a dealers’ meeting (that many people did work hard to put together), be open-minded, and your life may change like mine did. But of course, enjoy the coffee and deserts, too — they are delicious.