Hawaii might seem like a slightly curious choice for the Sheet Metal and Air-Conditioning Contractors’ National Association’s annual conference.

Temperatures in the remote Pacific island chain are quite temperate, averaging around 80°F year round. With cooling breezes blowing off the ocean, many Hawaii residents survive just fine without an HVAC system in their homes.

Yet SMACNA returns to the Hawaiian Islands often, having brought its conference to Maui several times in the last 13 years. This month, the association will hold its 74th annual convention Oct. 22-25 at the Grand Wailea and Wailea Marriott resorts. The two hotels are familiar sites to many SMACNA members, having hosted the sheet metal contractors group several times before.

Among the headliners at this year’s convention is comedian Kathleen Madigan. Madigan, 52, will appear at the opening luncheon Oct. 23.  

During her 25-year career, she has appeared on nearly every late-night show ever produced. She was on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” 25 times, “The Late Show with David Letterman” seven times, “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” twice and “Ron White’s Comedy Salute to the Troops” five times.

Her one-hour concert special “Madigan Again” and album, shot at a suburban Detroit comedy club, was named one of iTunes’ best, and she’s also won the American Comedy and the Phyllis Diller awards for “Best female comedian.”

Madigan says she loves performing for the U.S. military and has done many USO shows, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with friends Lewis Black, John Bowman and the late Robin Williams.

Before she became involved in comedy, Madigan earned a bachelor’s in journalism and worked for a time in publishing before embarking on a standup career. For the last 25 years, she’s performed an estimated 300 dates annually.

In addition to one-off performances in clubs and theaters across the country, she’s also headlined at the Mirage hotel-casino in Las Vegas.

She is the only comedian on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” to go unchallenged by any other comedian. Madigan has performed internationally at festivals and theaters in Ireland, England, Australia and Canada. 

Hail to the Queen Extravaganza

At the end of this year’s convention, SMACNA members will have the chance to pump their fists, grab some lighters and bang their heads to the sounds of 1970s and 80s British rock band Queen when the Queen Extravaganza appears as closing entertainment Oct. 25.

Billed as the official Queen tribute band, the 90-minute show features the arena-ready music of Queen, performed by a new generation of singers and musicians. It will include more than 20 of the band’s biggest hits: “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Another One Bites the Dust,” “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” “Under Pressure,” “We Will Rock You,” “We Are the Champions,” “Somebody to Love,” and “Killer Queen,” as well as other fan favorites.

The new band was assembled by original Queen band members Roger Taylor and Brian May in 2011 after a talent search. Contestants submitted videos, which were voted on online by the public, generating more than 10 million views. The finalists then auditioned for former Queen drummer Taylor in Los Angeles.

A day before the Queen show, SMACNA will hold a four-hour trade show, featuring equipment and information from major sheet metal machinery makers and accessory companies. The show will also include several educational seminars on new industry technologies.

In addition to these events, SMACNA has scheduled numerous sessions where its specialty contracting committee members will discuss industry issues and hear from experts. Here are some of the scheduled sessions. A full list and more information are available at www.smacna.org/annualconvention.

Expertise wanted

The Oct. 23 HVAC Contractors Forum, “Owners and General Contractors are Looking for Expertise, not Excuses,” will cover what general contractors look for when hiring and working with specialty contractors. Richard Henry, a division president with McCarthy Building Cos. Inc., is scheduled to speak. 

At the Residential Contractors Forum, SMACNA says attendees will discover the best ways to mix revenue opportunities and enhance the “four legs” of marketing.

Kerry Webb, Ph.D., president of Peak Leadership and business coach for Service Excellence Training, will present “Profit Strategies for a Successful Future,” Oct. 23. He has helped companies grow their annual revenues by 20 percent and more, SMACNA says.

Social media marketing is a topic that still confuses many sheet metal contractors. Digital designer Mitch Seifert will help sort through this topic and help attendees learn the most effective ways to market your business. During “Marketing with Digital and Social Media,” he’ll show how to critique and improve your website, ways to effectively use content, the importance of understanding website analytics, and everything you need to know about improving your corporate visibility online.

You will learn how to use words images and video more effectively. SMACNA says attendees will leave understanding the best practices for search engine and mobile optimization in the sheet metal industry.

Finding fraud

Fraud and internal theft will be the subject of Tiffany Couch’s Oct. 23 session. During “The Thief in Your Company,” she will dispel the myth that “fraud can’t happen here” and address the reasons why so many internal fraud schemes go undetected for years. 

Couch is founder and CEO of Acuity Forensics. She has more than 20 years in the accounting field with the last 13 focused completely on forensic accounting-related engagements. In addition, she is a regular resource for the New York Times, Forbes, CNBC, NPR, Wall Street Journal, and “First Business News.”

Virtual reality isn’t just for videogames. It’s now having on impact on construction, and that includes sheet metal work. At this year’s Architectural Sheet Metal Contractors Forum, Tom Zahner, chief operating officer of A. Zahner Co. Inc. in Kansas City., Missouri, will explain how building information modeling is evolving to include virtual design for construction.

Are your employees engaged like they’re doing something great — or just trying to earn a paycheck? Are they inspired by a greater vision and their role in it?

DeWayne Ables, president of Pioneer iQ, will present “Build the Business: It’s More Than Revenue,” Oct. 25.  SMACNA says if you have a desire to grow a great business, but are worn out by the constant pressure of being in charge, this session will provide you with a more effective way to build your team.

Knowing which jobs to bid on and which projects to leave to somebody else is critical to ensuring profitability. That’s the opinion of Thomas C. Schleifer, Ph.D., a construction management expert, university professor and longtime SMACNA consultant. During “The Science of Project Selection: Choosing Profitable Work,” Oct. 25, Schleifer will explain how the success of a project is directly associated with the organization’s experience with similar work. Participants will learn about the “Project Selection Tool,” a way to measure potential success.

While their prognostications on the 2016 election were far from accurate, SMACNA’s lobbyists are back to give their opinions and predictions on the political landscape in 2018 and beyond.

At the 2017 SMACNA conference in Phoenix, Dana Thompson and Stan Kolbe were sure that Donald Trump would not become the U.S.’ 45th president. Kolbe also said the U.S. Senate would fall under Democrats’ control.

This year, the two will turn their attention to the upcoming midterm elections in November 2018 and whether Trump’s controversies and poll numbers will be a drag on the rest of the GOP. They’ll also cover the legislation important to the association and discuss its chances in getting through Congress and being signed by the president. 

2016-17 SMACNA president focuses on workforce development

Despite being quite a ways from retirement himself, Joseph Lansdell has spent much of his year as SMACNA president thinking about the looming retirement of older members and what that will mean for the association.

“We’re trying to find workers and recruit,” he said.

Joseph Lansdell

It’s a major change from the worst parts of the Great Recession, when projects were hard to come by and many sheet metal workers were unemployed. But it’s been a common concern as the 46-year-old owner and president of Poynter Sheet Metal in Greenwood, Indiana, has traveled the county on behalf of the association.

“It’s a huge undertaking everywhere, from East to West Coast,” Lansdell said, adding that experienced managers are also hard to find for many SMACNA companies — a potential problem for executives who may be eyeing retirement in the coming years.

“We as contractors have not developed that skill set and we’re trying to recruit on our own,” he said. “It’s a challenge and it will be for a while.”

 That’s why SMART (International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers) and SMACNA are undertaking an initiative to recruit recently discharged military veterans into the industry.

“The baby boomers are retiring. There’s a real generational change right now,” Lansdell said. “We’re always trying to make ourselves relevant. In the time of electronic and social media and everything (the industry needs to figure out) how to attract that next generation.”

In his travels as SMACNA president, Lansdell visited northern California, Michigan, Arizona, Texas and several Canadian provinces. He said that cry for help finding workers has been the dominant message he’s heard from members.

“Really what we’re hearing is more and more about ‘workforce development,’ ” he said.

That’s been especially true at Poynter, where business is as good as Lansdell said he’s ever seen it.

“I’ve got 475 workers right now. We’re going great guns,” he said. That made it hard to stay away from the office. On most trips to visit local SMACNA chapters, he said there was no time for sightseeing.

“Most of it was fly in, do my work, fly out,” he said.

But the chance to learn from other association members was invaluable.

“It’s kind of comforting as a contractor who’s active in running a business to know that I’m not alone,” he said. “And that’s what SMACNA is all about really ... connecting people to solutions.”