LAS VEGAS, NV — Contractors at ACCA’s annual conference gathered for an informal session titled “What’s Your Problem?” It was an opportunity for fellow businesspeople to discuss anything on their minds with regards to operating procedures, industry news, etc.

The panel was moderated by Vince DiFilippo, owner of DiFil-ippo’s Service Co., Paoli, PA. The panelists included Mike Gardner, president of Mediterranean Heat-ing & A/C, Inc., Canoga Park, CA; Ray Isaac, vice president and general manager of Isaac Heating & A/C, Inc., Rochester, NY; Robert C. Ring, executive vice president of Meyer & Depew Co., Kenilworth, NJ; and Steve Miles, general manager of Jerry Kelly Heating & A/C Co., St. Charles, MO.

DiFilippo welcomed questions from the audience, which inspired some of the following discussions:

What kinds of software do you use?

Gardner and Isaac both use SAS 2000, which Isaac described as a program “you should be able to grow with.” He said that he set up the software in the company conference room so everyone had a chance to work with it and get comfortable before implementing it company-wide.

Ring said, “Look for a vendor who will offer the support you need and be wary of those who won’t give you product specifications.”

How do you determine service area and what if a call is out of it?

DiFilippo, whose company has a 12-mile service area, said he seldom ventures out of that region and if a call comes from farther out, “I’ll recommend another ACCA contractor or a member of our local association of contractors [similar to an ACCA MIX group].”

What pricing structure do you use?

All panelists said they use flat-rate pricing, but clarified that flat rate is the preferred pricing plan for residential contractors. Miles said, “If you don’t do anything else, join an ACCA MIX group and go flat rate!”

Can residential service techs cross over into commercial work?

Isaac said his crew is departmentalized because of the size of the company. “I don’t want a tech with limited residential training to go out to one of our large commercial customers and diagnose a chiller problem.”

Ring and Kelly said that their crews work in both markets because of the size of their companies and the workloads.

What do you say to customers who are price shoppers?

Miles said, “You are better off giving a customer a $100 bill and sending them to a competitor if they are price shoppers. You don’t need them.”

Gardner added, “People shop for price because heating and a/c is not a big risk for them, they don’t need it all of the time [or so they think]. I think it’s more fun being a quality guy who provides good service, not the lowest price.”

DiFilippo said price should not be a concern because a fair price means a fair wage for workers. “If your people are doing quality work, take care of them and pay them.”

How do you keep workers happy?

“Employee retention is very important,” said Miles. “We tell our techs that they will be the highest paid in our market. We treat each employee as an individual.”

A suggestion from the audience:

One contractor, who spoke on the topic of the labor shortage, suggested that business owners look at older, retired workers who are dependable, well-qualified, but only want to work a couple of days a week.

The good ideas flowed both ways at this seminar.

Publication date: 04/09/2001