Exhibit A.

LAS VEGAS, NV — Examine Exhibit A, above. Is this a photograph of:

1. A rock concert?

2. A church revival?

3. A riot about to happen?

4. A contractor group meeting?

If you selected 4, you had to be gambling. Or, you were among the 1,000-plus participants who attended the first-ever Inter-national Service Leadership (ISL) Performance Planning Retreat, held recently here.

For those unfamiliar with ISL, it is the “new and improved” version, if you will, of the one-time Contractor Success Group (CSG), which dissolved earlier this year. ISL emerged from CSG because, as ISL (and former CSG) president Bill Efird put it, “After thorough study and discussion, we determined the expanded vision of Service Experts has developed to help all contractors better meet the challenges of our rapidly changing industry that can no longer be adequately addressed through CSG.”

Under the new title and direction, ISL held its initial program at the Rio All-Suites Casino Resort. More than 1,000 participated, which made the ISL staff scramble, as they were not necessarily prepared for the final total.

“I had a goal of a thousand [attendees]. But, I’ll be honest, I thought that was a reach. You surprised me and I congratulate you,” remarked Efird in his opening speech, which drew a round of applause from the crowd.

One contracting firm, Wipple Plumbing and Heating of Salt Lake City, UT, brought 40 people to the two-day event. ISL staff gladly adjusted for all the last-minute registrants, making sure all who came were accommodated.

“We wanted to bring together a huge group like this, where we’re motivated, where we’re focused, where we have specific plans in place.…This is going to be a working two days,” assured the emotional Efird. “You’re going to be focused when you come out of this. You’re going to have specific skills to use.

“This is going to be a turning point in your life. You are going to remember this experience. It’s going to be life-changing.


Life-changing? Maybe for some — especially if they listened to and put into practice the words from inspirational speakers Joseph McClendon III and Beck Weathers. (See related story below.)

The two motivational speakers did fit right into the retreat’s general theme: achieving peak performance. Mt. Everest, in all its glory, consumed the stage’s backdrop. To put attendees even more in the mood, ISL placed three camping tents on stage. Opening commentator and ISL instructor Glenn Whelan compared climbing Everest to running a contracting firm.

“We have a plan in place to be the leading contractor organization in North America in terms of — in terms of what? Everybody says they want to be leading,” said Efird. “We want to be leading in terms of number of members, because we want to affect a lot of people. And, also, in effectiveness.

“If we have a lot of people, we don’t change lives, and we are not effective, then we haven’t accomplished our goals. We want to offer the most advanced and effective programs for contractors, by contractors.”

ISL instructors/coaches Tom Wittman and Dennis Mondul then introduced attendees to one specific strategy: encouragement selling. In a nutshell, ISL defined this as:

  • Helping customers identify what’s in their own best interest; and
  • Encouraging customers to make decisions based upon their convictions.
  • “ISL wants to stress encouragement sales,” said Wittman, who occasionally asked the crowd to answer “Bam!” when he asked for such a response.

    Wittman noted that the three building blocks for encouragement sales are demonstration (“Demon-strate what is best for the customer”), evidence (“Prove what you say you are going to do and can do”), and reference (“Have that third-party authority”). (See related story below.)


    In addition to the general discussions, ISL put together breakout sessions geared to specific attendees. For instance, leaders, managers, and accounting managers met to discuss, among other topics, budgeting, pricing, and S.M.A.R.T. software offered only by ISL. (In its bag of membership-only product offerings, ISL now offers the Sony Vaio® C1 Picture-Book™ notebook computer at a discounted price.)

    Another breakout session involved only technicians. Here, instructors tried to hammer home the importance of doing a job right the first time, the cost of rework, running performance tune-ups (PTUs), offering choices to the customer, and the importance of motivation.

    At this session, technicians also received some handy business tools, including an operating cost comparison worksheet, an air conditioning and gas furnace operating cost analysis slide rule, a performance recommendation sheet, and more.

    A third breakout session put together customer service performers, office support personnel, and all others. Agenda items included how to better support techs, prepare customers, and get to “Level 4” service — the highest level among ISL members.


    On the second day, ISL director of training Jim Whelan discussed how climbing Mt. Everest is, in fact, symbolic of one’s life. (See related story below.)

    “You’ve gotta enjoy the climb,” summarized Whelan. “Waiting never achieved anything; only doing does.”

    Day 2 also offered more breakout sessions. One was for service technicians to practice their communication skills. Several were brought on stage to do role playing with a designated customer. ISL staff videotaped the proceedings.

    The breakout session for general managers covered the association’s “Choices Turn Over” (CTO) Program, designed to help members serve customers better. According to presenter Wittman, statistical results of CTO show that one in 18 service/maintenance calls result in a sale of a replacement system.

    “This is accomplished with high integrity, using encouragement sales as taught by ISL,” stressed Efird, who kept preaching the need for “total honesty” and “integrity.”

    Two-hour planning events preceded Weathers’ closing finale. Service Experts members were grouped together, while independent ISL teams met in a different room. Solo attendees also had a joint planning session.

    Whether members’ left feeling that their lives had changed is open for debate. However, many benefited. “Best meeting I’ve ever attended,” commented one attendee, sporting a “BFD” (Better, Faster, Different) shirt.

    For more information on ISL, call 800-585-4452, or visit its soon-to-open public website, www.islinc.net. (Members-only website is www.islinc.tv.)

    Sidebar 1: Motivational Speakers Shake Things up at ISL Event

    LAS VEGAS, NV — After listening to not one, not two, but three motivational speeches from a trio of inspirational presenters, attendees had plenty to mull over on the plane or car trip home from the International Service Leadership’s (ISL’s) Performance Planning Retreat, held here recently at the Rio Suites Hotel and Casino.

    ISL president Bill Efird encouraged one and all to take the next step by putting what was suggested into action. Initial speaker Joe McClendon III set the tone with his emotional talk on “The Power of Endurance.”

    “Within each and every one of us is an organic, working pharmacy … A sort of factory that can and will produce all that we need to give us abundant energy and endurance,” said McClendon, one of the more sought after “ultimate performance” coaches in the business. “We must take care to stock this pharmacy with all that it needs to function in order for it to do its job optimally.”

    “A” Is For …

    McClendon supplied his captivated audience with, what he referred to, as the “A, B, C, D, and E’s of energy.” No. 1 on his list is attitude.

    “Our imagination is the strongest tool that we have for creating the future that we desire,” he said, occasionally bringing the crowd to its feet. “Whatever we imagine will determine how we feel in any given moment. How we feel will determine our attitude and subsequently what we will and won’t do.”

    McClendon encouraged the crowd to:

  • See it. “Use your imagination to make pictures in your mind of the way that you want it. See yourself the way that you would like to be. Full of energy, awake, alive, accomplishing your goals … Look where you want to go.”
  • Say it. “The sound of your own voice can motivate or tax you. Chose your words wisely. Decide on a phrase or poem or incantation that makes you feel good and powerful. Say it over and over again until it becomes natural and memorized. Then, say it some more.”
  • Show it. “Walk, talk, smile, gesture, laugh … Fake it ‘til you make it. Act like you want to be and you will soon be like you act.”
  • In McClendon’s alphabet, “B” stands for breathing. He encouraged ISL members to stop and take 10 deep breaths every two hours for 10 days. “This will oxygenate your blood and the movement will get your lymph system flowing, which aids in cleansing the system.”

    “C,” in McClendon’s case, stands for consumption. He could not say enough about what ISL members – and humans, period – should digest and what they should never even look at. “What we put into our bodies is perhaps the greatest long and short-term factor in our lack or abundant energy and wellness,” he stated. “Choose your food and liquids wisely and you will shape your body and your life.”

    McClendon’s no-no’s are: red meats, dairy products, alcohol, and acid addictions. However, he asked that all increase and enjoy more green leafy vegetables, fruits and fresh juices, and grains and fibers in their respective diets. He also said to eat small amounts – plus, don’t eat late at night. The “D” on his list stands for detox.

    “Cleansing our bodies of toxins and stored up waste will give your system a clean foundation in which to build sufficient energy reserves,” he said. “Although there are several different cleansing systems, the easiest, most natural way is to increase your H2O intake. Water is nature’s universal solvent. It will dissolve toxins, increase energy, cause the body to eliminate fate, and increase flexibility.”

    He suggested that everyone should drink at least six full glasses of pure water every day. He asked for all to cut down on sodas and sweetened drinks.

    His final suggestion was to exercise. In his estimation, body movement is essential in gaining energy, momentum, and endurance.

    “Contrary to popular opinion, the more you move the more energy you will have,” he said. “The more you remain sedentary, the less energy you will have. At the very least, you should get one half hour of movement in your day each day.”

    Climbing Mt. Everest Mirrors Life

    On the morning of the final day, ISL director of training Jim Whelan gave an uplifting discussion, comparing the climb up Mt. Everest to that of climbing l-i-f-e. He pointed out 5 “lessons.” “Everest is symbolic of your life,” he told the audience. “Climbing, like life, takes effort. It’s not supposed to be easy.”

    In regard to climbing Everest, Whelan says there are four possible outcomes:

    A. Reaching the summit, but not surviving;

    B. reaching the summit and living;

    C. not reaching the summit, and not living; or

    D. not reaching the summit, but living.

    “It’s the same with life,” said Whelan. “Either you do something or you don’t. It’s what you want to do out of life. But, remember: There’s no reason to want if you don’t do.”

    In the “fuels” needed for life, Whelan asked attendees to shy away from the “leaded” types, which included anger, fear, frustration, nervousness, and doubt. Instead, he asked that “unleaded” gas be used, meaning optimism, hope, joy, happiness, purpose, and love.

    “Replace the unleaded with positive energy!” he emphasized.

    Whelan’s second lesson: “You gotta enjoy the climb!”

    “What makes you happy changes over time,” he warned. But he wanted his audience to show happiness no matter what.

    Lesson 3? Answer: “It’s how we climb.” In other words, there is a positive perspective and a pessimistic perspective. Of course, Whelan recommended the former over the latter.

    Lesson 4 is: “The real ‘you’ must lead.” By this, Whelan meant that the spiritual side of man is every person’s “you,” moreso than the physical side. The idea here, he said, is to lead oneself from within, spiritually.

    And Lesson 5: “We all have a purpose.” In Whelan’s estimation, more people worry about their identity rather than paying attention to their purpose in life.

    To get to the top, so to speak, Whelan concluded that one should smile more often, choose a “positive posture,” make “spiritual-based decisions,” and “add spirituality to your work life.” Wanting never achieved anything,” he concluded. Only doing does!”

    Survived and Thankful

    The grand finale came from Dr. Seaborn Beck Weathers, who described in great and emotional detail his near-death experience attempting to climb Mt. Everest in 1996. A violent storm atop the mountain on May 10 left the then 49-year-old amateur climber unconscious and exposed on the mountain’s icy rocks. In fact, his wife and family were notified of his death.

    Miraculously, Weathers managed to awake the morning after the storm to find himself alive, but barely. His hands were severely frostbitten. He had not feeling left in his feet. His vision was so impaired that he could see only three or four feet in front of him. What kept him alive and going, he said, was his seeing his wife and kids back home in Dallas, TX.

    “I was lying on my back in the ice,” he told the attentive listeners. “It was colder than anything you can believe. I figured I had three or four hours left to live, so I started walking. All I knew was, as long as my legs would run, and I could stand up, I was going to move toward the camp. And if I fell down, I was going to get up. And if I fell down again, I was going to get up, and I was going to keep moving until I either hit that camp. I couldn’t get up at all, or I walked off the face of that mountain.”

    Due, in part, to his will to live, Weathers reached his camp, where he astonished fellow climbers, who immediately cut the frozen clothes from his body and warmed him with a hot water bottle. In trying to get Weathers down the mountain, he grew increasingly weak.

    Miracle No. 2 occurred when his wife heard of her husband’s amazing survival. Peach Weathers arranged for a helicopter to rescue him. In an extraordinary act of heroism, Lt. Colonel Madan Khatri Chhetri of the Nepalese army flew his helicopter up 22,000 ft to rescue Weathers. It was the second highest helicopter rescue in history.

    Weathers, a surgeon, lost his right hand to frostbite and part of his left hand as well. However, he said, he never lost hope.

    “A surgeon said I can fix that hand of yours and your face,” said Weathers. “But I told him I never wanted to forget this. I now can look in the mirror and thank God for what I do have. I have my wife and kids.”

    At the conclusion of his speech, the emotional Weathers broke into tears. ISL members gave him a standing ovation.

    Sidebar 2: First Impressions Are Important

    In encouragement sales, ISL and Tom Wittman offered eight tips targeted to bring about a positive first impression:

    1. Show up two to three minutes early. If you show up too early, you may inconvenience the customer. If you show up late, on the other hand, the customer may put up some emotional barriers about visiting with a salesperson.

    2. Be sure to park out of the way. Do not risk parking in someone else’s space.

    3. Don’t forget the prospect’s name.

    4. Be observant of unique things to strike up conversations not related to hvac.

    5. Be courteous (i.e., do not walk on the prospect’s lawn).

    6. If you ring the doorbell, you run the risk of disturbing pets or small, napping children. ISL recommends knocking on the door.

    7. Stand to the side of the door and give the customer some space when they answer.

    8. Set the mood of the visit by smiling.

    Publication date: 06/11/2001