HEBRON, KY — The theme of Excellence Alliance Inc.’s (EAI’s) Annual Excellence Leaders Meeting was “What the Times Demand,” and members received a lot of information on strengthening business practices and relationships to take back to their employees and customers.

EAI president Jeff Wilmink welcomed members by saying, “I know it’s not sexy to come to Kentucky in October, but this is not a vacation — this is business.”

Wilmink said that this year EAI is “weeding out” allies who don’t want to be active in the organization. Today, the total of contractor members is nearing 200.

“We are better companies today,” he said. “And we need to turn your investment [in EAI] into something that will make you come back again and again.”


The keynote speaker for the meeting was Jack Carew, founder and chairman of Carew Inter-national, a Cincinnati-based global business training organization. Carew is the author of two best-selling books, You’ll Never Get No For An Answer and The Mentor: 15 Keys To Success In Sales, Business, And Life.

“Ideas are what it takes to be effective leaders in the future,” Carew told EAI members.

Stating that “we live in a world of uncertainty and fear,” Carew said there are three important questions that business leaders need to answer today:

  • What is the future?

  • What does it take to be great?

  • What can we do about it?

    Carew spoke of the changing work environment today and uncertain economic times, concluding, “We can either cope or influence. Influencing is jumping into a leadership role rather than coping, which is waiting for things to happen.

    “The voice of the mentor has been absent in current leadership practices. We are good at managing, but how good are we at getting close to our people?”

    Carew said that it is important to define the expectations and aspirations of those being mentored, noting, “A relationship is a contract. Everything we do is built around a psychological contract.”

    He said that dealing with “people issues” is important, because “85% of what we do in life has to do with people and the other 15% is dealing with technical issues.”


    Jim Graening, of FreshAir Consultants Inc. (Cincinnati, OH) is a member of the EAI Allies Group. Graening briefed attendees on the importance of networking among each other. He cited EAI’s MentorNet program as a “huge resource and tool.”

    He urged contractors to interact with each other on topics EAI has explored, such as commission schedules for salespeople and how to handle a service tech’s DUI arrest. He noted that there are about 400 MentorNet members who are willing to offer opinions or advice. Some of these members are employees of EAI contractors. Anyone can join as long as they have an individual e-mail address.

    Graening maintained that contractor owners need to keep up the momentum after initial EAI rollouts. “The company rollouts are good and get everyone excited, but you have to follow up and keep the enthusiasm up,” he told attendees. “For example, take an employee survey and learn what your employees are thinking.”

    He said that less than 5% of the estimated 45,000 HVAC contractors do any quantitative analysis of their business.


    Mike Callahan, partner with Callahan-Roach Group Pro (Columbus, OH), is also a member of the EAI Allies Group. He facilitated a discussion on education and training issues. Callahan listened to suggestions from contractors about what types of training are necessary today, such as IAQ and mold.

    One type of training, available online for EAI members, is learning conversational Spanish. “That little bit can help you talk to your Spanish employees,” Callahan said.

    Like Graening, Callahan sees a great deal of value in training based on survey results. “Reviewing survey results is a great way to compare yourselves with other EAI companies, especially on seeing where you were in the past and where you have to go,” he said.

    Callahan stressed the importance of learning so-called soft skills, adding, “I don’t know how soft skills can be taught online. If we offered soft skills training for employees [in the classroom], would you send your employees?”

    Most in the discussion group answered in the affirmative.

    Callahan noted that EAI will soon have over 100 online training courses for its members, with topics including computer proficiency, business management, and personal enrichment.

    Publication date: 11/18/2002