Managing, owning, operating, and leading an HVACR service company is a continuous journey to succeed, grow, prosper, and enhance. Every day is marked by challenges, decisions, and solutions. If companies instill a philosophy of continual learning, education, curiosity, and creativity for all employees, it follows that good things should happen.

Many companies have turned to the educational programs and publications offered by the Mechanical Service Contractors of America (MSCA), a subsidiary of the Mechanical Contractors Association of America Inc. (MCAA). These companies have been more than pleased with the results, and many have gone on to achieve recognition in the organization's MSCA STAR qualification program.

Contractors and technicians discuss points during a breakout session at an MSCA educational conference. (Photos courtesy of MSCA.)

Educational Programs

The highlight of MSCA's education program is its annual educational conference. MSCA 2004 is scheduled for Oct. 17-20 at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort in Santa Ana Pueblo, N.M. MSCA 2004 is designed to provide service contractors with the tools and ideas they need to continue their journey to success. The program includes conference seminars, special sessions, speakers, and events.

"Education sessions at MSCA 2004 are designed to provide contractors with a wealth of new ideas and creative strategies that are designed to become important tools on the journey to success," said Frank Norton, chairman of MSCA board of managers and president of Commonwealth Air Conditioning, Boston.

Topics to be covered at this year's conference include leadership, communication skills, interpersonal management skills, managing cash flow, hiring and termination, managing the risks of full-service contracts, joint labor/management initiatives, safety, and retro-commissioning.

In addition, contractors will have the opportunity to exchange information and ideas with fellow service contractors from around the country during topic-specific peer group discussions. They can also learn about the latest products and services during the exhibitor display.

Making a point at one of the recent MSCA educational conferences was Steve Smith, vice president, ACCO Engineered Systems, Glendale, Calif.
MSCA also offers three additional education programs at various locations throughout the year. The three classes are:

1. The Service Managers Training Program - This is a four-day accelerated program intended to help service professionals immediately improve their management and leadership skills and effectively contribute to their organization. This training program will be offered Nov. 8-11 in Baltimore.

"I learned so much more in this class than in any other class for management I've taken," commented one attendee, James Vespe, Arista Air Conditioning Corp., Long Island City, N.Y.

2. The Selling Skills Training Program for the HVAC Industry - This is an intensive three-day program intended to help service sales professionals improve their sales effectiveness. This interactive, hands-on workshop is designed to give participants the fundamental sales and interpersonal skills they will need for being successful in selling mechanical service. The class is next being offered in 2005.

3. The Microbiological Management Plan for the HVAC Service Industry - This is a one-day seminar designed to provide contractors with the knowledge they need to handle indoor air quality (IAQ) concerns before they become major problems. Scheduling information is available through local MCAA affiliates.

Nancy Bandy, lead instructor and managing director of Trainsitions Consulting Group, Mission Viejo, Calif., was one of the presenters at a recent MSCA educational conference, which will be held this year on Oct. 17-20 in New Mexico.


Not all training takes place at a meeting or seminar at MSCA. That is why the association also offers a variety of publications designed to help service contractors manage their businesses. Available titles include:

  • Basics of Service Management Manual - This publication is designed to offer practical guidelines to help contractors organize and effectively manage the essential functions of their companies. Topics covered include finance, sales, marketing, administration, operations, and personnel.

  • MSCA Customer Service Training Series - The association terms this "a convenient, affordable way to train technicians to provide efficient, reliable, and courteous customer service." The self-paced, 30-module program is designed to provide in-house training of service technicians whenever and wherever the contractor chooses. The program comes in two parts: a participant workbook containing materials for all 30 modules and notes for each session and a leader guide containing detailed class content that can be delivered by a "non-professional trainer," said the association.

  • Service Management Notebook - This publication is designed to offer contractors the opportunity to learn from their peers in a collection of ideas for running a successful mechanical service company. Topics covered include management, legal, finance, business development, sales, operations, tools and materials, safety, and personnel.

    Conference attendees listen to seminar instructor Steve Smith.
    MSCA also has additional titles, which cover a variety of safety issues. In the mix are:

  • MSCA Tailgate Safety Talks, designed to deliver basic information about the most common hazards mechanical service contractors face on the job and how to avoid them.

  • MSCA Safety Manual for Service, which includes recommended safety procedures and a model program designed specifically for mechanical service contractors.

  • MSCA Technical Data & Safety Guide for Service, a pocket-size resource for service technicians, which features conversion factors; equipment formulas; electrical, refrigerant, pneumatic, pump and water piping design; fan and duct design data; and safety guidelines.

    Training Kits

    The organization also offers model safety programs on fall protection, hazard communication, lead, lockout/tagout, and respiratory protection. Each program includes a printed guidebook and a disk, which contractors can use to create a personalized program to help their companies comply with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements.

    Safety training kits include a video, set of 20 pocket guides, and documentation system. Kit topics include aerial and scissors lifts, bloodborne pathogens, confined space entry, eye injury prevention, mechanical construction and service vehicles, personal protective equipment, and safety orientation.

    For MSCA class schedule information, contact Sobeida Orantes at 301-869-5800 or Those who are involved in mechanical construction can take advantage of a separate Microbiological Management Plan for the Construction Industry program. Meanwhile, brochures containing additional information on these programs are available online at For more information about MSCA publications, visit

    Sidebar: The MSCA STAR Qualification

    In an effort to recognize outstanding mechanical service contractors, MSCA introduced its MSCA STAR qualification last year. Twelve companies have earned the qualification since the program's debut at the 2003 MSCA annual educational conference, and five more are awaiting final approval.

    As MSCA STAR qualified contractors, the association said these companies have shown the industry and the public "that they hold themselves to a higher standard of service, a stricter code of ethics, outstanding customer service, and a superior safety record."

    Current MSCA STARS are Adrian Mechanical Services Co. (Adrian, Mich.); Air-Ex Air Conditioning Inc. (Pomona, Calif.); Airtech Air Conditioning (Miami); Cal-Air Inc. (Whittier, Calif.); Cal-Air Inc. (Sacramento, Calif.); Commercial Refrigeration Service Corp./Commercial Mechanical Services (Rockford, Ill.); D.P. Wolff Inc. (Hawthorne, N.Y.); ENTEC Services Inc. (Peoria, Ill.); The Enterprise Corporation (Twinsburg, Ohio); F.J. Murphy & Son Inc. (Springfield, Ill.); Indoor Environmental Services (Sacramento, Calif.); John E. Green Company Inc. (Lansing, Mich.); Mechanical Inc. (Freeport, Ill.); Hurst Industries (Belmont, Mich.); Soder Mechanical Inc. (Oklahoma City); Stroh Corp. (Des Moines, Iowa); Thermalair Inc. (Anaheim, Calif.); Thermodyne Mechanical Services (Northbrook, Ill.); and W.E. Bowers & Associates Inc. (Beltsville, Md.).

    To apply for MSCA STAR qualification, contractors must complete a detailed application and submit copies of their safety program, safety record, inventory control system, education and training programs for employees, customer service program, and letters of recommendation.

    The National ITC Corp. of Los Angeles performs an independent evaluation of the applications. Once companies have been qualified as MSCA STARS, they receive a complete packet of marketing materials, a certificate of recognition, and other promotional materials.

    Current MSCA STARS will be recognized at a special ceremony during the MSCA's 2004 educational conference in Santa Ana Pueblo, N.M.

    For more information about MSCA STAR qualification, visit

    Publication date: 09/27/2004