TUCSON, AZ — A fast-moving, on-target message explaining how to clean out the underbrush of management fads to stay ahead of your competition was a key take-away for more than 300 building controls specialists attending a national conference sponsored here recently by Johnson Controls, Inc.

Renowned author and business analyst Oren Harari, Ph.D., told attendees at the 2000 National Authorized Building Controls Specialist (ABCS) Conference that to be a significant player today it’s important to be “knowledge driven and people focused.” Continually analyzing the way business is done and embracing information technology are two key strategies that a savvy business leader will use to propel his or her company to new heights, Harari emphasized.

The conference, which is held annually for Johnson Controls’ ABCSs and branch sales managers, is both a working meeting and product fair to inform contractors on the latest building controls technology and business practices. Harari, the key speaker during the three-day conference, shared tips from his book, Leapfrogging the Competition: 5 Giant Steps to Becoming a Market Leader.

A professor of management at the University of San Francisco’s McLaren School of Business, Harari offered attendees a glimpse of what the competition will look like in the next millennium and gave tips for staying a step ahead.

To “leapfrog” the competition, Harari said companies should reconsider offerings, analyze the competition, and continually reinvent ways of conducting business. He encouraged attendees to adapt for the future by keeping abreast of the latest technology. Harari noted what works today will not work tomorrow.

Various topics covered

“Claim Leadership,” this year’s ABCS conference theme, resounded throughout each portion of the three-day seminar’s general business topics and product and technology workshops. Participants were encouraged to network and gain new perspectives.

Sessions included such topics as communications strategies for building sales, new product introductions, industry changes, and design-build contracting trends.

Howard McKew and Paul Donhauser of Sebesta Blomberg, a national consulting firm based in Minneapolis, presented contractors with a list of skill sets contractors must possess to be successful in the design-build contracting area. They also addressed challenges and opportunity trends in this market. McKew is a regular columnist for Engineered Systems, a sister publication of The News.

Contractors attending the conference learned about current trends and technology affecting the building controls industry, as well as key product offerings in facility and energy management, remote monitoring via the Internet and data visualization. For example, the Metasys® Building Automation System products workshop demonstrated information management tools from Johnson Controls, such as the M5 Workstation, M-Trend and M-Web.

Thermal Mechanical Systems, Inc., of Thunder Bay, ON, Canada, joined the ABCS channel program last month. According to co-owner Greg Lundy, “The timing of the conference was impeccable. It gave us a jump-start into the program and we were able to quickly shorten the learning curve. Talking with other ABCS contractors was very reassuring and we left the conference with a support network.”

Jim Zur, president of ECI Colorado, Inc., in Denver said, “I thought the design-build session was invaluable because it gave us some great ideas for increasing our penetration in that market. Dr. Harari’s keynote presentation was also very helpful. He offered new ideas and ways for us to look at what we’re doing.

“We’re planning to hold an internal meeting soon to develop our own way to ‘leapfrog’ the competition.”

Awards, too

In addition to seminars and workshops, attendees had the opportunity to see new Johnson Controls products at the product fair and participate in a variety of networking activities. An awards banquet held during the conference recognized top ABCS performers of 1999.

Independent Temperature Control Services Inc., located in College Point, NY, walked away with the “1999 ABCS of The Year” award. Other companies winning awards this year include: Modern Controls Inc., New Castle, DE; Acucon Inc., San Jose, CA; Broadwater Controls Inc., Atlanta, GA; Viking Controls Inc., Nashua, NH; and HTS Engineering Ltd., North York, ON, Canada.

“The conference helps us boost sales because we can learn about new products and have the opportunity to talk directly with Johnson Controls product managers and other ABCS dealers,” said Erik Maseng, president of Viking Control Inc. “It’s an environment rich in two-way communication which really benefits all of us.”