ACCA President/CEO Paul Stalknecht stresses his point that to be successful in contracting one has to know how and when to break the rules.
SAN JOSE, Calif. - The year 2005 was one of accomplishments and victories for the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), according to Paul Stalknecht, the association president and CEO. Membership in the independent contractors' association has grown 18 percent from the previous year, better resources have been forthcoming, and influence on Capitol Hill continues to expand.

Stalknecht commended the membership during the opening session of the Annual Conference and Indoor Air Expo for driving ACCA to new heights. The conference and exposition were held at the San Jose Conference Center.

Stalknecht attributed these and other successes to the fact that the membership had demanded excellence and commended the group for knowing how and when to "break the rules." In fact, that recurring theme in Stalknecht's opening speech culminated with a unique unveiling of the conference logo. He carefully punctuated his closing comments with a bit of eye-catching burlesque - first, a suit coat tossed into the front row of the audience, ... a tie, ... and finally an unbuttoned dress shirt to reveal a Break The Rules T-shirt logo.

"ACCA isn't suggesting that you break the law, just the rules that keep you from reaching your potential. Have you ever thought of doing something new and unusual, but a little voice inside you (or worse yet, someone else) said, ‘We've never done that before!'?

"The 2006 Annual Conference is all about breaking that kind of rule. It's about unleashing your creative mind so you can be a leader in the industry, not just another HVAC contractor," said Stalknecht.

Stalknecht was followed by keynote speaker, Marcus Buckingham, who was perfectly in tune with the theme of the meeting. Buckingham, author of First, Break All the Rules, still a Business Week bestseller after six years, has made a life's work of studying the nation's most efficient managers.

His presentation focused on key elements of his book including a key question: "If you could only do one thing, what would be the most important, fixing your weaknesses or building on your strengths?" Buckingham's research revealed that only 25 percent of managers ever talk about employees' strengths during performance evaluations.

"If it's really true that a company's best asset is its people, then we really should ask them, ‘What percentage of your workday are you playing to your greatest strengths?' "

Buckingham continued to pose thought-provoking questions during his 90-minute presentation followed by a thorough discussion of the consequences of effectively man-aging people. He noted that when asked what the company objective was for effective personnel management, a majority of managers think in terms of getting work done through people. "What if we truly focused on our people? Wouldn't the response be more like, ‘Getting people done through work?' "

There are three myths that must be exploded if people are to become one of only two in 10 managers who are "getting it right," according to Buckingham.

Myth No. 1: As you grow, you change.

Truth: As you grow you, become more of who you already are.

Myth No. 2: You will grow the most where you are weakest.

Truth: You will grow the most in areas where you are strongest. (Find out what they are and use them more often - manage around the weaknesses.)

Myth No. 3: You will contribute most by being a team player.

Truth: You will contribute most to the team when you offer your strengths.


During the three-day event, attendees had the opportunity to participate in various executive committee meetings of national association importance. ACCA state chapters also used the venue for convening on business matters of local concern.

A slate of approximately 32 workshop sessions included: Using Inverter Technology to Achieve Ultra-high Efficiencies in Residential Unitary Products, Drew Fitzgerald, Marc DeLaurent, and Keith Pyatt of Nordyne; dyne; Protect Against Your Mold Exposure, Robert Snyder, The Fedeli Group; If The Customer Can See It You Can Sell It! - Making Comfort Tangible, Vickie and John LaPlant of VLE Enterprises; Paradigms in the HVAC Industry: Future Comings, Mike Moore of HVAC Learning Solutions, Lennox; and Dynamic Leadership, Al Roach of ACCA School of Business.

The Indoor Air Expo featured approximately 140 companies. Attendees had opportunities to see new technologies and visit with vendor representatives at the Expo during designated business and social settings the last two days of the conference.

In addition to the business aspects of the conference, a bit of planned networking and socializing were blended into several evenings. A first-time attendee orientation was the opening act for the main event on Tuesday, March 28, a festive opening reception. A dinner at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose drew most of the attendees to a Wednesday evening ACCA political action committee (PAC) fundraiser. Proceeds benefited the ACCA-PAC in Washington, D.C. The grand finale was the Chairman's Reception and dinner dance to close the conference.

Larry Taylor of AirRite, Fort Worth, Texas has to come up with an answer for Nancy Friedman, The Telephone Doctor, during her session at the ACCA Annual Conference.


ACCA announced that Richard Dean was elected chairman of the board of directors at the conference. Dean is a principal at Environmental Systems Associates, Columbia, Md. He worked his way up through the ranks, starting as a helper 34 years ago. Dean said he joined ACCA because he wanted to learn more about the industry and running a business.

"You can be the best technician in the world," Dean said, "but if you're not a good businessperson, you won't survive, and if you don't survive, you can't serve your customers."

He added that ACCA training and his MIX Group® have shown him different business models and marketing strategies, such as flat-rate pricing and service agreements, that are the cornerstones of his success today.

In addition, he said, "Through ACCA we can influence what happens to us, rather than just let it happen to us. I'm excited about taking the chairman's reins because we're on an upswing. We have more confidence in our ability to influence events and policies. I want to help capitalize on what we've gained."

Dean and his wife, Carol, have five children. Two of them are developmentally disabled, and this has led to many opportunities for community service on behalf of children like his. He is a past president of the board of the Association for Retarded Citizens (ARC) of Howard County and currently serves as treasurer of the board for the Benedictine School for Exceptional Children, a school for developmentally disabled youngsters.

Dean is a past president of the ACCA National Capital Chapter and remains an active member of the chapter.

The association's members also elected a new executive committee. The committee members are:

Phil Forner, senior vice chair. Forner is with Allendale Heating Company Inc., Allendale, Mich. He is a past president of the ACCA Michigan Chapter. A graduate of Ferris State University, Forner is on the steering committee for the Michigan Alliance for Fair Competition and has been on dealer advisory committees for Lennox, Rheem, and Honeywell.

Stan Johnson, treasurer. Johnson has been with Stan's Heating and Air Conditioning Inc. in Austin, Texas, since 1972. He was a founding member of the ACCA-Austin and ACCA-Texas chapters, serving as president of both. Under his leadership, ACCA-Texas was instrumental in passing HVAC licensing laws in the state.

Ray Isaac, secretary. Isaac's grandfather started Isaac Heating and Air Conditioning Inc., Rochester, N.Y., 60 years ago. His father was chairman of ACCA in 1990. Isaac started working at Isaac Heating and Air Conditioning when he was 14. He credits ACCA with much of the company's success over the years.

Chris Colditz, vice chair. Colditz and her husband, Gordon, founded Laco Mechanical, Elk Grove Village, Ill., 25 years ago. Colditz was elected to the board in 2004. She is currently chair of the Government Relations Committee and the newly created Program Advisory Committee. She also serves on the Membership Committee.

Larry Cook, vice chair. Cook is president of TD Industries, Dallas, and has been an ACCA board member since 2003. He also serves as chairman of the Air Conditioning Advisory Council for Texas State Technical College. Cook has been chairman of the ACCA North Texas Chapter and active in the Better Business Bureau of Central East Texas.

Richard Foard, vice chair. Foard owns Blue Dot Services of Maryland in Forest Hill. He joined Ridge Sheet Metal Co. in 1978; in 1990 he bought the company. He sold it to Blue Dot in 1998, but bought it back five years later. His experience with ACCA includes past presidency of the ACCA Baltimore Chapter and previous service as an ACCA National Board member.

Greg Leisgang, immediate past chair. Leisgang, owner of JonLe Heating - Cooling in Cincinnati, was ACCA's 2005 chairman of the board. He graduated cum laude from the University of Cincinnati with a degree in mechanical engineering. His company was honored as the ACCA Quality Contractor of the Year in 1993 and the Carrier Distinguished Dealer in 1996.

Skip Snyder, chair, Advisory Council. Snyder Co. is located in Upper Darby, Pa. After graduating from Temple University in 1970 and serving as an ROTC Second Lieutenant in the Infantry, he returned to work full time for M.A. Snyder Co., which his father founded. Snyder Co. specializes in hydronics and combustion.

Steve Miles of Jerry Kelley Heating & A/C, St. Charles, Mo., gets the autograph of keynote speaker Marcus Buckingham, author of First, Break All The Rules. Buckingham spoke to a full house about building on people’s strengths and managing around weaknesses.


The Spirit of Independence Award is ACCA's highest honor and only given occasionally to an individual who has made an extraordinary impact on the HVACR industry. The last award was presented in 2003.

At the annual conference, outgoing ACCA Chairman Greg Leisgang surprised the attendees by announcing a new winner of the Spirit of Independence Award: Snyder, president of the Snyder Co.

"Skip is a remarkable man and has made a tremendous difference both to ACCA and the HVACR industry as a whole," said Paul Stalknecht. "He was the chairman of ACCA's board of directors in 2005, has served on numerous committees, and has spoken at conferences and workshops."

One of Snyder's most significant achievements was to help bring ACCA contractors into the North American Technician Excellence (NATE) program. He was on the NATE board of directors for several years and eventually was elected chairman. Snyder created the ACCA Mentoring Program and has been a great proponent of developing close relationships with allied industry partners, particularly the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) and the gas Appliance Manufacturers Association (GAMA).

Snyder is currently chairman of the ACCA committee that's crafting the Quality Contractor/Quality Installation standard.

"Skip takes a broad view of our responsibilities as an association and an industry," Stalknecht said. "That's why he has been so effective."

The winners of the Best Contractors on the Road Contest are Air Assurance of Broken Arrow, Okla., and Kennihan Plumbing & Heating in Valencia, Pa. This first-ever ACCA award was presented to acknowledge those companies that have done an excellent job promoting their companies with their vehicle designs.

The first-ever Distinguished Service Award was presented to John Parker, recently retired from Alabama Power, for his years of dedicated volunteer service assisting ACCA in the development of technical standards and training materials.

The award for Excellence in Commercial Contracting was presented to engineering Excellence in Cincinnati. The Award for Excellence in Residential Contracting was presented to Castellano's Air Conditioning & Heating in Tampa, Fla. The Jeff Forker Award for Excellence in Training was presented to Ferris State University in Michigan.

The first-ever Spirit of Giving Award was presented to ACCA Southeast Michigan Chapter.

The ACCA 2007 Annual Conference and Indoor Air Expo will be held March 6-8, in Orlando, Fla. For more details about the conference and ACCA, go to www.acca.

Publication date: 05/08/2006