Today, approximately 90 top executives are gathering in Park City, Utah for a strategic summit. There, they will meet face-to-face, and they will talk — it is kind of old fashioned. Much like in some ancient tribal cultures when two leaders of opposing factions would meet to represent the interests of their respective tribes, leaders from mechanical contracting companies and leaders from HVAC and plumbing manufacturers spend two days together to hammer out differences and find common ground.

Unlike the ancient custom, today’s leaders don’t represent their tribes in a fight to the death if the summit should happen to take a turn for the worse. And, even better, these leaders aren’t meeting as opposing factions. They meet as buyers and sellers that seek common goals, one of which is to optimize profitability throughout their business channels.

The MechancialXchange strategic summit event actually began with a one-half day of networking on Sept. 26, and after two-days of intense business discussions, participants will fly home better prepared to address the volatile market that envelops the mechanical contracting industry. Essentially, the Xchange enables executives who seldom have the opportunity for strategic discussions with their peers to lock themselves away while doing a deep-dive search for business advantages. Approximately 25-30 of the largest mechanical contracting companies in North America and a similar number of premier industry vendor companies have been gathering annually since 2005 to transact business in this very compact and exclusive event.

The event is most often held at the Lodges of Deer Valley in Park City. The setting provides a somewhat secluded environment — the ski lifts are closed and the golf courses are too far away to entice executives to wander off unannounced. Attendees are at first surprised by the simple down-to-business approach with relatively few meeting frills except for the delicious food. After the event comes to a close on Tuesday evening, participants will be amazed at how much business has actually been conducted.

“This is the most efficient use of my time in my sales and marketing effort that I do all year, in two days. Where else can you do that? You can’t,” said Bill Hein of Williams Furnace.

All of the attendees have been to a multitude of industry trade shows. Mike Kaler, Applied Air, said, “The environment in a trade show is — well first, you don’t get time with these people at a trade show. In a trade show environment, if you get five minutes of time with anyone you’re lucky.”

The MechanicalXchange is not a trade show. There is no equipment to touch, no tires to kick. The executives at Xchange come because they are looking for a better way to develop real relationships and learn about real strategic advantages in the marketplace. It is a place where buyers and sellers do business together.

Ivory Tower Meets Street

Not to say that nothing of interest ever happens with regard to products during the strategic discussions. Robert Lake, Mesa Energy, an EMCOR company said, “Two years ago our interest level was almost nonexistent. During the Xchange meeting we learned about new application opportunities, and well, the [identifying product category deleted] business has picked up a lot.”

The rubber still meets the road on the local streets. In other words, according to Jeff Somers, Monsen Engineering, Fairfield, N.J., this about local versus factory field relationships: “If someone has a very good local rep then I don’t really need to work with the factory. On the other hand, if the rep does not understand the product lines, then I want to have the ability to get support direct from the manufacturer. Obviously, this is different across many lines of equipment. Sometimes the relationships work well, sometimes they don’t.”

Regardless of how well local relationships may work in someone’s backyard, the opportunity for strategic dialog between high-level business visionaries can’t be overemphasized. A fairly regular participant, David Allen of McKinstry Co., Seattle, put it this way: “I think what we learn each year at MechanicalXchange is what we don’t know. People who resist change don’t know what they don’t know. I’m finding that this forum is a great platform to learn a lot about what’s going on in the industry.”

MechanicalXchange is a revolutionary strategic event developed to connect senior executives at mechanical contracting companies that install, service, and maintain mechanical systems with suppliers of HVAC solutions. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Publication date: 09/26/2011