There are a lot of new and innovative ways for contractors to connect with manufacturers, distributors, and — most importantly — their customers. We here atThe NEWSboth report on and offer a plethora of such items. In this day and age it is important to use items like social media, webinars, and virtual trade shows to get connected to the people in the industry. I hate to brag (actually I love it) but we have more innovative ways to reach people via technology than Honey Boo Boo’s family members have teeth.

However, sometimes a face-to-face, well-planned meeting is still the right tool for the job. Some might call it being “old school” but I view it as just being smart about your business. Just because you have new ways to connect with people does not mean you automatically throw out the old ways. As any contractor knows, it is important to use every tool at your disposal to get the job done.

Such was the case at the eighth annual MechanicalXchange event that was held recently at the Grand Arizona Resort in Phoenix. This high level event sponsored by The NEWS brought together 94 movers and shakers of the HVAC industry representing 25 top mechanical contractors and 23 select manufacturers.

Over the course of two days, the mechanical contractors held 10 to 20 one-on-one 40-minute meetings with strategically chosen manufacturers. Now, of course, we were not allowed in the room because for some reason nobody wanted an editor in there asking stupid questions and wasting their valuable time. However, in talking with a few contractors it was clear that these were not just normal business meetings.

Each manufacturer is provided in advance with a whitepaper on every contractor that they will be meeting with. In most cases, the manufacturer has contacted the contractor before arriving at the event to lay the groundwork for the meeting. The end result is that 40-minute meeting gets right to the point as the attendees drill down on relationships that can help both businesses. It is senior executives solving problems.

Not a Trade Show

It is important to point out that the Xchange is not a trade show. First off, there is no equipment brought in or specific product to look at during the event. During normal trade show interactions, most of the conversation involves generalities. And for a great portion of the conversation, the other person is looking over your shoulder to make sure they are not missing different/more important people. Most of the conversations at trade shows are only five minutes long.

At the Xchange both sides are very engaged with trying to build real relationships while gaining a strategic advantage in their market. Not to mention that it would be hard to get time with these high-level executives at a normal trade show.

Now, these are not always feel-good meetings. It might come as a surprise to some contractors, but occasionally a contractor and a manufacturer can have a difference of opinions. The Mechanical Xchange is a perfect place to talk these issues out and find some common ground. These discussions lead to the establishment of congruent goals and, more importantly, improving the bottom line for both parties.

One contractor who has been attending the event for a number of years actually said he is taking a year off so he can take time to implement all the relationships/projects that have presented themselves at the Xchange over the last couple of years.

The meetings start early and end late. It is two days chock-full of great information. Of course, we have a bunch of HVAC guys at a resort so there is going to be some tomfoolery and adult beverages. We like to call that the networking portion of the event.

The Xchange is not typical, and it’s not for everybody. Those participants who understand the value of nurturing business relationships often walk away with multiple new opportunities for expanded business in the coming years. There is only one MechanicalXchange forum each year. It will happen again next September — this time in Park City, Utah.

For more details, or to determine if your company qualifies, go to, or contact Chad Klein at; or shoot me an email at

Publication date: 10/15/2012