While sometimes we all think we’re perfect, none of us is.

We all benefit from a little help sometimes, especially from those that are operating on the ground level. Help comes in many forms, and can be especially beneficial when it’s close to home.

In April, I made the 30-mile jaunt from the office out to Livonia, Mich., to attend a tradeshow presented by the Southeast Michigan chapter of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (SEMIACCA).

This was a bit of an eye-opener, that’s for sure.

Going in, one of my big goals was to do a lot of observing. Having less than six months here at The NEWS, this was my first chance to get out into the wild and see how contractors interact with each other. I have to say, I was rather surprised.

Any preconceived notions I had went right out the window.

Now, I wasn’t expecting an all-out steel-cage match to break out between everyone, but my thought going in was, “Hey, these guys are competitors. They do business against each other all the time. There’s got to be at least a little bad blood.”

I couldn’t have been more incorrect.

I walked in and immediately saw a group of guys sitting around chatting like long-lost brothers.

“We’ve got a good group and we’re building,” said Ed Bartram, SEMIACCA president. “Some people don’t realize what we can do for contractors. We’re trying to bring everyone up to a better standard.”

During ACCA president and CEO Paul Stalknecht’s speech, I again found myself surprised when the group bantered questions back-and-forth and shared discussion regarding industry issues.

Then at the tradeshow, it was refreshing to see the camaraderie among contractors.

In thinking about it, I’m going to call myself a little bit of a dolt for my assumption. Before I was an HVAC reporter, I was a sports reporter. As a beat writer, you see the same group of reporters at each practice and every game, where you’re trying to write a better story than your competitor, get a better quote, a better scoop.

But never in my years of journalism did I ever see two reporters throw down, despite each reporter’s paper being in direct competition. In fact, everyone was really friendly. If you missed part of a press conference because you had to go to the locker room, another reporter would happily fill you in or let you borrow their recorder to hear what happened.

In thinking about all this, I had a revelation: It’s all about doing the job and doing it well.

There’s no difference between what we do here at The NEWS and what you do as contractors. Yes, we have competitors and you might read them, as well, but just like you, we have confidence that we do the job best, and that’s what sets us apart.

So if you have a local chapter of any industry association in your backyard, don’t let any of the same preconceived notions I had stop you. These local associations are a great resource, as many hold business programs specifically crafted to boost your bottom line.

“There’s a lot of camaraderie,” Bartram said. “If someone has a problem, we’re quick to call around and do whatever we can to help.”

In speaking about ACCA’s national conference, Stalknecht was so confident in what the association offers that he offered a money-back satisfaction guarantee. If, for whatever reason, a contractor wasn’t satisfied, he’d refund their dues. Stalknecht has been making this offer for years, he said, and no one has taken him up on it yet.

Following suit, SEMIACCA board member Matt Marsiglio said he offers the same guarantee to local members. If they aren’t satisfied with what they receive, he vowed to refund their money, even if it meant he had to dip into his personal savings account.

“I won’t tell my wife, but I’ll do it,” he said, laughing.

Now that’s what I call confidence.

Publication date: 5/20/2013