As technology has advanced, face time has become less of a priority for many people. And, for those millennials in the crowd, I am not talking about the video chat technology available on the iPhone. No, I am speaking about the lost art of face-to-face conversation.

In today’s fast-paced world, it is oftentimes easiest to send an email or a text when communicating. But, as many of you business owners obviously know, the easiest route is often not the best route.

Sometimes, face-to-face communication is the only way to solve a problem or start a business relationship. This point was driven home recently when I attended the 10th annual Mechanical Xchange. The event, sponsored by The NEWS, brings together some of the country’s top mechanical contractors with high-level executives representing select manufacturers. Participating manufacturers were obviously excited to build and maintain relationships with attending contractors as the September event sold out in May. It might have something to do with the contractors’ buying power.

The Meetings

Over the course of two days, HVAC contractors held 10-20 one-on-one meetings with strategically chosen manufacturers. Manufacturers received white papers in advance detailing the operations of every contractor they intended to meet with. In most cases, the manufacturer contacted the contractor before arriving to lay the groundwork for the meeting. The 50-minute meeting gets right to the point as the attendees drill down on relationships that can help both businesses.

These are senior executives solving problems and making connections that can’t occur over the phone or on Skype. These interactions stimulate relationships that solve problems and spur ideas.

One of my jobs with The NEWS is inviting mechanical contractors to this gathering. While it is a great event, it’s hard to do it justice as contractors must experience it themselves. The Xchange is not a trade show. First off, there is no equipment brought in or specific products to look at. During normal trade show interactions, most conversations involve generalities. And, for a great portion of these 5-minute trade show conversations, the other person is looking over your shoulder to make sure they are not missing different/more important people.

At the Xchange, both parties are engaged in building real relationships while gaining a strategic advantage in their markets. Not to mention, face time with high-level executives is incredibly difficult to secure at trade shows.

Now, these are not always feel-good meetings. It might come as a surprise to some in the industry, but, occasionally, contractors and manufacturers share different 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, improve the bottom lines of everyone involved.

The Xchange is also much more than just meetings. Participants are onsite at the resort for three days. The networking that occurs at breakfast, lunch, and dinner is sometimes just as valuable. Charlie Fletcher, founder and executive vice president of Mesa Energy Systems, Irvine, California, told me connecting with other contractors was another greatly beneficial aspect of the three-day event.

The Xchange is not typical, and it’s not for everybody. Participants who understand the value of nurturing business relationships often walk away with multiple opportunities for expanded business in the coming years.

There is only one Mechanical-Xchange forum each year. It will happen again next September in Park City, Utah. For more details, or to determine if your company qualifies, visit or shoot me an email at

Publication date: 10/13/2014 

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