Due to COVID-19, everyone in the HVAC industry is working with their customers in a different way. Manufacturers are doing more training and product launches online instead of at in-person classes and big shows like the AHR Expo. Distributors are offering curbside pickup and contactless deliveries instead of having contractors come into the warehouse. Contractors are masking up before they go into people’s homes and taking other safety precautions to put homeowners’ minds at ease.

HVAC associations are no different. They have needed to pivot to fill a different need as well. They are still in business to help the contractor, but that looks a lot different these days.

ACCA, for one, is spending time and resources on items that were not even on the radar 12 months ago. It started last March, when they helped secure HVAC as an essential service. It seems silly to think about now, but at the time, there was debate in government on whether HVAC contractors should be allowed to stay open.

Then a few months later, ACCA was helping contractors navigate the government’s Paycheck Protection Program process — something they are still doing.

“Now we have to worry about the liabilities that are associated with working in a COVID world,” ACCA CEO Bart James said. “Especially the people doing the correct protocols. I mean, don’t hold them responsible for employing people and actually being out there providing the services we all need.”

And, of course, vaccinations are on everyone’s mind. ACCA wants to make sure HVAC contractors are at the front of the line to get a vaccine — if they want one.

“We have been at that for quite a while now,” James said. “We were talking with the CDC, which has since left it up to the states.”

ACCA has provided action alerts to their members to help them navigate what has turned into a very local process of getting vaccines. It provides contractors with a message they can use to talk with the decision makers. The goal is to get contractors right behind the first tier, as they are some of the important front line workers that have been in the field through this entire pandemic.

Much like contractors, adapting to the changing environment allowed ACCA to have a great 2020. The association now has a retention rate of over 90%. This was one of the goals they set for themselves, and they have accomplished it faster than they thought. Overall, the association has grown by more than10%.

It makes sense that the pandemic plays into those numbers a bit. It is a lot easier not being a member (read: paying) to be a part of an association when things are going well. Life is good and profits are coming in. People think they don’t need any help.

But when times are tough, more people tend to reach out for help. And while it was a great business year for many, the uncertainty of 2020 undoubtedly had people reaching out and navigating the new normal.

But it is more than that. ACCA helps contractors in everything from crafting social media posts to technical information. It helps that James’ father-in-law is an HVAC contractor. He has a front row seat to what is affecting the average contractor.

“Our website brings such value to the contractor,” said Deb Weiner, ACCA manager of communication and strategic partnerships. “We have added a lot more integrations and specific features to the website. This includes a members-only blog. We are also offering more virtual training than we ever have.”

ACCA has a tough business model. They provide great value to the contractor, but a lot of what they do is for the industry at large. So that means contractors get the benefit regardless of whether they are a member or not. Think of the advocacy in Washington, D.C., that the group is doing or the quality installation specifications that they provide. They are a value to all contractors.

So I urge contractors to get involved in associations. ACCA is not the only game in town, but it is a great one to look at. Look at the local and national level. No matter how profitable you are, a business can always be improved.