It was a pleasure talking to many members of the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) at its recent national meeting in Boca Raton, FL. More than one contractor said they believe that even though times are tough and the current state of affairs may get worse before it gets better, the correct approach to take is the positive approach.

“Would it surprise you that during the Great Depression, there were businessmen who earned tens of thousands of dollars per year?” asked one veteran contractor.

Talk of the Depression sure does conjure up images of bread lines and scarcity. After watching the business news reports lately, the question permeating all forms of media is, how will many businesses survive?

In the SMACNA camp, spreading fear was not on the “to do” list. (Look for a more thorough report on the 2001 SMACNA meeting later this month in The News.)

Listening to these SMACNA members, I couldn’t help but remember similar observations made by Lennox Industries president Scott Boxer at another trade show. Boxer told attendees that the right attitude is needed now more than ever if a contracting firm is to survive and if the industry is to go forward.

“Are you in control of your attitude, or is your attitude in control of you?” he asked, point blank.

Go ahead. Think about that for a moment.


Boxer also referred to that June 29 NBC “Dateline” broadcast, in which hvac service companies were portrayed unprofessionally in their dealings with consumers. “Admittedly, it was a setup,” he said, “but it didn’t portray our profession in a very favorable light.

“We must never forget that the technician is the face of this industry to the consumers. They represent your company every minute they are on the street. Everyone benefits when the technician does a good job.”

This is where attitude enters the picture. Boxer stressed the importance of training and certification to encourage growth and professionalism.

“Many centers are unwilling to train technicians for fear they might receive training and then leave. Untrained labor can be a recipe for disaster,” he said, before asking another thought-provoking question. “Would you rather train your technicians and maybe lose them or not train them at all and keep them?”

His point: It’s time to change the perception that this industry is anything less than upstanding.

“The vast majority of companies are honest and working hard to serve their customers, but I think good training and good education will make a big impact in our industry.”


In Boxer’s estimation, everyone has a role to play in improving the industry’s image. He addressed three main areas to implement change:

1. Leadership — “Good leadership at every level will solve a lot of problems,” said Boxer. “Good leadership develops good teams and good teamwork creates pride and ownership of work. It also instills integrity and professionalism into every part of an organization.”

2. Education and certification — “We need to standardize our education and certification effort,” he said. “ If we don’t do it, someone else will.” He referred to the automotive industry’s implementation of the Automotive Service Excellence program ahead of government intervention.

3. Recruiting and mentoring — “We can all be good leaders and people of integrity,” said Boxer. “We can all agree that there are basic standards our technicians should learn, and we can all recruit and mentor because we can help others realize the benefit and joy of honest and challenging work.”

While all of the above is needed, Boxer concluded that attitude is the deal breaker.

“We are all in control of our attitude,” he said. “We all have choices to make. We are all dealing with the same issues. How we react to them will make a big difference.

“I hope that each of us does more than get upset about things. I hope each of us resolves every day to do the right thing for our business, our customers, our employees, and ourselves.”

He concluded by returning to the Dateline disaster. “Shows like Dateline may never go away, but we need to take something that was bad and turn it into something good. It all depends on our attitude, which is the one thing we can control.”

Skaer is editor-in-chief. He can be reached at 248-244-6446, 248-362-0317 (fax); (e-mail).

Publication date: 11/05/2001