The ISH North America Trade Fair (ISH NA), a leading trade show for the HVAC, plumbing, piping, and kitchen and bath industries, will take place Oct. 31 through Nov. 2 in Toronto. If you look at the brochure for the event (which is available for viewing, you will see an impressive list of speakers and seminars.

The list begins with my friend and renowned wet heat expert, Dan Holohan, and includes a keynote speech by Rich Tretheway, a regular on TV’s “This Old House.”

As you wind your way through the numbered seminars you finally arrive at “Finding, Hiring, and Retaining Service Technicians.” It is the final listed seminar on the final day of ISH NA. It runs from 9:30 until 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 2. There are eight seminars in that time slot. It seems to be the “Death Valley” of the seminar schedule.

It is also hosted by yours truly. The description of the seminar states, “Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration News Business Management Editor John R. Hall explores ‘real-life’ examples of how to attract service technicians to your business — and keep them!”

I don’t expect to draw crowds as big as the bigger names. I won’t buy you a beverage if you sign up for my seminar or give you a free T-shirt. However, I will be very grateful if you pencil in my seminar if you plan to attend ISH NA this fall.


The first reason is the topic itself. Finding, hiring, and retaining service technicians has been a top priority for HVACR contractors for several years. The downsizing of the pool of skilled tradespeople is continuing to drain the mechanical trades of reliable, experienced workers who can make a big difference in the number of jobs a contractor can bid on and the number of callbacks that can be avoided.

You’ve read about this problem and heard about it ad nauseum. You want the discussions to go away, but you also want to sleep well at night, knowing that you have good workers in the field, treating your customers with respect and solving their problems.

My seminar is based on actual examples of what your fellow contractors are doing to attract and keep technicians. I’ve also sprinkled in some tips from other sources, including industry associations, educators, and Web hosts.


Beyond that, this is an opportunity for you to talk back to me. I do a lot of yacking every week, and I hear from a lot of you via e-mail, fax, and telephone. I appreciate knowing that many of you care about the HVACR trade enough to agree or disagree with topics that I present for discussion.

But think about this: Here is one of the biggest trade shows to land in North America in years. It may not rival ASHRAE/AHR Expo, but don’t be surprised if you come away with knowledge that you haven’t gained from any other source. After all, this is also an opportunity to view the latest technology in wet heat and in plumbing, for those of you who offer products or services in those areas.

But perhaps the most important of all, we can finally meet face-to-face. And, my friends, that is still the best way to communicate.

Please plan on spending an hour-and-a-half with me in Toronto. But be aware: tomatoes will be checked at the door.

Hall is business management editor. He can be reached at 734-542-6214; 734-542-6215 (fax); (e-mail).

Publication date: 08/19/2002