"I can do this by myself. I don't need any help." Remember hearing this from your child? Heck, I hear it all of the time from my 10-year-old going on 16-year-old daughter. Kids just think they know it all.

But if you hear the same thing from an adult, especially a small business owner, you have to wonder if his or her elevator goes to the top floor. Every business owner needs help at one time or another, from a peer, a loan officer, a supplier, etc. Those who think they can ride out the ups and downs of business cycles without help are only fooling themselves.

Well, it looks like there are fewer fools in the HVACR contracting community. If you look at membership totals from 2004 for industry associations like the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) and the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors - National Association (PHCC), there was a significant rise in membership last year. ACCA accepted 500 new members and PHCC added 608 new members in 2004. The Mechanical Contractors Association of America Inc. (MCAA) also reported a rise in membership in 2004.

There's got to be a reason.

Features And Benefits

Besides the obvious camaraderie between peers and friends, there are many reasons to join an industry association, but perhaps the most important comes from the word "value." ACCA President and CEO Paul Stalknecht said, "We will provide our members with the value they need and the resolve to strengthen the entire HVACR industry.

"We will continue to reach out to contractors in every community and every state, and show them that ACCA membership will help them meet their personal goals - and enrich our entire industry."

Cindy Sheridan, PHCC's membership director, uses education and training to define value. "We are energized and moving forward with new initiatives to further PHCC's mission of advancement, education, and training of the industry," she said.

"We continue to work with our state and local chapters to deliver programs that will make plumbing and HVACR contractors better business people."

Two phrases jump off of the page when I read the comments from Stalknecht and Sheridan - "enrich our entire industry" and "make contractors better business people." I've been advocating those points for years.

I see the features and benefits of association membership as a way to raise the level of professionalism in our industry - and boost the bottom line. Besides a higher standard of professionalism, contractors can also see their profitability increase. Association members can learn from a variety of industry experts on topics such as understanding the costs of doing business, setting the right prices, getting the best insurance rates and programs, and getting rebates and discount pricing from distributors and manufacturers. All of these features and benefits have a direct impact on whether a business loses money, makes a modest profit, or makes a deserving profit.


Association membership allows contractors to join smaller networking groups, where a member can exchange best business practices with another member who has a similar business in a different geographic market. In ACCA, these networking groups are called MIX® Groups. ACCA also has mentor contractors who will work with fellow members.

If you have been following our story about Virginia contractor Terry Boone and his quest to re-energize his HVACR business, you will remember that Boone sought the help of other ACCA members and eventually joined ACCA because he saw the value in being a member. Boone, like many contractors, didn't know how to take that first step until he learned the importance of association membership.

So, how can associations get the word out to nonmembers about the value of joining a professional organization like ACCA or PHCC? Invite a peer to the next local, regional, or national meeting of one of these groups. Don't know when or where? Visit www.acca.org or www.phccweb.org for more information.

Spread the word. There is a way to become better, as long as you don't try it alone.

John R. Hall is business management editor. He can be reached at 248-244-1294, 248-786-1390 (fax), or johnhall@achrnews.com.

Publication date: 02/21/2005