"We're often chastised by our peers that we're not tough enough as buyers, however, the buying process of contractors should be better than a reverse auction."

That is a quote from one of the contractors who recently attended the first HVACXchangeâ„¢ Executive Summit meeting in Park City, Utah. The quote is interesting because it represents a very different line of thinking for nearly all of us. Whether you're a contractor, manufacturing supplier, or a customer at a flea market, it often seems a lot of people are trying to "win" a negotiation. Until very recently, the once fine art of diplomacy and negotiation had, for the most part, generated into a mish-mash of buyers beating up on sellers.

At the inaugural HVACXchange event, about 13 vendors and 13 contractors were matched up in private one-on-one meetings. Prior to the meetings, each company spent time preparing as much as possible so that the face-to-face encounters would be optimized for the benefit of both. The format of the event is intentionally small and exclusive. It is not a trade show, nor is it a conference. It is something quite out of the ordinary.

HVACXchange, held at The Lodge at Deer Valley, Sept. 11-13, 2005, was and will continue to be a unique, invitation-only annual event designed to bring buyers and sellers together for strategic discussions that will benefit their respective businesses. You won't find the names of the participating commercial contractors and HVACR suppliers revealed on this page.

It's no secret that many presidents, vice presidents, CEOs, and COOs from the largest mechanical contracting companies and leading suppliers carved time out of their busy schedules to attend this event. However, the meetings held on site were private, and the results of those meetings will stay private - only to be known by those in attendance.

The big twist that HVACXchange provides buyers and sellers is the opportunity to develop very narrowly focused topics of discussion that lead to a better understanding of what is desired on both sides of the table. Where that understanding may lead depends upon the individual participants and the level of preparation for the private meetings.

Of course, meaningful discussions can take place between HVAC contractors and suppliers in settings as varied as the local Starbucks or a walnut-paneled boardroom. The fact of the matter is that such sessions can often take months to come together.

The unique HVACXchange event brings high-level executives together for the express purpose of getting down to brass tacks. One attendee said, "It would take me months, maybe years to accomplish what we did here! We would come back based only on what we did in one morning." Another commented, "It would take six months or more to get this contact."

It's fast, it's efficient, and it works.

Being a tough negotiator is still highly valued in the world of business; it may be overrated when compared to strategic discussions that are focused on creating high value.

Though we may often believe that the daily grind of conducting HVAC business is buried in low-tech thinking, perhaps there is something revolutionary happening in our industry after all.

For more information regarding the 2006 HVACXchange, please visit www.HVACXchange.com.

Mike Murphy is editor-in-chief. He can be reached at 248-244-6446, 248-244-2905 (fax), or mikemurphy@achrnews.com.

Publication date: 09/26/2005