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    Terry McIver
    EGIA EPIC 2021 banners

    EGIA Stages a Rousing 'EPIC' Event

    Dec. 9, 2021
    This show was jam-packed with electricity, activity and loads of business information.

    Electric & Gas Industries Association (EGIA) presented its long-awaited, in-person EPIC2021 conference and show, October 28-29 at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Convention Center. For a two-day event, this show was packed with enough electricity, activity and business information for HVAC, electric and plumbing contractors to fill an entire week.

    The show featured celebrity keynote presenters, breakout sessions by leadingindustry consultants, exhibits by many of the HVAC, electric and plumbing industries best-in-class products and networking opportunities at every turn. An evening party after day one at the Chateau
    Nightclub provided food, drink and music to help attendees blow off some steam.

    Keynote speakers included Jon Taffer of Bar Rescue; Daymond John of Fubu and Shark Tank; heroic pilot Captain “Sully” Sullenberger; and consumer trends and marketing expert Kelly McDonald. Session presenters included Weldon Long; Gary Elekes; Drew Cameron; Russ Horrocks; Ellen Rohr; Jason Young; Jim Knight; Scott Deming; James Leichter and Steve Shallenberger. Weldon Long served as Master of Ceremonies, and also hosted multiple contractor panel discussions addressing important business management topics. 

    EPIC2021 covered cornerstone topics crucial to building and managing a successful service business: sales, the service experience, recruiting and labor management, marketing, employee advancement, shifting demographics and teamwork.

    “We’ve been to a lot of other industry events, and EPIC is by far one of the best events we’ve ever been to. It allows us to see our gaffes, and the gaffes in our business and what we need to be a stronger, better business,” said Amanda Faith, Aire Texas Residential Services, Inc.

    “Every conference you go to, you come back to your business fired up; you’re on fire from what you saw. But when you come back from EPIC, you’ll come back fired up, but you’ll also have a toolbox of stuff you can implement the next day,” added Chad Faith, also of Aire Texas.

    “There’s nothing like it. EPIC is awesome. I’ve been to a lot of other [events], but I’ve never been as challenged more as a businessman and in my personal life as I have been at EPIC events,” said Jeremy Lee of Schneller & Knochelmann.

    EPIC’s main stage presentations were delivered in a massive ballroom space, with half of the room devoted to space for 63 exhibitors and a generous daily breakfast and lunch serving area and roundtable seating.

    The Keynotes

    Each keynote presentation was prefaced by a sound and vision fiesta, as theclock counted down the minutes to each new presenter. EGIA University faculty member/author Weldon Long served as master of ceremonies, and he made sure all were ready to go for the next
    presenter.

    “How exciting is it that we are all here together again?” asked Long as he bounded to the stage to introduce day one.

    “What a year and a half it’s been. I’m so excited to be here,” Long shouted. He admitted it was somewhat odd to have to say that while so much of the world was in turmoil over COVID pandemic, the state of many HVAC service businesses grew by leaps and bounds, alluding to the undeniable growth the service industry experienced, since it was considered an “essential” service, not subject to COVID-19 lockdowns.

    “Suddenly, our industry is essential,” Long said. “I have a great deal of pride in my company and my team, because we’re ‘essential.’ We matter. Sometimes you get lost in that, with all the moving parts in our businesses.”

    Long expressed his thanks to Bruce Matulich, Jeff Matulich and the entire EGIA EPIC2021 planning team. “They really went all out in putting together this speaker lineup.”

    In his presentation titled, “Raise the Bar”, Jon Taffer, creator of the Bar Rescue program, shared some serious truths about business success and sadly, the great amounts of failure he has seen during his career as a business rescue expert.

    “I want to talk about things that will really change your industry. I’ve done speeches for 15 years. And when I give a speech, statistically, 70 percent of you who listen to speeches today will go home and not do a thing [with the information]. So I’m not going to tell you to do this or that, or to not do this or that.  I want to change the way you think. If I can change the way you  think I can’t help but change what you do. My objective is to pull your brain out of your head, twist it up a little bit, shove it back in, and make your eyes go to different places tomorrow, and make you look at your business in different ways, make you hear things differently.”

    The core of Taffer’s message was the critical need for every business owner to never offer excuses for their failures.

    “I’ve seen every type of failure, and it’s incredibly powerful when you see people fail and start to analyze why failure happens. After 120 episodes [ofBar Rescue], I’ve started to see commonalities in failure. The common denominator of failure is excuses, and an entrepreneur’s refusal to accept blame. An excuse is nothing more than a
    reconciliation of a screw-up.

    “When we do not accept excuses, and decide to own our failure, we find success,” he said. Key to a successful consumer business is  the level of positive reactions you can generate with customers.

    “You create reactions. When you sell, market or present a proposal, he or she who creates the best reactions, wins! We live an die by the reactions we create,” Taffer said, and added that the reaction most created by a successful restaurant or bar is ‘connectivity.’ He linked that to his Customer Reaction Opportunity Windows: times where you do something to create a reaction.

    “Don’t miss out on opportunities to connect with people, and break down barriers to business. Work ‘on’ your business, not in it,” he urged the crowd.

    Session Sampling

    Here is a sampling of the breakout session presentations. All 12 EPIC2021 breakout sessions will be available online At EGIA’s MyContractorUniversity.com website.

    Drew Cameron and Russ Horrocks, president and vice president, respectively of Flow Odyssey and Energy Design Systems, LLC,  spoke on “How to Create an Unprecedented Client Journey.” Doing so will help you stand out in the “sea of sameness” from companies that all comparison-sell, which drives customers to comparison-shop the perceived commodities to compare apples to apples and get what they think is the “best deal.”

    “What is your focus? Are you building customer engagement? What are you doing to connect to customers?” Cameron asked. “Are you
    offering cookie-cutter solutions to every customer? Today, everybody is a critic, and they can write about you and react to you based on the experience you create. We’ve got to be different, legendary and iconic in what we do. It’s not about serving customers’ needs, it’s about anticipating them.

    “What’s the most extraordinary thing you can do for customers? This applies to sales team, call center, technicians.”

    To be “EPIC” requires delivering an extraordinary customer experience. Challenge the paradigms and shatter customer expectations at every touch-point. Become a category of ONE.”

    Russ Horrocks spoke about the danger of information mystification, caused by the consumer’s ever-increasing access to information.

    You’ve to find a way to be different. How can you make your company so compelling that the customer says they must buy from you? That’s when you know you’ve done it right.”

    Jason Young, a former senior executive at Southwest Airlines, now a training and development expert, spoke about his concept of “Servicetopia,” which is based in purpose, passion, professionalism, process and pizazz.

    Gary Elekes, president, EPC Equity and iMarket Solutions, Weldon Long and Drew Cameron were featured throughout the show, both live and in recorded presentations, doing their popular “Riffing about Contracting” talks. The three EGIA faculty members were also part of an open panel Q&A session, and were peppered with questions by attendees eager to improve their contracting businesses.

    Weldon Long hosted a contractor panel discussion on trust.

    “People buy from people they like and trust,” Long said. “I think one of the things that’s important to remember is, as Steven R. Covey wrote inThe Speed of Trust, the importance of trust in a business relationship. In a personal relationship, trust is about your character. But in
    business, trust is about competency.  It’s so important, but we overlook it in business. We say the right things when we enter a home, show up on time, are honest, put on the shoe covers, but you have to demonstrate your competency. Don’t think that the homeowner thinks you know what you’re doing.

    “There’s nothing more frustrating than when you get to the end of a sales call and the homeowner starts comparing you to the cheaper contractor,” Long continued. “Well, whose responsibility is it to make sure they don’t start making that comparison? When you walk into a sales call, it’s showtime! Get a piece of new lineset and a lineset that has been damaged by not doing a nitrogen purge,” or other examples of your technical knowledge. You’ve got to prove your competence,” Long said. 

    James Leichter, president and CEO of Aptora Corporation and Mr. HVAC LLC, offered presentations on service call consistency, inventory control, the importance of having the correct HVAC tools and access to parts and supplies, and ways to legitimately generate higher technician sales through diagnostics.

    Speaking on the technician’s service call presentation, Leichter started with the basics, including company uniform, where and how to park the company vehicle at a home, approaching the home and addressing the customer properly.

    “The visual picture the client should see when they open t he door is a clean-cut service technician, wearing a clean uniform with a photo ID badge. The client should always be able to look over the technician’s right shoulder and see a clearly marked service vehicle parked at the curb.”

    When beginning the service call, let the client know that you’re going to get to work by testing their complete system, and that once you hae concluded what thye problems are, you will report back to them ll the details. Assure them that absolutely no repairs will ocvcur without their express prior approval.

    “Diversity is a trend, not a fad,” said Kelly McDonald, in a presentation on the nation’s changing demographics. One in three Americans is not white. Five states have “minority majority” populations, and young people are increasingly opting out to get married. Rural communities are losing populations quickly.

    “Now more than ever, McDonald said it’s imperative for service professionals to understand the changing demographics of the communities and groups they serve.

    McDonald said changes in demographic changes take many forms: racial, ethnic, gender, generational, sexual preference, linguistic and life stage and level of affluence, and others. Learning about differences in values among different groups is the key to maximizing relationships, marketing efforts and business opportunities.

    Advertising and marketing consultant Scott Deming, in a presentation on Brand Distinction, told attendees that their success is directly linked to their ability to create a powerful emotional reaction in the customer.

    “Awareness is only part of the circle of success.  You must create an emotional brand, to create brand distinction,” Deming said.

    This is accomplished when you stop selling commodities, create innovative customer solutions, understand and shatter your customer’s expectation, disrupt the perception of “what a contractor is.”

    “You’re all selling the same stuff. There are 14,000 contractors in a 10-mile radius in Southern California around Los Angeles. When there’s that much ‘noise’ it’s really hard to stand out,” Deming said, “and the customers think you all do the same stuff.”

    Ultra-cool Closing

    Daymond John created the FUBU clothing line at a very young age, and it has become one of the most iconic urban fashion brands in the world. Today, John is also an investor member of Shark Tank. He came to the stage all cool and collected, to provide a uniquely stylized, multi-media trek through his personal history of growing up in New York City, his determination to become a successful businessman, and the daring steps he took to get there, fueled by the energy and music of the hip-hop culture.

    John outlined the success strategies that took him from the bottom to the top of the business world.

    Among John’s “S.H.A.R.K. Points” for success in business and in life:

    Responsibility must be taken, it can’t be given. Set a goal. Remember you are the brand. Take care of yourself.