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ACCA IE3 Conference Brings HVAC Future Into Focus

March 9, 2018
This year's annual event was held in Washington, D.C., and provided member contractors in attendance with solid learning opportunities and helpful networking.

Story also contains information supplied by ACCA.

The Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) held its Annual Conference and Expo at the Gaylord National Harbor in Washington, D.C. from February 12-14. Hundreds of professional HVAC contractors, along with the industry’s leading equipment manufacturers and service vendors, gathered with a shared agenda to move the industry forward.

The First speaker of the three-day event was Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, who was conveniently located in Washington D.C. Acosta said he had been instructed by President Trump to lead a national effort in expanding apprentice  programs for a variety of blue collar trades.

“We’re in the process of meeting with businesses, labor unions, trade industry groups, non-profits, educational institutions and public officials, to design and certify high quality apprenticeship programs in their industry,” Acosta said.

Using the medical and legal professions as an example, Acosta said industry segments should work closer with labor, colleges and other educational institutions to develop programs and certification for their respective industries.
“We need an education model that respond to the demands of the workforce,” Acosta said, and provide a Bureau of Labor statistic that said the need for new heating, ventilation and air conditioning technicians and installers will increase by 15 percent over the next 10 years. “That means you will need 50,000 more employees.”

Acosta praised the HVAC industry and its workers.

“From this administration’s perspective, air conditioning means a lot more than just cooler homes. Your industry is a source of quality, family-sustaining jobs," he said.

Acosta also reviewed the Trump Administration’s recent tax victory one that has generated much positive activity.

“More than 330 companies across the country have already announced bonuses, wage increases, and expanded benefits for their employees as a result of tax reform,” Acosta said.

Acosta also spoke about President Trump’s January proposal to make it easier for small businesses to band together and create their own type of health insurance plans that would operate independently of the Affordable Care Act.

“Large corporations have advantages when they purchase health insurance. They have economies of scale. They represent large groups of employees, and they have substantial purchasing power. When a large corporation negotiates, it has thousands of employees, and gets better rates,” he said.

“Our current health system places burdens on the small businesses across America, that create the majority of jobs. The small business healthcare proposal is designed to reduce much of this burden and level the playing field.”

R U Digitally Smart?
Secretary Acosta was followed by social media strategist Jay Baer, one of the nation’s leading experts on digital marketing and customer service.

Baer spoke of the critical need for businesses to craft specific ways to improve the customer experience. He said that by 2020 a majority of buying decisions will be made based on customer experiences, across all industries.

“The ‘customer experience’ is simply how we make our customers feel. And those feelings are driven entirely by expectations,” Baer said. “Every customer you have or will ever have, has an expectation for how every interaction with you and your business will go. They have an expectation for when the service department will arrive, for who is going to show up, for what happens while they’re in the home. We all carry these expectations.”

Baer said it is essential that businesses surpass those expectations, which is something customers rarely expect, and rarely experience.

“When you can exceed those expectations in one or more noticeable ways, that’s where a great customer experience resides. When you fall short of those expectations, that where a terrible customer experience resides,” he said.

Business owners need to realize that customer expectations are liquid, and will slosh over from one business category to another.

“The greatest companies in the world are teaching your residential and commercial customers what to expect from you and your employees. They’re not going to give you a pass anymore. And those expectations continue to go up, and up, an up,” Baer said.

Baer described four customer experience ‘Talk Triggers’ that have an effect on customer impressions, and generate either good or bad word-of-mouth commentary from one
customer to their friends or family.

“A ‘Talk Trigger’ is a strategic differentiator that compels good word-of-mouth comments by customers. They simply must tell somebody about their experience. That’s how you get new customers for free,” Baer said.

Talk Triggers are based on a ‘remarkable experience,’ and are often expressed as, “You will not believe what happened to me when . . .” Talk Triggers must be repeatable, consistent, and offered to every customer every time, not just given to service agreement customers or other contract customers.

The Talk Trigger categories are:
• Talkable Empathy: respond immediately when you have a complaint or
special need request from a customer.
• Talkable Attitude: Positivity and helpfulness in every discussion.
• Talkable Usefulness: What can you provide that helps customers? An example is a restaurant guide an independent taxi driver hands out. “Couldn’t you create your own guide to hiking locations in your area, or restaurants?” Baer asked.
• Talkable Generosity: Something free from your company, not an unrelated company. And make it more than a refrigerator magnet. 

ACCA honored contractors and industry partners with awards during its "Industry Champions" breakfast:

  • The ACCA Residential Contractor of the Year Award is J.M Oliver Heating & Cooling  Springfield, Pa.
  • The ACCA Commercial Contractor of the Year Award was awarded to Dave Kyle and his team at Trademasters, Newington, Va.
  • The Federated Insurance ACCA Super S.T.A.R. award was presented to Jerry Mannix of Mannix Heating and Cooling in Chantilly, VA.  
  • The Distinguished Service Award was presented to Tom Jackson, Chief Executive Officer of Jackson Systems, Indianapolis, Ind.
  • The Skip Snyder Humanitarian Award was presented to Kevin Sharkey, president of Sharkey Air LLC, Stuart, Fla.

Federated Insurance also honored ACCA with a plaque celebrating the 10-year Anniversary of the ACCA-Federated Corporate Partnership.


ACCA hosted more than 30 Learning Labs and networking luncheons. Learning Lab topics included:

ACCA scheduled more than twenty learning sessions for contractors serving the residential market. Session highlights include:

  • “Yes, You Do Need That! New Innovations to Make you $$,” with contractors Brian Bovio and Angela Rubino Hines;
  • “Shake Up Your Training for Real Results,” with contractor Edward McFarlane;
  • “#1 Secret to Growing Revenue 10-20% Next Month,” with Bob Maisel of Fortiva Financial; and
  • “HVAC Digital Marketing: The Changing Landscape and How to Stay Ahead,” with Ben Landers of Blue Corona.
  • "Hug Your Haters," by Jay Baer, was an enlightening look at the many ways to defuse angry or just plain nasty customers, in person or online, including Twitter trolls.
  • Sessions on retro-commissioning, estimating, residential HVAC and hyrdonics.

ACCA also hosted the annual Management Information Exchange (MIX®) Group MIXer for contractors interested in joining an ACCA MIX Group, a premier membership benefit. The most popular learning labs focused on communications guidance, creative marketing strategies, innovative training programs, proven methods to recruit qualified staff and hire veterans, and successful customer service tips.

The Annual Conference concluded with Chairman Steve Schmidt’s pledge to galvanize contracting professionals and strengthen their national trade association. The Chairman noted that Baby Boomers have dedicated decades of work to create a robust trade association, but contractors must ensure the Association is adapting to the needs of younger business leaders.

“ACCA is actively identifying the benefits contractors desire from their national trade association and uncovering the core challenges that all contractors struggle with," Schmidt said. "As Chairman, my goal is to modernize ACCA and meet the needs of all contractors and help them break into new markets.”

Chairman Schmidt resolved to enhance ACCA’s value proposition and increase the value of membership. He also pledged that, under his leadership, ACCA will enhance membership experiences and further engage students and young professionals.

To accomplish these objectives, Schmidt vowed that ACCA will “be redeveloping the value ACCA membership and creating innovative programs to solve members’ problems.” Chairman Schmidt acknowledged that young business owners share a desire for strong communities and stated that “ACCA will be a community of engaged contractors with a shared desire to professionalize the contracting industry and work together for the betterment of society. Our association will adapt to the needs of young contractors.”

Continuing with his focus on the future, Chairman Schmidt closed his acceptance speech by encouraging contractors to attend ACCA’s 2019 Annual Conference in San Antonio, TX, from March 4-6. He said, “be prepared to see a new ACCA in San Antonio!”