As I See It

The Comfortech Show builds on its successes

I thought our Comfortech Show in 2013 in Philadelphia was really good, but the one I recently returned from in Nashville was even better. Attendance as better in Nashville and the seminars were outstanding.

Kenny Chapman is going to get sick of me repeating this story … well, no, Kenny never gets tired of good publicity, so I have to tell you about this really great line that he delivered. When he was talking about buying his drain cleaning business in the early ‘90s, he said, “I didn’t own a business, I owned a job and it was a bad job because I worked for myself and I’m a lunatic.” Kenny owns a business now and he told contractors who attended his seminar that they shouldn’t be managing people, they should create and management systems developed to run their companies and let the people run the systems.

I enjoyed watching Ed O’Connell conduct his first seminar as a real-life consultant. Ed has spoken in public a lot before, but this was his first consulting gig and it was great to see how he connected with the contractors in the room. The route to success lies in switching from Time & Material to Flat Rate pricing, he said, and by joining best practices groups such as the Service Round Table. Ed talked about his journey becoming a plumber, getting into new construction, joining Plumbers Success International, then switching to service work and to Flat Rate. When he made the change, his effective hourly rate went from $150 to $300, but he only lost one customer and gained many others. It was also great to see the contractors lined up to talk to Ed one-on-one at the end of his talk.

We talked with Mike Smith, a senior marketing manager at one of our sponsors, Mitsubishi, about how ductless systems went from an oddity to having 80% of the market being aware of the technology. While variable refrigerant flow systems are primarily commercial, Smith mentioned that Mitsubishi has a 4-ton system handling up to eight zones that could be used residentially.

Chris Peel, the COO of Rheem, told us that his firm will have 40 product launches, it’s working on its third generation heat pump water heater, it’s updating its electronic controls yearly and its apps monthly. “It’s a whole new pace,” Peel said.

Our longtime hydronic heating columnist Mark Eatherton, executive director of the Radiant Professionals Alliance, told attendees at his seminar on radiant cooling that the condensation issue can be handled. You need to keep the dew-point inside the structure to around 50°F. Radiant cooling is all about manipulating the mean radiant temperature, Eatherton explained, so you need to make the surroundings cooler than the people. Radiant cooling is better if it originates in the ceiling rather than the floor, he said, and major manufacturers such as Uponor and Rehau have technical materials that explain how to do this. All it takes is about 15-20 Btuh/sq.ft. to cool adequately.

Kicking off the Quality Service Contractors meeting collocated with Comfortech, Ken Schmidt, the former director of communications for Harley Davidson, said that if people are not telling stories about their experiences with you, then there is no demand for your services. Nobody has ever told a story about a transaction that merely met their expectations because it blends in with the 10,000 other transactions they conduct in a year. What are you doing, Schmidt asked the contractors, to make their services stand out so much at customers tell stories about them?

Ben Tyson, from Google’s digital marketing department, told QSC members that consumers’ mental model has shifted from five years ago. Most people now watch TV with a tablet or phone and look stuff up as they watch. People look at their phones an average of 150 times a day. Homeowners shopping for home services — contractors — consult 14.3 different resources, and 78% of them have made up their minds before they call a contractor. Contractors have to be in front of homeowners, digitally, right from the beginning.

Yes, the seminars at Comfortech were great, but wait till next year in St. Louis. They’ll be even better.

Connect with me on Twitter @bobmader. We'll have coffee.

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