Comfortech 2015 was jam-packed full of business best practices, networking, contractor competitions and inspirational keynotes. There was so much for a contractor to do in three-day’s time. I hope attendees learned as much as I did during this conference and event.
“Everyone has a different dream,” said Jim Morris “The Rookie” as he began his opening keynote address at Comfortech. “The more you learn the bigger your dreams can be.” Hearing The Rookie’s keynote was indeed inspiring. If you don’t remember who Jim Morris is watch the Disney Movie “The Rookie.” You will be glad you did! It’s a very inspirational and moving movie.
Morris talked about how his grandparents changed his life for the better and put him on a new positive path. Morris worked for his grandfather at a men’s suit warehouse. Thanks to his grandparents he learned that everyone should surround themselves with dream makers — the best people possible are the people that want the best for you.
“Nurture every positive relationship — the teenagers I coached helped me fulfill my dream. They saw something in me I didn’t see. Dreams come in all shapes and forms. Life is worth chasing a dream.”
After the keynote, Morris stayed to sign autographs. People were definitely moved by his life story. If there is one thing to take away from Morris’ keynote is that you are never too old to have a dream, and dreams are necessary. And it’s important to surround yourself with other dreamers and people that can help you achieve a dream.
During the Mechanical Town Hall, moderated by CONTRACTOR’s editor-at-large John Mesenbrink, selling, recruiting and training were discussed. Panelists for the Mechanical Town Hall included:
Steve Miles — General Manager of Contracting Business’ 2006 Residential Contractor of the Year, Jerry Kelly Heating and Air Conditioning Company in St. Charles Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis.
Dave Yates — A well-known plumbing, heating and solar contractor, Yates is president of F.W. Behler in York, Pa., and he is a monthly columnist for CONTRACTOR magazine.
Mark Eatherton — Eatherton is the technical director for the Radiant Professionals Alliance (RPA). As a former contractor, he shares his vast knowledge and industry experience in radiant heating & cooling technology and practices.
Miles doesn’t see a shortage of employees in the trades. “We need to think outside the box to find the students,” he said. “As business owners we need to find our own qualified people. How do you hire good employees? We test them on basic mechanical aptitude. I want to know about aptitude and personality. I don’t want an introvert as a service tech, I want an extrovert.”
Eatherton is a fan of what Mike Rowe is doing to help promote the trades. “Mike Rowe has his head on straight,” said Eatherton. “To pay what these guys are worth we need to raise rates and add a value proposition.”
Regarding what types of training these contractors offer employees, Yates said that he focuses on the design and sales side of training. “Our training is mostly in-house; most people learn by doing. Our guys learn pretty quickly.”
Importance of selling
All the panelists agreed that selling is the key to contracting businesses. Yates invests in ad dollars, where the money stays local. “We do volunteer work and charitable work,” said Yates. “This comes back tenfold.”
Miles’ philosophy is that everyone is in sales no matter what. “Installers need to sell themselves to homeowners,” explained Miles. “I consider myself a retailer. Marketing is everything and everything is marketing. We kick butt at customer service and that is what and who we are.”
Eatherton suggests giving employees the opportunity to use the radiant systems they are selling in their own homes. This way, they experience the systems and then they can sell it to customers. They can be advocates of hydronic and radiant systems.
Women in HVACR
On Sept. 15, the Women in HVACR held their annual meeting, co-located with Comfortech 2015. This year is the international organization’s 12th year anniversary, and the theme of the annual meeting was efficiency.
The three pillars of the organization are networking, education and mentoring, which were prevalent at the meeting. Besides networking and ice-breaker exercises, the women attending the event shared stories of how they have grown in their industry careers. They also had the opportunity to learn about efficiency and effectiveness from Mark Matteson, owner, speaker and best-selling author of “Sparking Success.” Nancy Combs, president and CEO of HR Enterprise, Inc. was the keynote speaker and discussed the essential skills for the effective professional.
“Time is gone – and it won’t be back,” said Combs. “Wasting time costs money! How we manage time is based on personality, people vs. task. And habit – lack of accountability. People that are people focused are easily distracted. They can get sucked in. They need to learn how to take themselves out of the situations they find themselves in.”
According to Combs, one of the biggest myths about time management is if you want it done right, do it yourself. This is based on insecurity — afraid that the task won’t get done right. Another myth is that basic every day duties need no planning. You need to put interruptions in your plan.
The top time wasters are shifting priorities, losing things and lack of priorities.
Combs also mentioned that successful people keep a journal. Students a Harvard and Notre Dame are required to keep journals. Other time management tools are a time log, things-to-do list, daily planner, weekly planner, monthly planner, computer calendar and smartphone notes. Guess who is now using a journal to keep track of everything that happens in the office?
Learning to delegate is also very important to being a successful leader. These are steps to take: identify the work, select the right person, make sure the person knows how to get the job done, provide the resources, remove any obstacles, be available as a resource, and monitor the results.
Combs also talked about conflict resolution (a touchy subject since no one likes conflict to begin with). She started this part of her presentation by noting that conflict is normal, it’s going to happen, it can be creative, almost everyone wants to avoid it, and many of us have difficulty dealing with it!
She then took attendees through the steps of conflict resolution, including options to solving problems, when to avoid a conflict, when to be accommodating, when to compete and when to collaborate.
I thought everything Combs discussed was beneficial. I had no idea that I should be scheduling interruptions in my daily schedule! But this does boil down to commonsense when you think about it — there are always interruptions that no one is prepared for.
Keep an eye out for more Comfortech 2015 coverage!