Contractormag 2623 Comfortech1

Comfortech 2015 features contractors, connections, camaraderie, competition

Oct. 5, 2015
During Comfortech 2015 contractors participated in: Educational seminars Trade shows Networking parties C3 Comfortech Contractor Competition    
The 3C Competition brought out contractors competitive edges.

ST. LOUIS — Last month's Comfortech Show was, once again, a can’t-miss event. St. Louis held court as the best of the best in the HVAC/plumbing world met for the annual Comfortech Show.

And once again, the show did not disappoint. From the educational seminars, to the trade show floor, which featured the most innovative products, services and technology in the industry, to the Emerson after party and the annual EXTRAVAGANZA held this year at Morgan Street Brewery.

Plus, the show added a new wrinkle: the C3 Comfortech Contractor Competition, where contractors competed in Plumbing — Branch Manifold Connection; HVAC — Airside Shills Contest; and Hydronics —The Hydronics Challenge Contest.

Passion strikes a chord at Comfortech 2015

Immediately I thought of two things: What a great idea to hold a competition on right on the show floor and the name of the competition was pretty cool. Yet I had another thought when describing the overall show — this is where contractors connected, competed and felt the camaraderie as they rubbed elbows with some of the best plumbing and HVAC guys/gals in the country.

Also really cool this year was the new mobile app, which made the show easier to navigate and added a social media function with real-time updates, so people could keep apprised of what was happening during the show.

Jim Morris signs autographs after his keynote.

The show officially kicked off with the opening keynote, “Who Do You Think You Are? Live Right, Do Right, Lead Right” presented by Jim “The Rookie” Morris. A Disney movie classic, Morris’s story was highlighted as a 35-year-old high school teacher turned Major League pitcher.

Morris emphasized how to become better leaders while chasing our dreams and keeping our promises. “Dreams come in different shapes and sizes. Surround yourself with dream makers.”

Another special keynote event, “Crafting the Customer Experience for People Not Like You,” presented by Kelly McDonald, marketing and consumer trends expert, McDonald Marketing, showed contractors, manufacturers, brands and products struggling to differentiate themselves in a “sea of sameness” can grow sales, and foster long-term loyalty and brand preference with exceptional and customized customer experiences.

CONTRACTOR columnist Dave Yates talks with Navien reps on the trade show floor.

The attendees and exhibitors alike were pleased with the turnout as ideas were exchanged, products and technology presented and feedback shared.

“Comfortech offers the opportunity for us to meet and speak with HVAC contactors of all sizes,” said Brian Fenske, specialty channel sales manager at Navien Inc. “With varied locations each year we get to meet new contractors both young and old, along with veterans and new technicians to the industry from throughout North America.” 

“While on the show floor, I get to meet with vendors I already use to find out about how to get the most out of their products or services, learn more about what is on the horizon, and provide feedback to help them make my investment in their products more valuable to me,” said Tim Bruce, president, General Air Conditioning, San Antonio, Texas.

“I am a hands-on person; I learn quicker when there is some sort of personal interaction so I can say, ‘When you go, you learn more.’”

Breakout sessions

I was fortunate enough to sit on a couple of educational seminars and moderate another.

Michael Bohinc, CPA, owner, Keeping Score, Inc., educated attendees on the topic of fraud in his presentation. Bohinc stressed that 5 percent of the annual U.S. GDP is lost to fraud, which equates to $820 billion a year. According to Bohinc, some of the lessons learned from contractors are:

  • Perform background checks.
  • Trust systems more than people.
  • Inventory company invoices and checks, and keep them in a secure location.
  • Mark company property (tools, equipment, etc.).
  • Record model and serial numbers on all tools and equipment.
  • Have a purchase order system and review supplier invoices regularly.

Next was “How to Make a Fortune by Recruiting and Training New Techs” by Dr. Kerry Webb, Business Coach, Service Roundtable, who emphasized hiring based on a candidate’s attitude. “Hire for attitude and train for skill,” said Webb. Also important in the hiring process is a candidates beliefs, values and then skills.

The 2015 and 2016 Women in HVACR Board of Directors.

I was fortunate to moderate The Mechanical Town Hall, which featured three esteemed panelists Steve Miles, general manager, Jerry Kelly Heating and Air Conditioning Co., St. Louis; Dave Yates, owner, F.W. Behler, York, Pa.; and Mark Eatherton, executive director for the Radiant Professionals Alliance (RPA). Topics discussed included upselling energy efficiency, running a better business by believing in your inner salesman and government policy and initiatives, to name a few.

Senior director of content, Bob Mader, and’s executive editor, Terry McIver, moderated this year’s Executive Leadership, which featured panelists Randy Roberts, vice president of sales, Rheem; Gary Michel, senior vice president, Ingersoll Rand and president, Trane Residential HVAC; John Gaylen, president, North America, Danfoss; and Dick Foster, president, ZoneFirst; whose industry insight on industry trends, such as future technology and the Internet of Things, was very informative.

Women in HVACR

Also holding court, the Women in HVACR held their annual meeting at Comfortech. This year is the international organization’s 12-year anniversary, and the theme of the meeting was efficiency. The three pillars of the organization are networking, education and mentoring — which were prevalent at the meeting. Besides networking and icebreaker exercises, the women shared stories of how they have grown in their careers.

They also had the opportunity to learn about efficiency and effectiveness from Mark Matteson, owner, speaker and bestselling author of “Sparkling Success.” Nancy Combs, president and CEO of HR Enterprises, Inc. was the keynote speaker and discussed the essential skills for the effective professional. Combs also talked about conflict resolution.

"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,” said Candace Roulo, senior content editor, CONTRACTOR, who was in attendance. “She then took employees through the steps of conflict resolution, including options to solving problems, and when to avoid conflict and be accommodating, and when to compete and collaborate."

Comfortech 2015 was very well run and such a great experience, I hope to see you next year in Philadelphia, Sept. 20-22.

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