WASHINGTON—More than 700 people in the plumbing, heating, cooling and electrical (PHCE) residential contracting industry came together September 13-15, 2017 to attend Nexstar Network’s 25th annual Super Meeting. It was Nexstar’s most popular event to date.
Nexstar Network is a best practice and business development organization for independent businesses in the residential PHCE industry. It was founded in 1992 by a small group of contractors, including industry legend Frank J. Blau, Jr., who was present at the Super Meeting event.
On Wednesday, September 13, Nexstar members got a first look at Nexstar’s technical training program, NexTech Academy. That night, more than 70 of Nexstar’s strategic partners were set up at the largest trade show hosted by Nexstar yet, which included live truck wrapping and a $25,000 giveaway. Members walked away from Super Meeting with more takeaways and guides than ever before: a comprehensive guide to marketing in the PHCE industry, a recruiting road guide, a training process workbook, and more.
Best practice in hiring and interviewing
Nexstar President and CEO Jack Tester took the stage at the beginning of general session on Thursday, September 14, and reminisced about the first Super Meeting, in Anaheim, CA, nearly 25 years ago. Back, then with 51 members, Nexstar did not have the staff, or the resources that it has today, he said.
“But we had a vision of what could happen,” he said. “We had each other. We had Frank and George [Brazil], and on that day, we felt blessed.”
He went on to explain that now, Nexstar has grown so much that the average Nexstar member company is about $7 million in revenue. Collectively, Nexstar member companies do just under $4 billion in consumer sales annually and employ 21,000 people as employers of choice. The challenge, however, can be finding more people to fill openings as the companies continue to grow.
Steve Cadigan, former vice president of talent at LinkedIn, was the first keynote presenter at Super Meeting. He explained that the internet, and then the creation of LinkedIn, has fundamentally changed the recruiting process forever. He told the audience that the main driver of value creation in every organization is people, but to attract talent, a company must first define who it is.
“You need to ask, ‘What assets do we have to attract people?’” Cadigan said. “What do you have above and beyond that?”
Experiences matter to employees. If they enjoy working with you, they will tell the world, Cadigan said. He told the story of one employee who worked in the finance department, but had a passion for food. When the company decided to start providing food for employees on their campus, the employee in the finance department with a passion for food was tapped to create the cafes. He eventually left LinkedIn to follow his passion in the food industry, but still speaks highly of LinkedIn and the opportunities the company opened for him.
“Our employees are our public relations department,” Cadigan said.
To build better leaders, owners and upper management must work on their own leadership skills.
Nexstar member companies understand the growth potential that comes from having happy employees. After Cadigan’s presentation, Nexstar Director of Training Keith Mercurio then hosted a panel discussion with three Nexstar members and Nexstar’s Recruiting Coach Steffan Busch. Mary Jean Anderson, owner of Anderson Plumbing Heating & Air Conditioning; Wyatt Hepworth and Jeremy Hansen, co-owners of Any Hour Services; and Jonathan Bancroft, owner of Morris-Jenkins were all chosen for this panel discussion because of the great success their companies have had in recruiting and hiring. When asked at the end of the discussion to give their biggest piece of advice, Bancroft reminded the crowd to build a business that you would want to be in as a leader.
“If you don’t want to be there, then why do you think your people want to be there?” Bancroft said.
Chris Mursau, vice president of Topgrading, Inc., closed out the day by taking the audience through hiring best practices. Topgrading is a hiring process that shifts the paradigm of what most people do when it comes to hiring and interviewing. An interview using Topgrading will be longer, but will get at a person’s full background.
“Something happens when we bring candidates face to face,” Mursau said. “And we mess it up by interviewing the way we were taught to interview, by asking, ‘Can you give me an example of a time when…?’”
The Silver Gala
On the evening of Thursday, September 14, Nexstar hosted the Silver Gala for Super Meeting attendees, which benefited the Nexstar Legacy Foundation. During the evening of entertainment, including a Bill Clinton impersonator, comedian Gary Gulman and live auction; the Foundation raised a record $282,000, said Foundation Executive Director Kate Cinnamo.
“The goal of the Foundation is to provide career education and scholarships to those interested in pursuing world-class PHCE careers,” Cinnamo said. “This mission is one that is critical to our industry’s success and one that we can’t accomplish on our own. We thank the donors for their commitment to the Nexstar Legacy Foundation!”
The Foundation recognized the Nexstar strategic partners who donated at the event: A.O. Smith, Barnett, Ferguson, Goodman Manufacturing, Johnson Media Group, Lennox, Mitsubishi, Rapit Printing, Rheem/Ruud, Scorpion, Service Titan, Swick Media, TRIC Tools, Inc., and WinSupply.
Toward better leadership
To build better leaders, owners and upper management must work on their own leadership skills. Nexstar brought in Michael Bungay Stanier, founder of Box of Crayons and author of The Coaching Habit, led the learning on day two of general session at Super Meeting on Friday, September 15.
Stanier spoke to the group about the importance of getting better at coaching. He had the group practice coaching by listening, and asking five game-changing questions to up their coaching skills. Stanier said that listening well is one of the best ways to embody “servant leadership.”
Dr. Nido Qubein was the last keynote at Super Meeting, who reminded the Nexstar members to live a life full of success, but also of significance. Qubein immigrated to the United States when he was a teenager with $50 to his name. He now serves as the chair of Great Harvest Bread Company and on the board of several national organizations.
“Can I just make a suggestion to you this afternoon that will change your life for the better?” Qubein said. “Having a to-do list is a must, but it’s not enough. We must all have a to-be list. You can’t have a to-be list without a ‘stop-doing list.’”
Gamification and live competition
Throughout the meeting, Nexstar members were lead through group activities and live competition. These were designed to help with retention and learning at the event. Categories included training, hiring, and technical questions, Nexstar Member Trainer Dave Boduch was host for the games, showing up onstage in a new ‘90s-inspired outfit each time he came out.
On the last day of general session, Friday, September 15, the nine members got to compete in three live technical challenges onstage at Super Meeting: “Game of Thrones” (plumbing), “Win, Lose or Electrocute Yourself” (electrical) and “Furnace Factor” (HVAC). Three members in each challenge raced to be first to complete work on a toilet, wiring system and furnace in front of the live Super Meeting audience.
The next 25 years
Blau closed out Super Meeting with a speech to the Nexstar membership. He told his story of sitting with his mother while she lay on her deathbed, where she told him that he could not go to his grave without sharing what he had learned with his fellow man. For Blau, that was the knowledge of how to have success in the residential contracting industry.
“I could not sit back quietly and let people live in ignorance. I still can't!” Blau said. “I will continue to speak out and I believe in every one of you. Be the eternal optimist. I am here for you. I am willing to help anyone who will listen. God bless all of you, my Nexstar family."