Earlier this month I attended PHCCCONNECT2022 in beautiful Charlotte, NC. I’ve decided it might be my favorite show of the year. It’s not too big (AHR Expo and KBIS are so huge, so busy, that you always come away with regrets, feeling there was a booth you didn’t get to visit or a session you were unable to attend). It lasts just a couple of days. And the best part? Everyone you want to see is right there.
Whenever I’m covering an event, I try to find a theme that will tie everything together for me. It helps fix it in my memory (cover the same conference more than a few times and they start to blend together) and it gives me star to steer by when I’m writing things up.
For this year’s PHCCCONNECT, the theme I came away with was “trust.”
The “connect” in PHCCCONNECT is about connecting people. Not just networking, but those deep, long-term relationships that are at the heart of any successful business. And as I heard over and over again, the basis of all strong relationships is trust.
For example, Billy Austin of the Schultz Engineering Group gave a great session contrasting the Design-Bid-Build process with the Design-Build process. Design-Build can deliver greater efficiencies, greater value to the client, he said, but only if the contractor and the engineer have taken the time to establish trust. Once each knows the other has their back, they can stop working against each other and pull together to solve problems and get the job done.
During the Thursday Morning Breakfast keynote speech, former contractor and NASCAR team owner Chris Our pointed out that, for all the glory a driver gets, racing is a team sport. When a crew gets back from a race the car gets stripped down to the bare bones, with individual crew members spending long hours on tiny details. In any business where small mistakes can lead to big differences in outcomes (which includes contracting), trust is essential.
At an educational session that would become the talk of the show, Natural Gas Bans: Electrification and How it Will Impact Your Business, it was plain to see the problems a breakdown in trust can lead to. On the one hand, contractors mistrust the motives of regulators (with one person in the Q&A session seeing bans as an attempt to crush independent energy markets). On the other hand, regulators seem to see the pushback on bans as motivated by greed, not realizing contractors have a host of practical concerns as well as a sincere desire to deliver value, efficiency and comfort to their customers.
And of course, during my time at the CONTRACTOR booth I had the chance to meet many of our readers. This publication stays in business because the advertisers advertise, and they only do that because the readers keep reading, and they only do THAT because they trust what we have to say. As soon as we in the trade press break that trust—fail in our accuracy, fairness, usefulness—it’s game over.
Trust can be difficult. We live in cynical times where someone telling you what you want to hear is as suspicious as someone telling you what you don’t; where it seems like everyone is trying to “sell” you on something. But I’ve found trusting people, having faith in people, usually pays off.
Still, make sure you get that contract signed!