The Air Conditioning Contractors of America is hoping many members find their way to San Jose, Calif., for this month's convention.

The group will hold its 38th annual conference March 28-30 at the San Jose Convention Center. The slogan for this year's event is "Break the rules." It's likely a reference to the keynote speaker, Marcus Buckingham, author of the best seller First, Break All the Rules.

ACCA officials say it took three years for the group to get the popular speaker and author for their convention. Buckingham is expected to expand on themes in the book, explaining new ways to look at customer service and employee management. Buckingham will speak at 8 a.m. March 29 during the convention's opening session.

In addition, the association has booked Nancy Friedman, the "Telephone Doctor," to reveal the five phrases customers don't want to hear. During "Hell Hath No Fury Like a Customer Scorned" at 4:30 p.m. March 29, Friedman will offer alternatives that will make your customers - and therefore business owners - happier as well.

The association's popular March 29-30 Indoor Air Expo will have dozens of exhibitors covering all aspects of the HVAC industry. And throughout the convention, the ACCA has scheduled 35 educational seminars on marketing, employee relations, estate planning and other popular topics. Here is a listing of some of the scheduled sessions. For a complete list, go to


Are some of your employees less motivated than they should be or do they cause you other headaches? If so, "Good Labor and Employment Practices: How to Get the Most Out of Your Employees Under the Law" may be for you. It will explain how to handle workplace injury issues, firing bad employees and other personnel matters. The session is at 1:30 p.m. March 28.
  • It seems most HVAC businesses have a Web site. But if your site just sits in cyberspace, it could actually be costing you money. That's the opinion of Brian Kraff of Market Hardware. Kraff says it's not enough to just operate a Web site. They need to (and can) actively recruit business, enhance your business' reputation, and even ensure a sale. Contractors who are successfully using the Internet will be profiled at the 1:30 p.m. March 28 session.
From 3 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. March 28, these sessions are planned:
  • "Indoor Air Quality Products for the Home: What Works and What Doesn't," will be hosted by Roy Crawford of the Trane Co. Several studies have said IAQ can be worse than outside air, and many homeowners are interested in improving the air they breathe. The brisk sales of high-efficiency filters and air cleaners are proof homeowners are interested in this issue. This trend's meaning for HVAC contractors will be examined, along with the air standards from groups such as the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.
  • Members of the ACCA's Government Relations Committee will take part in "The Contractor Health Insurance Roundtable: Searching for Answers to the High Cost of Health Care." For many U.S. businesses, the cost of providing health insurance to employees is reaching a critical point. Many businesses have increased employee-paid deductibles or are passing on more of the cost of monthly premiums. Some, especially small businesses, have dropped coverage altogether.
  • This session will look at what contractors have done to deal with the problem.
  • Peaden Air Conditioning owner Robert Wilkos will lead "Creating Customers for Life." A past winner of the ACCA's Residential Excellence Award, Wilkos will detail the ways he has ensured satisfaction for customers of his Panama City, Fla., company.
  • Mold is an issue that won't go away. It continues to expose HVAC contractors to lawsuits, and be a popular topic at trade shows. "Protect Against Your Mold Exposure" will offer legal advice on avoiding mold-related lawsuits and tips for dealing with the situation if your company ever finds itself in court over mold.

Generation gaps

At 10:15 a.m. March 29, these sessions are among those scheduled:
  • "Hey Dude! Managing Age Diversity in Today's Workplace" is the name of a session by Robert Wendover of the Center for Generational Studies. This session will explain what company owners and managers need to know about the differences between young and middle-age workers. They have differing values and experiences that affect the way a company operates.
  • Expanding on other sessions on IAQ, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency employees Eric Werling and Chandler Von Schrader will explain how the agency's Energy Star program tackles indoor air quality during "Answering Customers' Energy and Indoor Air Quality Concerns." EPA program officials say there are several Energy Star specifications that deal with IAQ and selling them may help your business.
At 3 p.m. March 29, attendees can chose these seminars, among others:
  • Trends in fashion, culture and - of special interest to contractors - business regulations often start in California and work their way east. "What is California Thinking About?" is hosted by John Proctor of CheckMe. The state's energy efficiency and building standards directly impact HVAC contractors. This session will explain the latest changes in California's building codes and how to meet them.

Selling the opposite sex

In "Selling to Women and Couples - Consider the Possibilities!", Sharon Roberts of Roberts & Roberts Associates will explain how to exploit the "women's market." To sell successfully, Roberts says you have to abandon the idea that you should treat everyone the same. Since studies say 80 percent of buying decisions are made or influenced by women, it makes sense to tailor your sales approach to them.

The March 30 sessions include:
  • "Finding Sales that Others Don't See" at 2:15 p.m. will be hosted by Larry Taylor of AirRite A/C Co. Inc. Taylor will explain how focusing on "whole house" comfort can separate independent HVAC contractors from the operations of mass-market home improvement retailers. Learn how to add value for your customers while increasing profits.
  • Also at 2:15 p.m., Mike Callahan from the ACCA School of Business will offer tips on "Pricing Residential Replacements." Session attendees will learn how to figure costs and prices so they make money no matter which pricing method they use. Callahan says its OK to lose some jobs, as long as you don't lose money.
  • Robb Hess will explain how to "Control Workers' Comp Costs to Improve Your Bottom Line" at 3:45 p.m. Hess is a California insurance broker who will offer tips on reducing this major business expense. Learn about "experience modification" and how to close old "open" claims, which can affect current insurance premiums.
For more information on attending the ACCA's 38th annual convention, write to 2800 Shirlington Road, Suite 300, Arlington, VA 22206; call (703) 575-4477; fax (703) 575-4449; see on the Internet.