Attendees of the ACCA conference will get to choose from over 30 educational sessions called “learning labs.” Photos courtesy of ACCA.

When an association is on its 44th conference, it’s no surprise that they may take some chances and try new things.

The same can be said for contractors who are looking to rise above an economy that is slow to turn around.

That may be why the Air Conditioning Contractors of America has given its 2012 conference and Indoor Air Expo the slogan “Raise the stakes.” Show organizers are hoping to give attendees something to talk about, as well as knowledge that will help them propel their companies above the fray.

The March 5-8 event at the Paris hotel-casino in Las Vegas will once again include a trade show devoted to indoor air quality products. The trade show is held in conjunction with the Indoor Air Quality Association.

ACCA has also scheduled over 30 “learning labs,” that will focus on myriad topics from technical issues to training, sales and marketing, and profitability.

Attendees who registered for the conference before Dec. 15, 2011, will literally get to take the learning labs home with them. They will get DVD copies of each of the training sessions so they can watch the lessons again or share them with their employees.

“It’s impossible to remember everything you learn at an event like our conference, so as we have done in the past, we are offering a free DVD of all the sessions to attendees who register early,” said Paul T. Stalknecht, president and CEO. “It’s a great way for us to thank them for attending and it helps them refresh their learning experiences, and share valuable information with the top leaders in their companies that may not have been able to attend. We will mail out the DVDs as soon as production is complete, to all attendees who either registered early to earn it for free or purchased a copy on-site.”

Besides the learning labs, attendees will have the opportunity to examine their businesses through the ACCA’s CEO Contractor Forum, a town hall meeting, and three prominent keynote speakers.

Erik Wahl of the Wahl Group will speak during the ACCA’s closing general session. During “The Art of Vision,” Wahl will get contractors to see the future of their company.


Every contractor knows about return on investment, but what about “ROR” - return on relationships. That is the indicator that many contractors need to think about, according to Tommy Spaulding of Spaulding Cos. LLC.

Spaulding will speak at the opening general session at 10 a.m. March 5.

In the presentation “Customer Sales and Service: What Does It Mean to Focus on ROR Instead of ROI,” Spaulding will explain why contractors need to focus on relationships with customers instead of focusing just on the bottom line. He will share his advice on how to produce a high ROR.

The closing general session at 4:30 p.m. March 7 will present Erik Wahl of the Wahl Group. During “The Art of Vision,” Wahl will try to get contractors to visualize what the future of their company will look like. He will aim to show how any size company can control their destiny by embracing innovation and setting goals.

While the last day of the conference might be a time for some attendees to start winding down, the ACCA has another plan. A half-day session is planned for 9 a.m. March 8 called “High Stakes Learning: Building the Ultimate High Performance Workplace.” The session will be presented by Jason Young, who has worked for dozens of Fortune 500 companies. Formerly a senior-level manager with Southwest Airlines, Young will show how he was successful at each of these companies. This includes finding way to get employees to perform, how to develop leadership principles, and how to adopt better management practices.

The ACCA says that this session is only open to 300 individuals, so organizers are encouraging attendees to show up early.

Manufacturers and ACCA members can network during the ACCA’s Indoor Air Expo.

Learning labs

ACCA members will get to choose from over 30 different learning labs during the three-day conference. The first day of sessions gets under way on March 5. Here are some sessions that may be of interest to attendees:

At 2:30 p.m., two technical sessions will be offered. Danny Halel of Hussman Corp. will discuss “Refrigeration System Line Sizing,” while Bill Spohn and Jim Bergmann of TruTech Tools Ltd. will offer “Combustion Analysis.”

Business-management sessions will also be offered at 2:30 p.m.:

“The Customer Satisfaction Pyramid,” led by Frank Besednjak of Training Source, will aim to show business owners how great customer service involves building trust. Besednjak will show attendees the “Customer Satisfaction Pyramid,” which describes different levels of the customer experience and how it can create loyal customers for life.

“Distracted Driving - It Happens in the Blink of an Eye,” will be presented by Dave Cameron of Federated Insurance. Cameron will show contractors how to develop and enforce a distracted driving policy within a company.

Bobby Ring of Meyer & Depew Co. will offer “Making the Most of MIX Group Financials.” The ACCA’s MIX Group, also known as the management information exchange, allows members to share information with non-competing contractors to help with business issues. In this session, Ring will discuss how contractors can prepare and present a financial statement for an ACCA Mix Group meeting.

“Generating Business with Building Science” will be led by Robert Wilkos of the Comfort Institute. Wilkos will present contractors with opportunities to solve customer comfort issues for little-to-no extra cost.

At 3:30 p.m., members can choose from these sessions:

“Improving Your Safety Performance” will give contractors different approaches to keep employees safe and also lower insurance costs. The session will be led by Eric Woerner of Direct U.S. Home Services.

Luis Escobar with ACCA will present “Effects of Encapsulated Attics.” Escobar will explain the difference between attics that are encapsulated and not encapsulated, and how this effects load calculations and equipment sizing.

Ring will return for another MIX Group session. “Taking Your MIX Group & Your Business to the Next Level” will present an example of a successful ACCA MIX Group. Attendees can see what this group is doing to help members keep their businesses growing.

Wilkos also returns with “Generating Business in Whole-House Programs.” This session will explain how contractors can find experts to work with, how to do so successfully, and how each entity can work together to create credibility with a home builder or owner.

These sessions will be available March 6:

Starting at 9:30 a.m., Stephen Spletzer of Arkema will offer “Choosing the Right R-22 Retrofit.” Also, John Siegenthaler of Appropriate Designs will lead a presentation called “Hydronic Cooling Options.”

Also at 9:30 a.m.:

Drew Cameron of HVAC Sellutions will present “Sales, Marketing & Sales Management Troubleshooting.” This session will show contractors some of the latest sales trends. He will aim to answer questions on what contractors can do to improve their sales and marketing strategies.

“Manual Zr - Zoning From a Contractor’s Perspective” will explore some of the issues that impact HVAC zoning. John Sedine of Engineered Heating & Cooling will explain the limits and recommendations for zoning systems, and how to select the best system for a project.

“Profiting From the Growing Quality Installation Market” will talk about how contractors can create an HVAC quality installation program. James Tuleya of Pacific Gas and Electric will present the challenges that occur when trying to properly install an HVAC system.

Brian Kraff of Market Hardware Inc. will present “Show Me The Money! How Top Contractors Manage Their Social Media in Just 10 Minutes a Day.” Kraff will explain why social media is a business opportunity. He will show how small businesses are already using sites such as Facebook and Twitter to create successful marketing campaigns.

These sessions will be offered at 10:30 a.m.:

“Time Management: Get More Done by Working Smarter, Not Harder” will be led by Adam Gloss of Bel Red Energy Solutions. This session will present seven steps that will help contractors with their time management. Gloss will show attendees tools they can use to get more done in a day and accomplish their goals.

“Stop the Bleeding in your CSR Department and Get Your Call Conversion Up by at Least 10 Percent” will be offered by Brigham Dickson of Power Selling Pros. This session will address the issue of poor call handling and what businesses can do to convert customer calls into sales.

“Recognizing the Elite: QA HVAC Contractor Program” discusses the ACCA’s Quality Assured Contractor program and its newest offering called QA Program for Homes. This session will be presented by Wes Davis with ACCA.

These sessions will begin at 2:30 p.m.:

“Business Valuation and the Exit-Planning Process” will examine what contractors should do when they are planning to retire and how to transfer their business to a family member or employee. Allen Oppenheimer of AM Oppenheimer Inc. will lead the session.

Joe Crisara of will offer “Service Lead Turnover Avalanche.” Crisara will give attendees the information they need to turn customer leads into sales, including selling upgraded systems and products to homeowners.

“It Was Not Raining When Noah Started Building the Ark” will explore how history tends to repeat itself in the HVAC industry. Larry Taylor of AirRite Air-Conditioning Co. will present trends that occur in the industry and how contractors can position themselves to stay profitable in the future.

RESNET, the Residential Energy Service Network, will be discussed during “RESNET Energy Smart Contractors.” Steve Baden of RESNET, Dallas Jones of Home Performance Team, and Wes Davis and Emily Rodgers with ACCA, will explain how HVAC contractors can work with RESNET to create new business opportunities.

On March 7, these sessions will begin at 8 a.m.:

“Culture & Consistency Leads to Profitability” will try to show contractors how they can balance integrity and profitability. Louis Hobaica of Hobaica Services will provide members with the steps they need to create continued business through company integrity.

Contractors will learn tips on creating publicity for their company during “Public Relations and Publicity.” Tom Peric of Galileo Communications will show attendees how contractors can create free publicity and market their company to customers.

“Gearing Up: Business Operations and Resources for Existing Homes” will be led by Jack Bartell of Virginia Air Distributors. This session will discuss the ACCA’s Quality Assured program for existing homes and what members can do to prepare for it.

Emily Saving from the Heating, Airconditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International will present “The ROI of Employee Development.” Saving will explain why companies must invest in employee training. She will show how contractors can quantify the value they are creating by providing employees with training that will help them in the field.   

ACCA attendees will get to see the last products and services from manufacturers during the conference’s Indoor Air Expo.

“There’s an App for That!” will feature the various HVAC applications that can be used on smartphones and tablet computers. Kenny Waston of Roscoe Brown will aim to provide attendees with an understanding of how these apps work and how to take advantage of them.

At 9 a.m., Warren Lupson from the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute will discuss “I-B-R Residential Hydronic Heating Installation and Design.” This session will examine hydronic heating, including boiler operation and selection, hydronic hot water heating systems and sizing, and more.

At 2:30 p.m., Jolene Methvin with Bay Area Air Conditioning & Heating will discuss the quality installation standard and why it is beneficial to contractors during “Why QI?” She will discuss how to implement the standard and the benefits of performing work to a QI standard.

Dave Swett of Read World HVAC will lead “Manual Zr.” Manual Zr is the ACCA’s newest manual for residential zoning. An overview of the manual will be provided, along with the steps required to create a quality zoning system.

“Home Performance with Energy Star: Preparing for Impending Changes” will look at how Energy Star is changing and the promotion of the ACCA’s 5 QI Standard. This session is most beneficial to those in the new-home construction market. Jon Passe from the Environmental Protection Agency and Ely Jacobsen with the Department of Energy will moderate.

Charlie McCrudden with the ACCA will lead “What AFUE Means For You.” This session will explore the changes the U.S. Energy Department made to increased minimum energy conservation standards for residential HVAC equipment. McCrudden will explain the furnace standards that will take effect in 2013, and air-conditioner and heat pump standards set for 2015.

“Customer Service Superiority - DIY” will examine how contractors can create their own customer service opportunities and retain customers. Steve Coscia of Coscia Communications will lead the talk.

At 3:30 p.m., Ellis Guiles of Tag Mechanical will present “5 Secrets to Better Buildings and More Profits.” Guiles will present five ways that contractors can improve the environment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also creating new profits.

For more information on the ACCA’s annual conference,