As a business owner or decision maker in a contracting business, you probably meet a lot of fellow contractors at local events.

These events are great for getting to know other contractors as well as talking about the best tools and gauges or successful training programs.

Have you ever wanted to gain more insight and business information from your HVAC contracting peers? It’s not possible to talk to your competition about detailed business practices, but on the national level, contractors can engage with noncompeting companies and share anything from wages and equipment sales to marketing and performance goals.

To ensure contractors have a venue to interact with each other on a micro level, the Air Conditioning Contractors of America created the Management Information Exchange (MIX) Group program, one of ACCA’s premier membership benefits.

The MIX Group is for contractors interested in business-to-business exchanges with noncompeting peers. MIX Groups are organized by ACCA members who meet twice each year, traveling to each other’s companies to review sales data, business operations, staffing policies, marketing strategies and key financial information. Most groups consist of eight to 10 companies with comparable sales volumes.

It takes a considerable amount of time, energy and money to be in a MIX Group, but those in the program know it is worth the investment. 

Praise for program

First-generation HVAC contractor Jen Pierce of Clay’s Climate Control joined a group because she and her husband Clay didn’t have family members who had been involved in the industry, nor did they have business contacts to confide in. Jen told me that her company evolved through the stages of business growth due, in large part, to the invaluable input from her MIX Group.

“As our membership continues, (we) have seen the enormous positive impact the MIX Group has had,” she said. “If you are willing to put in the work, a MIX Group can change your business.”

On the other end, veteran contractor Randy Seaman of Seaman’s Mechanical has been in a group for more than 25 years. Randy is an experienced contractor who still relies on his MIX Group for a boost in confidence when he’s leery about trying something new. Randy also told me that the input he received from his group has helped him increase the size and scope of his business “10 fold.”

As Bobby Ring, president of Meyer & Depew, said, “It’s like having your own personal board of directors.”

For anyone interested in being in an ACCA MIX Group, it is important to understand what the actual investment is. The annual cost to be in a group ranges from $7,000 to $10,000, depending on the destination, hotels and possible facilitator costs. Besides the two weeks of travel each year, contractors will likely need to be available for monthly conference calls to meet their group’s reporting requirements.

Honesty counts

Many of the contractors I’ve spoken with say that the money and travel is the easy part of being in a group. The hard part is the ability to be completely honest and open to change. Being in a MIX Group requires you to be truthful with your financial reporting and honest with your peers about what you notice in their business. And, if your peers are honest with you they expect you to be open to the changes they suggest you make in your business.

If contractors can’t commit to being honest and open to change, the MIX Group program is not for them.

Getting into a MIX Group can take a considerable amount of time because contractors must be invited into an existing group. ACCA’s role in the program is to provide introductions and help with networking, but each group has their own vetting process for new members. Some contractors sit on the candidate rolls for years waiting to get into a group.

Rather than waiting to be invited into an existing group, I recommend trying to start a new MIX Group. ACCA will help any contractor interested in starting a group with introductions to other contractors. ACCA can also help a new group locate a facilitator who will work with them on meeting formats, schedules, information sharing, and other items the group will need for long-term success.

I have yet to meet a contractor involved in the program who doesn’t recommend it to other contractors. ACCA is here for any contractor or decision maker who wants to get involved and work with their peers on building their business.

Please contact me at todd.washam@acca.org if you’re interested in learning more about the program. Just make sure that your ACCA membership is up to date. As a reminder, ACCA is a national association, so membership in a local contracting organization does not mean that you’re an ACCA member.