IE3 Show: The Ultimate Contractor Learning Experience - IE3: Business Tools for HVAC & Plumbing Contractors  

IE3 Show: The Ultimate Contractor Learning Experience

This year’s IE3 Show  taking place February 12 – 25 at the Gaylord National Harbor in Washington, D.C. is set to be another blockbuster event, chock full of critical and informative sessions – and a groundbreaking IE3 Expo featuring the IE3 Expo Theater with exciting programs, including two special Manufacturer CEO Forums.

MainStage Events 

ITR Economics economist Connor Lokar will deliver a keynote speech, “A Look Into the Crystal Ball the Future of HVAC,” focusing on upcoming construction trends. 

The construction industry is poised for continued growth in 2018, both in the residential and commercial markets, Lokar says. On the residential side, ITR analysts expect to see overall growth, though there are “headwinds” hitting the multifamily market. 

“Warehouse construction remains one of the hottest commercial segments, as we consumers haven’t stopped spending,” he says. “The construction is being led by Amazon, but that’s also driving changes in the retail industry’s resource allocation away from building just stores but also investing more on the back-end with warehouses.” 

However, eCommerce still only makes up approximately 11 percent of total retail spending and retail companies are still building new physical locations, particularly close to expanding residential construction areas supported by robust demographics, Lokar says. 

“For office construction, there’s typically a bit of a lag between an uptick in the economy and groundbreaking of office projects, but there should be some upside potential,” he says. “While vacancy rates are starting to flatten out as a lot of square footage is catching up, job growth should help continue to fill those spaces.” 

While there are positive things happening with construction growth, there are some “dark clouds” – mainly from a labor standpoint in the short term, Lokar says. 

“It’s particularly acute in the trades, and for mechanical contractors, the labor shortage is increasing,” he says. “As the gap continues to widen, that might delay construction projects, as there won’t be enough bodies to keep up with the growth on the way.” 

Another keynote speaker, Jay Baer, founder of digital marketing advice and online customer service consulting firm, Convince & Convert, will explain how HVAC contractors can create a successful digital marketplace. 

“Increasingly people are using the internet to make their buying decisions, and while referrals continue to bring in new people, people are also going to double-check those referrals – and they can do that in five seconds on the internet,” Baer says. 

Would-be customers will check whether contractors have “five-star” or “one-star” reviews, and how contractors respond to reviews, he says. Google reviews are the most important, but people will also check Yelp, Facebook and now many local Yellow Pages also have online reviews. People will also check the quality of a contractor’s website, and many people won’t even call a contractor if they don’t have a website. 

“We trust other consumers twice as much as we trust businesses, so we are going to listen to reviews from real people, while also listening to what companies have to say about themselves,” Baer says. “So it’s important for businesses to be cognizant of how they are portrayed online.” 

Customer service is marketing, he will remind contractors. 

“If your customer service is great, it shows up on the internet, and your current customers will create your new customers,” Baer says. 

Two additional MainStage Events include ACCA’s Industry Champions award presentations and an outline of the trade group’s strategic priorities by ACCA Chairman Don Langston of Air Rite Air Conditioning in Huntington Beach, Calif., and Chairman-elect Steve Schmidt, President of Frederick Air Inc., in Frederick, Md. 

Learning Labs

In the show’s Learning Labs, leading contractors and industry experts cover a wide range of topics to boost business performance. 

Independent consulting engineer Larry Spielvogel will present the session, “Lessons Learned from HVAC Court Cases.” 

Contractors are sued quite frequently, but over 90 percent of the cases get settled — and often at some cost, says Spielvogel, PE, founder of L. G. Spielvogel Inc. in Bala Cynwyd, PA. 

“One of the purposes of my presentation is to alert people to the kinds of problems that have occurred and how they can avoid them,” Spielvogel says. 

For example, the owner of a very large house wanted geothermal heat pumps, and had one contractor dig the wells and an HVAC contractor install the heat pumps and connect to the wells, he says. However, the wells weren’t deep enough and so the ground became saturated and the heat pumps couldn’t cool the house. 

The owner sued the HVAC contractor because he didn’t realize the problem was with the wells, Spielvogel says. The HVAC contractor then settled to avoid the risk that the court would find that the firm had some or all of the responsibility. 

“The lesson learned from that case is for contractors to write CYA letters, to describe the limits of their responsibility, especially when their work relies on somebody else’s work,” he says. “This is also true for when architects say they’re going to put a certain type of window in a project, but then end up putting in a different type that impacts the performance of the HVAC unit.” 

Joanne Brooks, vice president and counsel for The Surety & Fidelity Association of America, will present the session, “Why Bonding Matters, Surety Bonding 1.0.” 

Brooks’ presentation is geared towards contractors looking to expand their businesses and take on bigger projects, as well as procurement or government officials tasked with selecting qualified, bondable contractors to complete critical infrastructure projects at taxpayer expense. Brooks will detail the surety claims process, as well as the factors a surety takes into consideration when deciding whether or not to bond a particular contractor. 

“Since construction is a risky business, it is imperative that project owners – obliges — require bonding to ensure that failed contractors can be replaced, projects can be finished on time and on budget, and that their significant monetary investment is protected,” she says. 

Andrea Hughes, vice president, operations and business development at DUCTZ of Fort Lauderdale, FL., will present the session, “Contractor Challenge: Are you an Entrepreneur or a Technician?” Hughes will explain how contractors can achieve smooth business operations while ensuring profitability. 

“I am a business professional who comes from a corporate background that is very structured, so I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum – coming from a Fortune 500 company to a mid-sized contracting firm and seeing the challenges it faces on a daily basis,” she says. “I will give my insights as to how certain challenges in a smaller business setting are being tackled, or even overcome.” 

There are many contractors who started out in the industry as technicians, but then turned into business owners, Hughes says. While they know how to do “an amazing job” as technicians, there is “an apparent disconnect when it comes to the other hats they have to wear as a business owner.” 

In her session, she will discuss how success can be achieved by empowering the niche of each business owners and bust several entrepreneurial myths. Hughes will also emphasize that contractors have resources available to them through a variety of channels, to help them resolve situations that happen in business, and how to make customer service their top priority in these situations while still making a profit. 

“It is my goal to help the audience uncap their potential by providing insights on strategies that worked in our business, turning a small Duct Cleaning company to a million dollar business in a span of two years,” she says. 

Edward McFarlane, vice president of marketing and development at Haller Enterprises Inc. in Lititz, PA., will present the session, “Shake Up Your Training For Real Results.” 

“I will talk about how to conduct effective training to keep employees engaged every day,” McFarlane says. “Quite often business owners end up doing the training, and they don’t often feel very equipped and the training is dull.” 

Contractors should first start with the end goal in mind – what is it that they’re trying to fix? It could be to solve a technical problem, it could be sales-related and the company is not hitting the numbers, he says. Depending on what they are trying to fix, that should influence the type of training they do, and whether it should be them or an expert who needs to conduct the training. It may be more effective to have one of their own team members lead the training, talking about specific issues within the company rather than someone outside talking in generalities. 

“Training needs to be engaging, fun and safe so that people aren’t afraid to ask questions,” McFarlane says. “Leaders should not always be the ones to answer questions – have others in the room suggest answers, which increases engagement. People prefer to have moments of self-discovery rather than being lectured to.” 

In the Learning Lab’s Plumbing and Hydronics track, there’s the “It’s Nocho Mother’s Boiler” session by Steven K. Wieland, NTI – NY Thermal Inc.’s Mid Atlantic regional sales manager, based in Willow Grove, PA. 

Wieland will compare cast iron hot water boilers to modern modulating condensing stainless steel boilers – the former developed at the turn of the last century, and latter, the turn of this century, he says. 

“In the past, cast iron boilers would last 30 years, but all of today’s boilers aren’t your mother’s boiler that was installed in 1938,” Wieland says. “High-end stainless steel boilers are much more efficient, lowering fuel bills an average of 38 percent. Moreover, the level of control is much greater, creating more comfort than ever before.” 

Wieland will also discuss the differences and similarities in installation of both types of boilers. 

IE3 Expo 

This year’s groundbreaking IE3 Expo is more interactive than ever, as contractors can take advantage of a new app solution to discover great ideas and new tools offered by the industry’s most innovative suppliers and vendors. 

Moreover, the show floor will feature a “massive” IE3 Expo Theater, where exciting new programs will be conducted, including two special Manufacturer CEO Forums — one focused on residential, one on commercial – where contractors will be able to ask questions directly of senior manufacturing executives. 

The Expo will also include a dedicated demo space, offering up-close, hands-on demonstrations of cutting-edge products and solutions for members’ contracting business. And don’t miss great food and live entertainment along Main Street, where contractors will be able to discover new business opportunities and profitable tools. 

Katie Kuehner-Hebert

Katie Kuehner-Hebert

Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a freelance writer who writes for IE3. She has more than two decades of experience writing about corporate, financial and industry-specific issues. She is based in Running Springs, CA.
Katie Kuehner-Hebert
Katie Kuehner-Hebert

Katie Kuehner-Hebert

Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a freelance writer who writes for IE3. She has more than two decades of experience writing about corporate, financial and industry-specific issues. She is based in Running Springs, CA.
Katie Kuehner-Hebert

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