This year, HVAC Comfortech is being held in Atlanta. It’s not often that Comfortech makes it to the Deep South. If you are one of the 2.35 gazillion or so air conditioning contractors located within 500 miles of the Southern Mount Rushmore, jump on this chance for the greatest learning opportunity in the industry by jumping in your truck and heading to Comfortech. If you’re 500 miles distant, it’ll take you less than 10 hours to make the trip per the Automobile Association or six hours if you drive like the Atlanta locals.

If Atlanta’s too far to drive, book the friendly skies now. It’s less than you might think and less than the media portrays.


Where The Industry Meets

Penton likes to promote HVAC Comfortech as the place where the industry meets. It’s true. Comfortech has evolved into the single biggest residential and light commercial event in HVAC. Yet, the foundation of its rise isn’t the opportunities to connect with industry leaders, but the opportunity to learn from them. Simply stated, Comfortech is the most information packed three days in the industry.

At HVAC Comfortech, you will learn from the industry’s best, brightest, and most innovative contractors. You will interact with the top managers from the leading vendors in the industry at the event’s trade show. And after hours, you will rub shoulders, swap stories, and pick the brains of other contractors from around the nation.

Having been involved with the very first HVAC Comfortech in Cleveland over a decade ago and every one since, I’ve picked up a few lessons you can use to get the most out of your comfortech experience. Here they are:


Take Lots and Lots of Notes

The amount of information and new ideas you pick up at HVAC Comfortech can be overwhelming. It’s much more than my small brain can contain. Fortunately, when I was six years old Mrs. Ogletree taught me how to write, and HVAC Comfortech is one of the times the skill serves me well. I take notes. Lots and lots of notes.


Pick Seminars in Advance

Some contractors pick the seminars based on the speaker. Contractor, Robert Wilkos, for example, is the best marketer in the industry. When Robert talks (and he will at HVAC Comfortech 2008), you should be there.

Contractors, Steve Miles, Steve Saunders, and Larry Taylor are extremely popular speakers because of their no-nonsense, straight forward, entertaining styles. All three are industry innovators and successful contractors who freely share their knowledge and experience.

Others pick seminars based on the topic. Even if you’re not personally interested in sustainability, you probably have customers who care deeply about the subject. Green marketing can lead to green dollars and HVAC Comfortech’s loaded with seminars on the subject, whether it’s Cropp-Metcalfe’s Andrew Oser talking about green service agreements, contractor, Benson Green and Vicki LaPlant on selling comfort in a green world, or one of the other seminars.

If you’re interested in becoming more effective at home shows, including creating an oldest furnace or oldest air conditioner contest, come see my seminar. You’ll even get a special, free marketing kit with everything you need to run your own home show oldest appliance contest (but only if you come to the seminar).

In fact, the problem with HVAC Comfortech is there are too many great seminars and speakers. You can’t see all of them. You’ve got to pick and choose. So pick in advance, but then be ready to adjust.

After each seminar session, contractors gather around the coffee pots and ask each other about the seminars the same way you might ask someone at work about a movie.

“Who’d ya see?”

“I saw Bubba’s session on ‘Selling in the Sub Prime Market.’”

“How was it?”

“Turned out it was all about how Bubba met Bubbette at a foreclosure rally and found true love. Real chick flick.”

“Ugh.”

“Yeah, I only went because my wife made me. Hey, shhh. Here she comes. What’d you see.”

“I saw that contractor, Bruce something or the other. The session was ‘Sell Hard.’ The guy sure knew how to kill sales.”

Okay, you get the idea. Pick your sessions in advance, but be ready to adjust. If you’re bringing a team from your company, assign sessions to ensure your company covers as much as possible.


Hit The Show

The trade show at HVAC Comfortech has evolved to become the best residential show in the industry. The only show that’s bigger has more of a commercial focus.

Check the exhibitor list in advance. Note the vendors you want to visit. A lot of senior executives attend HVAC Comfortech. This is a great time to make contact with the top guys at the factory, which can come in handy down the road.

Visit the exhibitors on your “must see” list and then, walk the show. Look for the unexpected, the new, the innovative. Lots of companies use HVAC Comfortech as a venue to make major launches. The Service Roundtable was launched at an HVAC Comfortech in 2002. And this year, we’re making a major, change-the-industry announcement. I bet we’re not the only ones.


Rub Shoulders

As one of the more regular speakers at HVAC Comfortech it kills me to admit it, but contractors report that the most beneficial aspect of HVAC Comfortech is not the speakers. It’s the other contractors.

HVAC Comfortech is a chance to meet other contractors from across the country, share war stories, and trade ideas. You probably won’t talk honestly about your challenges with your competitors and wouldn’t trust their advice if you did. HVAC Comfortech gives you the opportunity to talk with peers from other cities who may have faced the same challenges and solved them. That’s invaluable.

There are lots of opportunities to interact at HVAC Comfortech. A Welcome Reception takes place Wednesday night, immediately followed by the Service Roundtable’s “Best Hospitality Party at Comfortech” (where we give away the coolest t-shirts in the industry). On Thursday night, there’s the cleverly named, “Thursday Evening Extravaganza.” On Friday evening, there’s a Dessert Party. In between, there are lunches, hall talk over coffee, and more.

One of the things I love most about the HVAC industry is the humility of industry professionals, whether top contractors or consultants. Never be afraid of walking up to someone, introducing yourself, and picking their brain. I did when I was new in the industry and was amazed how industry legends were so open and approachable. By talking with them, I not only learned a lot, I made friends I’ve kept to this day.


Don’t Miss The Specials

HVAC Comfortech really starts the day before with the Women in HVACR Conference. Other programs are held throughout, such as the NATE Top Tech Competition, the free Consultant’s Corner where you can get business advice from top industry professionals, the National Comfort Institute’s must see, Comfort House, and more.


Bring Your Techs

If you live in the greater Atlanta metropolitan area, Wednesday is a NATE Technician Certification testing day. Friday is an affordable, technician training day. Bring your techs. Even better, talk it up and make attendance contingent on hitting performance goals for the next four weeks. In essence, the techs who really want to go will pay their own way by building your bottom line an extra $25 a week for the next four weeks!


Give Back

You will have a couple of opportunities to give back at HVAC Comfortech. The first is simply to send thank you cards to our troops and veterans. Remember, freedom is never free. Say thanks!

New this year is Comfortech Gives Back! On Saturday afternoon, a group of us will give back to the Atlanta community through a program called HOMES (Home Owner Maintenance and Enhancement for Seniors). We’re going to help some seniors continue to live in their homes safely. I’ll be there. I hope you will too.


Debrief

After the dust has settled, the actions you take will determine whether HVAC Comfortech 2008 was a nice tax deductible junket or the springboard for your best year ever. Grab a stack of 3X5 cards, review your notes, and write down one action idea per card.

When you’re done, look at the cards one by one. Take the best idea and set it aside. If you find one better, set it on top. After you finish, the top card becomes the action you will immediately take when you return home. Don’t worry about anything else until that idea is implemented. Once it’s completed, repeat the process.

I hope to see you at HVAC Comfortech 2008. If we’ve never met, come to my seminar, stop by my booth, or grab me in the hall and introduce yourself.

Matt Michel is president of the Service Roundtable (www.ServiceRoundtable.com), an organization dedicated to helping contractors prosper. Matt is also the publisher of Comanche Marketing, a free marketing e-zine. Subscriptions are available at www.ComancheMarketing.com. You can contact him directly at matt.michel@serviceroundtable.com. Or send your comments to Contracting Business at letters@contractingbusiness.com.