This April, National Comfort Institute held its 2017 Summit — Your Blueprint for Success — in Scottsdale, Arizona. The Summit was specifically focused on making air upgrades a contractor’s secret weapon to increase leads year-round, close more profitable sales, and provide superior service and quality products.

This year the Summit was redesigned, so attendees could participate in every workshop session:

  • How to Build and Sustain a Culture of Testing
  • Turn Static Pressure Testing into Cash
  • Air Upgrades: Your Secret Weapon
  • Price and Propose Profitable Air Upgrade
  • How to Install Air Upgrades
  • Generate Leads Year-Round

Also, there was a contractor panel discussion, NCI Idea Meeting, the closing general session and the 2017
NCI Awards banquet, followed by Post-Summit training that lasted one to two days depending on the training course, not to mention networking with fellow HVAC contractors.

“Most of the struggles discussed during the Summit were of the implementation of any new processes and ideas into a company,” explained Brad Higgins, NCI Instructor. “These struggles are not new, but often we as contractors labor with them at every level. The one thing that was impressive, however, was the instant sharing of ideas and implementation practices. What worked in one instance and not in another, or what did not work at all. These were companies that in some instances covered the same areas and were at one point competitors, and now share with one another for the sake of growth. Coming together allows them to communicate on a level that is not normally possible, but has been a known effective means of growth by leaders of Fortune 500 companies for decades.”   

Higgins and Will Horner, sales manager at CANCO ClimateCare, Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, presented the session Generate Leads Year-Round. During this session attendees were introduced to the characters Larry Lost-Sales and Rob Renovator — attendees were familiar with these two types of employees since at some point in their careers they have experienced an employee or two with one or both of these attitudes.  

“Larry Lost-Sales and Rob Renovator were my idea to give an understanding of the two extremes of mentalities towards acceptance and change in a company,” explained Higgins. “We were discussing how to gain year round sales through vital statistics, and the one major issue with this is attitude, and not how to use the information gathered. Will and I thought it would be impossible to talk about one [of the characters] without the other. The importance of determining the employee mindset is to protect the company, not judge people. If we know what to look for, we can head off negativity that could stop what we are trying to do at the proverbial pass. Reward the positive, while limiting the negative.”

John Boylan, general manager of Lakeside Service Company, Brighton, Michigan, and David Richardson, curriculum developer/trainer at NCI, presented the session Turning Static Pressure Into Cash. This session focused on the how static pressure testing can help your customers see the need for corrections to their HVAC system and how to implement such a strategy. 

“I believe that it is our professional responsibility to educate our clients,” said Boylan. “High pressure is the ‘silent killer’ in the HVAC industry. We are being hired to share our professional knowledge, so our clients can make an educated decision. When we have the tools and know-how, but don’t even test, or we don’t disclose something ... well, in the medical field you would be sued for malpractice. I think that it’s our job.”

According to Boylan, most HVAC contractors get excited about implementing better service through things like static pressure testing, and as leaders they want their teams to jump up and run right behind them into the HVAC battlefield.

“I believe that it is important to think of the team first and ask questions,” explained Boylan. “Try to think of the possible objections and mentally prepare yourself to not ‘react’ and just listen. Discuss the concept with a trusted tech or employee that can give you some ideas before you present this [strategy].

Even though a contractor is excited about a new service, employees can often pushback, but that is often just a natural reaction to something new.

“What I have found is that often the initial reaction and pushback is just human nature, not really resistance,” explained Boylan. “And when you ask strategic questions to draw out their ‘why’ for the pushback, usually you can resolve it together and build momentum. If you can’t get on the same page it can be a sign to revise your implementation strategy. Everything moves easier when everyone believes in the why, what and the how of a plan. This can take more time on the front end with planning, but if it means success, isn’t that the real goal?”

Boylan spoke to attendees from his own experience — he created a strategy to turn static pressure into cash. Boylan has the following advice for contractors that are considering creating a similar strategy at their companies.

“Master the concept before you push it out,” said Boylan. “Your team will need to lean on you a lot, so you need to be able to help them. Eventually you will find someone that has the passion for it and they can be groomed. Also start simple. Use a tool like NCI’s Comfortmaxx air and just use it on tune-ups. Have them bring the readings back for group discussion during weekly meetings.”

Two thumbs up for Summit 2017

Feedback from attendees and trainers at the 2017 Summit was positive.

“The strategy that I liked the most was taking the explanation/education component out of the hands of the technician and placing it squarely on the shoulders of the sales staff,” said Daniel Ontiveros, service manager at AC By J, Scottsdale, Arizona. “Technicians often aren’t the best at communication, so rather than trying to force them to do something they’re not comfortable with, better to have the sales staff do what they’re good at …  communication and conveying a concept. 

“I would recommend the NCI Summit and training to any organization,” continued Ontiveros. “It will help show that the equipment is only a component of the system.  If your company focus is selling ‘units’ rather than systems, it’s easier to be shopped. Plus, this process will make for happier clients.”

“Personally, the highlight for me, was grasping the basic principle, that: if you're not measuring [static pressure], you're guessing. I firmly believe that we owe it to our clients to only deal in facts,” said Eric Johnson, director of sales at AC By J. “The most important strategy I walked away with is the importance of air upgrades. It completely alleviates the whole idea of technicians only focusing on the equipment. It's gotten me back to my true roots!”

According to Boylan, the company contractors keep is very important.

“If you want to become the best you need to surround yourself with the best — the NCI family of contractors is technically at the top of the industry,” explained Boylan. “The contractors that are trying to advance our industry through the application of proper airflow on replacement work are the game changers.”    

The networking and idea sharing done at the Summit is also an important aspect of what makes this event unique.

“Honestly the highlight of the Summit was the free sharing of ideas, and the camaraderie among so many different people and companies,” said Higgins. “They not only discussed ideas during sessions, but stayed around after the Summit workshops and gatherings and kept discussing into the evenings. At one point on the last night I went to my room because I had an early flight. I looked out the window and two hours after the dinner and awards ceremony the contractors were still on the patio talking and sharing ideas. That is itself what I consider a true acknowledgement of the value of the Summit.”

According to Mike Weil, vice president of communications and publications at NCI, the 2017 Summit was one of the best.

“All the classes were completely full, and we didn’t lose anyone to the casino or other activities during the Summit, said Weil. “We definitely hit the nail on the head with the theme of 'Your Blue Print For Success.' “Usually a contractor’s main complaint regarding conferences in general is that it’s hard to implement in the office what they learned. We actually received calls within a few days of the Summit from contractors that used air upgrades. We at NCI are really excited at the success of the Summit — it was absolutely positive.”