Tom McCart's life was full of firsts. He was the first salesperson to sell $1 million of residential replacement sales in the HVAC industry. His accomplishment is stunning when one considers that Tom did it in a one-season market — Ft. Myers, FL — nearly 20 years ago.

Tom was the first person to be named to Service America's Million Dollar Club (1987). He was the first recipient of Contracting Business magazine's Thomas R. "Doc" Rusk Award for industry leadership (2003). He was the first recipient of the Service Roundtable's Servant Leader Award (2004).

As word of Tom's sales accomplishments became known, he fielded so many calls for help from salespeople and contractors that he started training others full time. From sales training, he proceeded to general contractor consulting. Over the years, Tom impacted the lives of thousands of contractors.

From His First Dollar to His First Million
Tom was born into a poor, rural family; the first place he called home had a dirt floor and no indoor plumbing. To make the situation more difficult, Tom fell ill with polio and spent the ages of two to five unable to walk.

Always a fighter, Tom walked. Then, he ran — in fact, legend has it that the first $200 he earned was made running "white lightning" in the backwoods of Kentucky at the age of 14.

In 1966, Tom dropped out of college to volunteer for the U.S. Army. After his military service, he spent 15 years managing retail stores. It was here that he acquired formal training on financial statements and other aspects of business management.

By the spring of 1985, Tom passed up the "opportunity" for his 10th transfer in 15 years, and left the retail industry. Fate brought him into Modern Air Conditioning in Fort Myers, FL.

Tom later admitted that he interviewed at Modern Air Conditioning simply to acquire a signature on a job search form so that he could collect unemployment compensation.

Fortunately for the HVAC industry, Tom's plan to collect unemployment never came to pass. He was offered a position at Modern as a residential replacement salesperson, and the rest, as they say, is history. Tom closed his first 15 leads. The year he broke the $1,000,000 barrier, he was issued 337 sales leads and closed 303 of them.

Did Tom have a secret formula? Tom's long-time friend (and sometimes competitor) Charlie Greer shadowed McCart for a full day of sales calls. As Greer noted: "It was obvious why he was outselling me.I was running calls to make sales. Tom was running calls to take care of peoples' needs."

On His Own
Tom eventually left Modern and struck out on his own, sharing his sales skills as a consultant. He later gave up his consulting practice and spent three years as vice president of training and development for Dwyer Trade Services, the parent corporation of Aire Serv, Mr. Rooter and Mr. Electric.

In 2002, the HVAC industry was stunned to learn that Tom had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, a progressively degenerative neurological disorder.

Seeing his impending disability rushing toward him, Tom devoted his energy to his work with contractors. Paralyzed from the waist down, he and his scooter became a familiar sight as he raced around airports and contractors' offices.

On June 10, 2004, he lost his battle with Lou Gehrig's disease.

A Rich Legacy
During his too-brief career, Tom's work touched thousands of lives in the HVAC industry. Whether it was cajoling, scolding, or using his irreverent humor to make a point, he left a rich legacy, which includes the books Selling HVAC Replacements to Homeowners and The Selling Script Book for Overcoming Stalls and Objections.

If you were lucky enough to have known Tom, you know that he usually liked to get in the last word. On the occasion of his induction to the Contracting Business Hall of Fame, we would certainly not presume to have it any other way. In Tom's own words: "Life, to me, has been one challenge after another. It's not how many times you get knocked down. It's how many times you're willing to get up. I had polio as a child. I was never supposed to walk. I walked for 50 years. Life is a challenge. You've got to meet it head-on. You accept life for what it is, but you don't have to suffer from it. Be the best you can be."