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The HVACR Industry employs more than 1.3 million people in the U.S. It touches so many people beyond the manufacturers and distributors and contractors. Having more partners to look after this industry is important to make sure it’s not eroded. For me collaboration is one of the best ways to make that happen. Working with a broader array of people, and groups, finding connection points, and shared desires or agenda. That collaboration is something that ACCA has maybe not always done. 

Lobbying through DC Fly-Ins 

One way of promoting collaboration is through fly-ins. These “fly-ins” happen every day of the week in Washington, D.C., where a group or delegation communicate an agenda to elected representatives and/or appointed federal officials.  

Whether it’s white coats of pharmacists or doctors or convenience store owners, this is what democracy in our country looks like. The message is that small business owners are the drivers of our economy. And it’s led by individuals. But backing them and making sure that logistics happen are groups like ACCA and others.  

Allies, Not Adversaries 

I recently joined in on fly-ins with HARDI and PHCC. Now, PHCC, as a contractor association, some would view as a competitor. I don’t necessarily see them that way. I view them as an ally. Of course, in some ways they are competitors. We have crossover membership. We have some HVAC contractors that are just ours. We have some that are involved with both. It’s the same for HARDI, for the distributors. The distributors are in business for themselves. They depend on contractors, but everything they do and are focused on isn’t always in the best interest of the contractors. And the same for the manufacturers.  

But we also have shared agenda items with both PHCC and with HARDI, as we do with the manufacturers, and their trade association, AHRI. That’s what collaboration is. It’s looking beyond the places where you don’t align and looking for the places you do and making the most of those when and where you can. You try to work together and where you can’t, you realize there are differences. For me, not working together on these shared agenda items – going your own way or not coordinating – is a recipe for disaster. I’m looking for success for ACCA, our members, and this critical industry. 

I was very excited to have my board chairman Eric Knaak along on our fly-in with PHCC. I feel blessed that he and I are very much on the same page with the notion that we’re stronger together. That’s kind of our mantra right now and it’s one that I’m hard-wired for.  

Oftentimes egos get in the way of collaboration. It’s easier to say no, we don’t want to do stuff with other organizations than it is to do it. So, it’s great to have Eric’s leadership and his being open to working with groups who have not always been viewed as someone that we could do that with.  

The Value of Collaboration  

On a fly-in, typically you have a priority list or agenda you’re pushing and what vehicles you’re hoping to use to advance those agenda items. Whether there could be a bill to address and who’s championing it and why a member of Congress should support that effort. With PHCC we had four shared priorities that we were pushing; with HARDI we had three. 

These fly-ins can give you insight on future challenges. For instance, PHCC places a higher priority on attacks from the utility companies than ACCA does. We’re seeing it in several states, but they’re seeing it pretty much in every state when it comes to the plumbing side of their business. And despite it being a state issue that utility companies are competition, they’re crossing state lines and that becomes a federal issue. Plus, many utility companies are foreign owned, so it can’t just be addressed on a state level.  

It was eye opening to see some of the issues on the plumbing side that are front and center for PHCC that may not be quite on our doorstep yet but are likely coming. We were able to see that and realize that this could be happening to us.  

Handing over the Reins 

Earlier in May ACCA’s leadership were in Florida for the 17th Annual Industry Partners Forum. The Forum brings together CEOs of manufacturing companies, the leadership of HARDI and AHRI, and ACCA. We talk about shared issues that our industry is facing and how we could tackle those together.  

This was the first year ACCA wasn’t the host on the Forum. HARDI was. To me, that felt like true collaboration. This was something ACCA has owned for 16 years but hasn’t been able to share. It felt like we were still in the development phase versus having a shared and rotating leadership role in hosting it. 

Next year AHRI will host the forum, and in 2021 it will be ACCA’s turn again. It’s very exciting that ACCA’s “baby” is now moving into a shared or rotating leadership responsibility. That’s what teamwork and collaboration looks like, versus somebody just showing up to your party every year. That means other people care about it as much as you do.  

Collaboration Going Forward 

Whether it’s at the state level with our Allied Contracting Organizations (ACOs), or national groups, working in partnership or collaboratively is essential. We’re not always going to agree, but if we’re not talking, we don’t even know where we’re not in alignment. 

It starts with education. It starts with ACCA’s leaders, like our Board Chairman Eric delivering that message from the lens of volunteer leaders. I can already see our work on collaboration is starting to reverberate back across the country, thanks to ACCA’s leadership. I know as we improve these efforts ACCA will become the active force on priority issues that affect the HVACR industry in Washington, in the states, and at the local level. 

Barton James

Posted In: ACCA Now, Opinion

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