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It’s a Time of Transition

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As the incoming Chairman of ACCA, I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce myself and give you some background on who I am.  It was with great pride and honor last February that I accepted the Chairmanship of the association that leads our nation in comfort and the indoor environment. If you had pulled me aside as a young child and told me I’d be stepping up on that stage, I would have thought you were nuts.  I started out just like everyone else; searching for a place in a vast world.  I had no special upbringing or heritage in this industry.  My father was a naval architect.  He was a dedicated civil servant and led a very planned and steady life with no risk or reward beyond providing a good life for his family and a secure future.  While my path of entrepreneurialism deviated seriously from his life, there was one major piece of advice that rang true.  He told me “I could have anything I wanted, just not everything I wanted”.  As a child I thought this saying was just a tactic to limit my expectations but I soon learned that he was really saying that if I set my mind to it; I could achieve anything.

In 1983, after receiving an associate’s degree in engineering, I quickly joined a local heating and air conditioning service company and continued my education in the evenings at an Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) trade school.  With additional schooling, the achievement of a Master HVAC License, and 4 years in service and 6 years in sales I felt prepared to launch Frederick Air, Inc.  Over those 10 years I had worked for a few HVAC service and install companies; I took a look at the policies and procedures others were using and simply thought I could do it better.  I made a plan to start my own company and implemented it.   I started out with shared office space and a shared receptionist.  Short of the shared receptionist to answer the phones, I was the entirety of the company.  I did all the work in the field, all the sales, all the accounting, everything!  Frederick Air was incorporated in 1992.  I was free to treat customers the way I wanted to be treated, and I’ve built my business on creating and maintaining the ultimate customer experience.  I cared about my customers and was careful to hire people with the same attitude and work ethic.  I’m not saying there were not a few major bumps in the road but 25 years later I have a staff of 30 people who love their jobs and demonstrate their commitment to the highest customer service every day.

I am honored to have been selected by the contracting industry to lead this important organization. For the first few decades my business took the majority of my attention. I didn’t plan on being so involved in a nationwide organization. I was focused on building my company’s brand and name in Frederick County, Maryland. It wasn’t intentional, but I am proud that the hard work I was doing in my own little community was noticed by leaders in the contracting industry decades later.

Our industry is in a transitional period. ACCA and I recognize that there are opportunities for us to take advantage of in the next generation of contractors. Millennials are buying businesses or starting their own companies and ACCA has to be there for them. As an association that has been led by baby boomers, we must adapt. With this in mind, I worked with outgoing chairman, Don Langston, to create a membership task force, which I currently chair. One of the goals of this task force is to identify new communications and marketing tools to engage these young business owners and to figure out the business tools that they will need to succeed. As the chairman of the task force, I have been able to manage the process and guide the discussions. This is invaluable experience that will serve me well.

2018 is going to be an exciting year to lead ACCA. The contracting industry is on the verge of breaking into new markets, ACCA is expanding its staff and presence to ensure contractors have access to the knowledge and resources we need to take advantage of these opportunities. We need to be aware of the changing consumer base, and the coming experience-based economy. I want to lead the contracting industry into the future. This will require ACCA to continue to emphasize workforce development issues. It will also require a dedicated focus on technology. Technicians and installers will need to be capable of working with Internet-connected devices, equipment, smart controls, and more.

Outgoing Chairman Don Langston’s tenure has laid the groundwork for us to advance these workforce development issues and expand ACCA’s horizons. I’m excited to continue to champion these issues for the contracting industry.

Steve Schmidt
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