Plumbing, hydronic contractors talk training at Mechanical Town Hall during AHR Expo

Some of the topics discussed at the Mechanical Town Hall were:

  • How to diversify a business in this economic climate.
  • Why it is necessary to utilize social media as a marketing strategy.
  • The importance of contractor training.

At The Mechanical Town Hall today, during the AHR Expo, in New York City, attendees asked panelists Eric Aune, Bob 'Hot Rod' Rohr, John Barba, Dave Yates and Brian Nelson about a variety of issues affecting the plumbing, hydronics and HVAC industries.

Questions came up about the economy, how to diversify a business, why it is necessary to utilize social media as a marketing strategy, and the importance of contractor training. Needless to say The Mechanical Town Hall was all about what is affecting you – the mechanical contractor – on a daily basis and what you can do to be a cutting-edge contactor.

The Mechanical Town Hall featured the best of the best contractors and trainers in the industry:

Dave Yates: The well-known plumbing, heating and solar contractor, Yates is president of F.W.Behler in York, Pa., and a monthly columnist for CONTRACTOR magazine

John Barba: Director of training and education for
 Taco Inc., in Cranston, R.I., Barba is known for his wit (if you have seen him speak before you know his sense of humor), and he is a 2012 Carlson-Holohan award winner.

Bob “Hot Rod” Rohr: Having been a plumbing and hydronic contractor for nearly 25 years, Hot Rod is now the educational and training manager for Caleffi, North America in Milwaukee.

Eric Aune: A plumbing, hydronic and solar contractor (Aune Plumbing LLC), this small contracting 
company from the Minneapolis area knows what it takes to run a business in the current economic situation. Aune works in solar, hydronics, plumbing, boiler and 
tankless installations, and other high-efficiency products to remain competitive as a small shop.

Brian Nelson: As co-owner of Nelson Mechanical Design, Brian Nelson is a Master Plumber and has a Masters Degree in engineering and is also a jazz saxophonist. This progressive contractor won
 a 1st Place Green Mechanical Award in addition to being CONTRACTOR of the YEAR!

All panelists agreed that to stay on the cutting-edge of the plumbing and hydronics industry, you must train, train and train! Sometimes it is hard to find time for training and learning about new technology and skills, but training is of utmost importance ... and Barba said it the best, “Don’t be so busy chopping wood that you forget to sharpen your axe.”

Barba also said that as a trainer it is important that trainers don’t waste contractors’ time.

“Manufacturers need to make sure training is application based,” said Barba. “Regardless of the product that you are trained on, you need to be sure that what you learn in a class you will be able to apply to projects regardless of the product.”

Barba also pointed out that a trainee has to play a part and come to training prepared, and have a list of items they want to learn. So then the trainer knows what the trainee’s expectations are.

Rohr added that both online and in-person training courses are beneficial.

“We need to offer different types of courses,” said Rohr.” “People like to learn in different ways.”

When the conversation between panelists and attendees turned to social media, Barba told attendees, “Social media is the new word of mouth.”

Aune added to the social media conversation by telling attendees that social media is the perfect place to have contact with customers, and the key to social media it keeping it simple.

Some commonsense tips for contractors new to social media are:

  • Post pictures of completed projects.
  • Post pictures of your employees.
  • Post timely and useful information, such as how to protect your pipes from freezing.  

“It’s all about building a brand,” said Aune. “It’s not enough to have a website these days—you need to share information that you feel is useful to the customer.”

Stay tuned for more coverage of Mechanical Town Hall and the AHR Expo online and in print!

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