As many of you who know me are aware, I am a huge believer in the power of groups and associations. My first entry into this came in the mid 80’s with the Manasota Air Conditioning Contractors Association in Sarasota, FL. Our company was one of the founding companies through my brother Richard’s participation. At one of the monthly meetings, they were taking nominations for the board and Richard nominated me. I won that election and never left the association. At that time, I was not even sure what we could get done that would help the industry. It was going to be a learning on the job situation for me. The first obstacle (and one that is still around in some version) is the view that you were helping your competitors who would eventually drive you out of business. Well as I said, this was the mid 80’s and now we are in 2022 and we’re still in business. One speed bump down.
Through the years we developed several programs to help the entire industry. Here is an example or one such program. I know the highs and lows of our industry have not been as prevalent lately as they were previously, but we addressed the labor shortage by implementing a “Employee Sharing Program”. This program was designed to assist with labor shortage issues by “lending” your emp1oyees to one of your competitors when they were in need, and you were a little slow. There were rules you had to follow such as, but not limited to promising not to hire the other guy’s employees. You paid his/her employee the same wage they were getting already. This program also helped the employee, as in the old days they would get laid off and lose their benefits. This program kept that from happening. It worked like a charm for several years. Our company loaned people out and then when we needed assistance I “borrowed” employees from my competitors. At one point I had 10 employees from three different companies working on my project. So instead of competitors trying to put you out of business, you worked together for the greater good of all the members. Now to be clear, that program had to end because of insurance and legal issues (not any suits, just preemptive steps), but it did show how getting together could result in the best for everyone.
Fast forward to the recent past (probably 2015) and our two largest jurisdictions notify us (no collusion there) that we had to “clear up” uninspected permits from years back. We were told that we had 60 days or they would start fining us. Five of us got together to meet with each jurisdiction at their office. Our group was representing all the air conditioning contractors in the area. What this demonstrated to the powers that be was we could stand together, and we could be a force. To their credit that realization opened a door to cooperation that we still have open today. The more people m your association the more professionalism you will portray. The more professionalism you portray, the more people will want to align with you from all sides. Join and participate in your association. If you don’t have one, contact me and we will assist.
Paul Stehle cut his teeth in the HVAC industry at an early age, helping his father operate a sheet metal shop out of the family’s basement in Long Island, NY. He joined his father and older brother when they opened Climatic Conditioning, Inc. in Sarasota, FL in 1972. They all earned ac contractor’s licenses and built the business successfully, at one point employing 65 people. Paul and his brother recently sold the business and retired.
Paul has served on local and statewide air conditioning contractor associations and has consistently been among the first to defend the industry when it has been threatened and been an advocate for unity, apprenticeships, professionalism and fairness. He has supported other trade associations as well, most notably the Gulf Coast Builder’s Exchange. Though “retired”, Paul continues to be involved in the HVACR industry and his community. Stay tuned for more literary contributions.
Contact Paul by emailing [email protected] Yes, aol!