More than 700 plumbing and HVACR contractors, exhibitors, and guests recently defied the old adage “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” by taking what they learned at Service World Expo, held Oct. 26-27 at the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas, and bringing it back to their contracting companies across the U.S.

From sales and marketing training to business development and leadership courses, the information they gathered from two days of educational sessions and networking opportunities designed to improve their companies and increase their bottom lines proved to be invaluable for many attendees of the inaugural event.

An all-star cast

Service Nation Inc., The ACHR News, Plumbing & Mechanical, and Reeves Journal joined forces to launch Service World Expo, which is designed for residential and light commercial plumbing and HVACR contractors who want to improve their companies. Naturally, the racing-themed event featured an ensemble of some of the top minds in the industry as well as keynote speaker and Irish racing legend Derek Daly, who spoke about creating a “Culture of Extraordinary” within one’s company. Plumbing & Mechanical columnists Matt Michel, Adams Hudson, Al Levi, and Kenny Chapman presented at the event; other presenters included Ron Smith, Mike Montano, Vicki La Plant, Rodney Koop, and many more.

Michel, founder and CEO of Service Nation Inc., led a leadership session with Smith on the changes he has seen in the industry and postulated on those still to come in his “Legends of the Industry” presentation.

“It’s the easiest presentation I’ve ever had,” Michel said. “All I had to do was ask [Smith] questions and pay attention. Judging by the number of people in the room ― it was standing room only ― a lot of contractors wanted the opportunity to hear what [Smith] had to say.”

Adams Hudson, marketing guru and president of Hudson Ink, joked that, “other than being pummeled with rotted fruit and booed off-stage, it was fine.”  He added, “I’ll come if my invitation doesn’t get lost in the mail.”

Al Levi, a Zoom Franchise owner and author of “The 7-Power Contractor,” said the event was “amazingly well-run” and that “turnout was phenomenal for a first-year show, let alone a show that’s been running for years.” There was also “a really nice mix of trade show [exhibitors] and different speakers on a wide range of topics,” he added.

“The educational program and keynote speakers were top-notch,” BNP Media Inc. Plumbing Group Publisher Bob Miodonski said. “I may be biased, but I thought Plumbing & Mechanical contributors Al Levi, Adams Hudson, and Kenny Chapman were great. I’d say the same for Tab Hunter, Jeff Havens, and Derek Daly, just to mention a few.”

One-of-a-kind event

In addition to the excellent content of the sessions and presentations, the event itself featured an atmosphere unlike other service-company-oriented tradeshows.

“This was a vibrant, active event,” Hudson said. “Sometimes, people speak of ‘energy’ at an event or the lack of it ― SWE was absolutely bristling with high, positive energy, and nearly all I spoke with agreed. At SWE, there was a palpable, appreciative spirit among each group.”

“I really like the way the show was organized,” Michel added. “It had a different feel, and the exhibitors were more engaged. It wasn’t one of those shows where people walked through it in 30 minutes and were done ― it was much more interactive, and there was just more stuff going on.”

Additionally, the physical setup of the event was attractive to both attendees and presenters.

“I liked the way the event was centered in one place,” Levi said. “It made trade show, education, and social time so much easier and better.”

Jack Sweet, editor of Reeves Journal, attended the event and many of the sessions and said it exceeded his already-high expectations.

“I thought the kickoff Service World Expo brought a lot of value to attendees and exhibitors alike,” he said. “This is proven by the fact Service World personnel were accepting completed exhibitor applications for next year’s event before this one had even ended.”

Contractors chime in

Presenters and hosts of the event weren’t the only ones impressed by it. Chris Bishop, president of Davis Heating & Air Conditioning Co. in Rocky Mount, Virginia, said he enjoyed the event and would “definitely” be back next year.

“They had a lot of information, and I liked all the vendors,” he said. “I sat in on Todd [Liles’] session this morning, and it was really nice being able to interact with him here [on the show floor] and talk with him more and connect with him.”

Steve Rottier, operations manager at Illiana Heating & Air Conditioning Inc. in Cedar Lake, Indiana, also said he’d be back for the next Service World Expo event.

“I have to say, it’s been really impressive,” he said. “Just getting different ideas and encouragement from companies that are having the same issues and same struggles, and hearing their ideas and ways they’re fixing the problems and the way they’re expanding their businesses and making hard times go away, it’s phenomenal. It really is helpful.”

John Baethke of John Baethke & Son Plumbing in Chicago said, “I definitely found tons of value at Service World.”

“I’m just looking to grow our business, and we knew this would be the place for that,” said Jason Knighton, owner of Knighton Plumbing in Kaysville, Utah. “It’s been really good, positive. That’s what I would say. Everyone here seems to really be involved and happy with the organization, and it seems positive. I’ll come back next year.”

‘A great success’

By all accounts from attendees and exhibitors, the event exceeded expectations, Miodonski said.

“Everyone was enthusiastic, with a few passing along suggestions on how to make it even better next year,” he said. “The Tropicana venue certainly exceeded my expectations. The trade show area, hallways, and meeting rooms were bright, and the staff was very helpful. I also was impressed by the mix of plumbing and HVAC contractors who attended.”

Kyle Gargaro, editor-in-chief of The ACHR News, said the inaugural Service World Expo was “a great success.”

“I am certainly proud to be associated with it,” Gargaro added. “The crowds in the breakout sessions and on the trade show floor certainly showed contractors were engaged in the show. We are looking forward to being even bigger and better next year.”

“It’s the most dynamic show and conference in the contracting world,” Michel said. “It’s unique, innovative, exciting, and fun. The energy was palpable. The turnout was amazing. I think contractors were hungry for a conference and show like the Service World Expo.”

Michel added that he plans to be back again next year.

“I expect Service World Expo will be even bigger, better, and more innovative,” he said. “A high bar was set in 2016 ― I want to see how it will be raised in 2017.”

Service World Expo 2017 is scheduled for Sept. 7-8, 2017, at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. For more information, visit