PM Profile: Contractors must invest in people, equipment to prepare for recovery
Plumbing & Mechanical last month interviewed William J. “Mac” Lynch, incoming president of the Mechanical Contractors Association of America. He is president of William F. Lynch Co., an HVAC, plumbing, piping and service contracting firm based in Worcester, Mass.
Lynch is past chairman of MCAA’s Advanced Leadership Institute Committee and is an ALI graduate. His father, William F. Lynch, was president of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors – National Association in 1976.
PM: In what market segments will MCAA members find work in 2012?
WL: It depends on the region of the country but in general I believe the hospital, institutional, sciences and higher education fields will continue to provide most of the work until businesses have the confidence to fund private projects. One private market that has proven to be growing again as the economy recovers is multifamily housing.
It’s been hard to find work in my area, but we have good long-term clients that have kept us going. These include high-tech companies, insurance companies, hospitals and schools where we get involved with lab renovations and science buildings. We also are doing energy retrofits with high-tech and institutional projects.
PM: What do MCAA members need to do to adapt to changing market conditions?
WL: If they haven’t done so already, they should be looking at ways to operate more efficiently and to invest in education, hardware and equipment to be ready when the recovery does take off.
At William F. Lynch Co., we have invested in new CAD and estimating hardware and software and fabrication equipment, in addition to sending our people to numerous national and local MCAA educational offerings. As the economy improves and everyone gets busy again, the same old excuse of “not having enough time” will resurface. Now is the time for these investments.
PM: What is the greatest challenge you face as president of William F. Lynch Co.?
WL: We are a medium-sized fourth-generation family business. Many of our 50 employees have been with us for more than 25 years and now have sons and daughters working for us. Our goal is to keep this family feeling in our business as we adapt to changes in business practices and economic conditions.
The greatest challenges we’ve faced over the past two years have been financial constraints, tighter lines of credit, stricter bonding requirements, lack of work, negotiating for what little work there is and trying to keep our employees busy. Although not an economist, I would expect this to continue through at least part of this year.
PM: Do you see more green building opportunities on the HVAC or plumbing/piping side of your business?
WL: There is usually a greater return on HVAC energy projects than water conservation projects - at least in our region. The majority of green projects focus on the energy side due to larger paybacks. With the growing scarcity of clean water, it is imperative that water conservation projects become the norm on a national scale regardless of the payback. The public and business owners need to be educated on these issues and an appeal made to their consciences to implement these types of projects.
Whether this is done by the trade press, op-ed pieces in newspapers and magazines, or educating our contractors, government officials and the public on the importance of water conservation, something has to happen to get these projects off the ground.
PM: How can manufacturers and distributors best support MCAA members?
WL: Unfortunately, manufacturers and distributors all too often get beaten up by contractors trying to “buy better” in order to make up some of the money negotiated out of their contracts. It’s a lousy way of doing business, and I hope this practice will diminish as the economy recovers.
MCAA’s Manufacturer/Supplier Council is an extremely important part of our national association. In fact, they are full members of our association - as opposed to associate or affiliate - and their council chair is a full voting member of our board of directors. I hope all our manufacturers and distributors continue to support MCAA. We need their expertise and assistance in providing the services our members have come to expect.
PM: How large a role will building information modeling software play in construction projects for MCAA members in 2012?
WL: BIM will continue to be more of a factor in 2012 and the coming years. In fact, one day, and probably sooner rather than later, I’m convinced it will be the norm. It is a powerful tool that can be used to increase productivity and reduce project schedules if used properly from the design stage to the completion of a project.
To date, the MEP trades have often not been given adequate time prior to construction to develop buildable plans using BIM. This needs to change. Also, the entire project team needs skills in using BIM; at least one or two project team members who are weaker in the skills required for a true BIM project can affect the overall performance for all trades. We and business owners have to realize that BIM is not a cure for a poorly designed and laid out project.
PM: Why do you feel leadership education is so critical for MCAA members?
WL: As a past chairman of MCAA’s Advanced Leadership Institute Committee, this is something I firmly believe in. We as contractors spend all sorts of money educating our project managers and foremen. Many of these people are now working in the office and are even running the business or their departments. Technically, they know their craft and manage very well, but they haven’t been able to get world-class leadership training.
That’s why, 10 years ago, some really forward-thinking MCAA contractors gave birth to the ALI. We have more than 300 graduates now and that number is growing. This two-week course covers the many skills needed to successfully run a business, and which take many years to master without this formal training. If the ALI can help an MCAA member to make just one right business decision, his investment in time and money can be, and often is, recouped immediately.
PM: What do you hope to accomplish as MCAA president?
WL: is a year is a relatively short time, I would hope that by the end of my term as MCAA president that more of our members will have taken advantage of our tremendous offerings we provide to improve their businesses and to become more competitive. We will continue to promote and improve these offerings while keeping their costs affordable.
I would like to see our MCAA/United Association Joint Strategic Planning Committee continue to search for ways to make our industry more competitive and to regain market share. We also must continue to be the eyes and ears of our contractors on Capitol Hill and watch for proposed regulations that affect our members.
PM: What are the benefits to younger contractors of belonging to MCAA on national and regional levels?
WL: MCAA has a great deal of collective knowledge - from our past presidents, the current and past boards of directors, committee members and the national staff to the instructors of our National Educational Initiative. A lot of this knowledge has been gathered and has been used to develop many of the courses and programs offered by MCAA to its members.
Our younger contractors should take full advantage of all the educational programs offered by MCAA and the networking opportunities provided by attending MCAA events such as our annual convention. They will not only learn from the workshops and instructors, but also from their fellow members attending these events. I personally have learned quite a bit through networking as well as made a lot of long-lasting relationships.
PM: If you had only one message to give to your fellow contractors, what would it be?
WL: Although the past several years have been tough, better times are coming. Support and use your national and local MCAA associations to their fullest. The opportunities for you and your employees to learn, and for your businesses to improve, are there. Just take advantage of them!