Nexstar’s 2013 Super Meeting officially opened Oct. 4 with a keynote address by football great Emmitt Smith. He explained that much of the advice his coaches and mentors gave him over the years transferred into the business realm after he retired from football. “It does no good for one team member to succeed when the rest of the team is failing,” he says.

Change is inevitable; Smith adds that how we approach change matters, that a positive attitude toward change allows growth while resistance inhibits growth. Business and personal growth also come from focus and passion.

Success is not accomplished on your own, Smith says. “Processes and structure are what I’ve brought with me from football,” he explains, much like the processes and structures PHC contractors can obtain from industry organizations.


Nexstar Super Meeting breakout sessions

The Next Generation of Leadership

After the keynote, attendees chose from eight breakout sessions occurring throughout the afternoon. For my first session, I chose “The Next Generation of Leadership.” Yes, you may have heard this before, but it bears repeating that younger generations don’t connect with people as Baby Boomers and older generations do.

The fact is that in a few years, Boomers will be retiring at a faster rate and Gen Y will be the next generation of leaders across all industries, says Sarah Sladek of XYZ University. “Everything about our world has changed in the last 30 years,” she notes, and skilled trades are being redefined. “If you’re not using technology as much as possible in your business, you are alienating the next generation of workers and leaders.”

Trust, recognition, ownership, collaboration, knowledge, purpose — these are what Gen Xers and Gen Yers are looking for in a job. And it is a job to them, not necessarily a career.

With the lack of skilled trade workers that will only get worse as the economy gets better, make sure your company is poised to hire — and keep — the next generation.


Female Leaders in the Trades

The next session was on a topic I feel strongly about: Female Leaders in the Trades. For the past few years I have written a “Women in Plumbing” feature for Plumbing & Mechanical, highlighting successful women who either work on the jobsite or manage the entire company.

Two of the women I have interviewed — Tammy Ferris from Gene Love Plumbing, Heating, Air & Electrical and Mary Jean Anderson from Anderson Plumbing, Heating and Air — were part of the panel. Panelists told stories of how they came into the plumbing, heating and electrical industries — earning the respect of male technicians was a mixture of knowledge and respect for what they do.

Anderson, who started her career as a nurse, says that plumbers are just as smart as doctors. And Ferris notes that it is important to make sure you have the right people in the right jobs. “Make sure they have a purpose, that they are fulfilled in their work,” she adds; otherwise, negative attitudes could permeate the entire company.

Anderson and Ferris agree that if you are a woman-owned business in this industry, flaunt it. Adding your image on the company’s service trucks is just good marketing, they say, as is advertising that you have women service techs. Women who can talk to men intelligently about plumbing and heating systems, and to women about respecting their homes, will be successful.


Training accountability

The last session I attended before driving back to Chicago was on training accountability. We’re all aware that the most difficult thing to do after coming back from a business meeting, workshop or training session is implementing what you’ve learned.

Julian Scadden is Nexstar’s new training implementation coach. His job is to work with member companies to make sure the training their techs have received stays with them. In order for this to happen, however, management needs to set up some sort of accountability system — agreed upon by both management and the technician — to make sure new training is implemented.

Regularly scheduled training of techs and office staff, and follow-up by management after the training sessions are crucial. Scadden suggests that owners or managers find an accountability coach to help keep them on track as they help their techs stay on track.

Find out what your employees want to learn about — is it a new technology or going over the basics? What are their goals? When you have buy-in from them about training, they are more likely to pay attention and retain more information than if management tells them they have to go to x, y, and z training.

I was unable to attend the Nexstar Legacy Foundation/Troops to Trades dinner or the activities on Saturday. But stay tuned to PM for more information on those activities, as well as a photo gallery of the event.


Read here for Nexstar’s 2013 Super Meeting – Day 1.