by Jim Hinshaw

Service Nation does two large industry shows each year, one in the Spring, another in the fall.  Our Spring event this year was the Barefoot Roundtable (named that since last year, where we went to Florida, shoes were optional, shorts were required) held in Palm Springs.  Great venue, held at a Marriott Property, we had a marvelous time.  Casual for most of the time, but we did have one evening of business dress, our Gala Awards Dinner, where we recognized the best of the best from our membership.  That event is for members only, general public is not invited.  Our Fall meeting is the Service Roundtable Expo, open to all, will be in Tampa this Oct.  It is a really large meeting, 2000 in attendance is expected.  We are doing it at the Tampa convention center, right downtown.  But back to the Barefoot meeting in Palm Springs.

We had Scott Mann come back (He was with us in Louisville last year at the Expo), he is the Green Beret who leads a group of retired military who have gotten out over 1000 souls out of Afghanistan since we pulled out last year.  He went in with a group of special forces, made friends with the villagers, helped fight the Taliban.  They were not eager to help, since they know that when the US military leaves, the Taliban will come back and kill all who helped them.  Scott had to build their trust, let them know that they would not be forgotten when he had to leave.

Scott had orders to pull out, leave the people who had helped him behind.  He got a call back in the states from one of the informants who had been instrumental in helping clear multiple villages, he was in mortal danger.  He said the Taliban was going door to door hunting for him, if they found him, they would kill him and his family, guaranteed.  Scott told him to keep low, try to get back to the airport, where the US had a presence, and he could get on a flight out.  He made it, but there were thousands of people trying to leave, Marines were guarding the gates that led to planes that could fly out.  His informant said he was able to see the gate, but not get inside.  Scott had people in place in the security forces at the gate, he said use the words “Pineapple Express”.   The guards let him thru, with his family.

Turns out that is the name of their group, Pineapple Express, they have gotten over 1000 out in the last few months.  It is a true underground railroad, they travel thru the sewer systems, often at night, to get to the airport.  He had a video of this family coming to the US, arriving in Florida, where they had a furnished home waiting for them, put together by a group of volunteers.  It as an emotional video, one I’ll not forget.

We had some excellent breakout sessions, mostly done by contractors who have actually done the work they were talking about.  Tucker Yarborough shared how to build a company with a positive culture, he and his brothers are involved in Yarborough and sons, they all play significant roles in the company.  They truly care about their employees, often going the extra mile to help them when an unexpected situation arises.

Jason Fox (Capital Heating and Cooling) did a breakout on how to build an outbound call center, he had his manager Sean help with the presentation.  They do over a million a year in sales from the call center, selling maintenance agreements, duct cleaning, accessories, and following up on sales that didn’t sell yet.  He has an amazing package that gives the callers incentives as well as accountability, done with spreadsheets that track progress.

Dan Cherrie (Quality Degree) and I shared how to get employees involved in setting and achieving the company goals.  He has a kickoff meeting each year, it is a secret till the day of.  They shut down the company, everyone comes to a country club that has a meeting room set up, food is served, and they all hear what they accomplished last year and what they will do this year.  What made it unique is that he gets all of the department heads involved in sharing their numbers and goals.  It is fun to watch and even more fun to see them reach past the goals as the year progresses. There is a theme that is not revealed until they arrive at the event, makes it a special occasion.

We had an impromptu interview where David Heimer talked to Ken Goodrich, sharing his story.  He is an industry icon and gives freely when asked.  We recorded that, it is available on our podcast page in the Service Roundtable website.

Another part of the meeting that was unique was the Premier Coaches dinner that Tom Peregrino put together.  We had a great evening and got to meet the other coaches and significant others, it was fun.

We enjoyed some great meals, some of the vendors did special events in the evenings, always enjoyable.  What was the best was re-connecting with old friends, making new ones, catching up on families and their stories.  So make plans to attend our Expo in Tampa.  Yes, even people like Mike Schenk can attend that meeting.  Register on the Service Roundtable website, we have discounts available for early birds!