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Association Bisnow
July 24, 2008

Cool Association
Heats Up On Web


With temperatures skyrocketing, we had to visit with the Air Conditioning Contractors of America, and as it turns out CEO Paul Stalknecht (that's STAL-neck) has a great turnaround story. Coming on board in 2001, he's taken the ACCA from 2,500 to 4,000 members and more than doubled revenue to $6 million. All that while keeping his cool. (Our lame joke, don't blame him.)


Paul started his association career at the New Jersey affiliate of the American Trucking Association, rising to CEO before taking an SVP post at the ATA under its former head Tom Donohue (before Tom became CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce). The air conditioning contracting and trucking industries, Paul points out, have common ground in their lack of consolidation, with lots of mom-and-pop operations to go along with a few big players such as ACCA member TD Industries, which installed the air conditioning at new football stadiums in Dallas and Glendale, Arizona. (We get the idea.) Smaller members service home and office AC systems.


In 2001, core members of the then-struggling ACCA wanted a leader they could call in "and then get out of his way," says Paul. He found matters to address right away, like reducing the number of outsourced office functions (ACCA had 40 such contracts) and securing trademark protection for the association's name and programs. The ACCA name, it turns out, has turned valuable in the Internet age. Consumers don't often turn to manufacturers to service their air conditioning systems; and if they ask Google for "air conditioning contractors," the ACCA website is the first result. ACCA gets 70,000 consumer hits a month on its site.


With a staff of 21, Paul wants people with initiative ("I like them to be a little bit frisky," in Paul's words), who he can give freedom to innovate. VP Kevin Holland oversees much of the web operation, and Paul says that an element of ACCA's recent success has been structuring the site to let consumers identify members in their area and allowing consumers to compare bids on air conditioning jobs. (Take points off, for instance, if they don't do a "load calculation.") Frankly, we might pay anything right now to stay cool.

Arent Fox
Intelligent Office
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