Management • Operations • Industry Insights • 40 minutes

Bite Off What You Can Chew: The Project Management Playbook

January 31, 2023

Episode Overview

Aaron Hilger’s background perfectly suits his job as CEO of the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association.

He grew up in the trades in a family roofing business. Hilger went off to college, worked in Washington, D.C., and was finishing a Master’s degree when he came back to be COO of the family business. 

When the family business went in another direction, Hilger utilized his schooling and education to begin running trade associations. He ran 12 associations for more than 20 years before taking over SMACNA last year.

The organization is highly committed to training and creating standards.

“We spend a tremendous amount of time, effort and energy making sure we have some of the best-trained men and women in the business,” Hilger says. “And we continually reinvest in that aspect of training.”

SMACNA members often get involved in mega projects that might employ up to a thousand workers. Hiring that many people within a geographic area can be a challenge, Hilger notes.

“It’s wonderful to go staff these projects,” he says. “But if you do that and don’t hire enough workers, you’ll lose the customers you already have.”

Essentially, mega projects create their own ecosystems–and Hilger’s association helps employers manage the workforce and stabilize the community before, during and after the project is completed.

To take on such massive endeavors, Hilger says technology has got to be a key driver.

“One of the things that our contractors have to do is actually learn how to use technology and embrace it,” he says. “Not just spend a bunch of money on it, buy it, then pretend to use it and then complain about how much they spend on it.”

Hilger says success comes when contractors find ways to capture more information–like partnering with ServiceTitan–and use the information to figure out the best ways to do the work.

“There’s a culture of embracing technology and construction that’s been redefined,” he says.  

Aaron Hilger recently joined ServiceTitan’s Jackie Aubel as part of Season 8 of the “Toolbox for the Trades” podcast, which included Hilger’s thoughts on:

  • (10:22) How unionized contractor groups tackle mega projects 

  • (19:53) Five tips for successful project management at any level  

  • (21:45) Strategic decisions about company size

  • (27:03) One-size-fits-all answers do not apply

  • (30:17) Why reinvesting in people is critical to long-term success

To hear more stories from the trades, subscribe to Toolbox for the Trades on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, our website, or anywhere you get podcasts.

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Toolbox for the Trades is a podcast where top service professionals share the tips, tricks, and tactics they use to succeed in their industry. Hosted by Jackie Aubel, this podcast is brought to you by ServiceTitan—the leading home and commercial field service software.

Episodes will feature stories and strategies to help contractors grow and scale their service business.

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