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A Long & Rewarding Relationship with the HVACR Industry

Spotlight On: Brennan Hall

Originally published
Originally published: 2/1/2023

I sat down with Brennan Hall, the Director of Duct Fab Supplies and Air Distribution Products at Conklin, and President of The Spiral Duct Manufacturers Association (SPIDA). I found him to be deeply passionate about his role in the industry. Hall not only had a lot of wisdom to impart about various issues, like the role of automation and consolidation, and the importance of showing up and taking the meeting, but he also shared some self-reflection. For he believes it is his inherent curiosity and talent for building working relationships, that has been a big contributor to the pillars of his success.

Humble Beginnings in HVACR

How did you get started in the HVACR industry? 

I played baseball in college, but I continued to get injured. It was clear that playing sports would not be the path. So, I went to school for sports management. After graduation, I started coaching college baseball at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. I loved it but quickly discovered that you can’t make an amazing living unless you have several jobs, or you are a part of a select few.

A family friend and mentor offered me a job at his company, Atlanta Concrete Surfaces – doing construction. At the end of a week of hard manual labor, I thought, this is not for me and decided to go to graduate school. 

After getting my graduate degree, I was hired by Certified Finishes, a floor-covering subcontractor in Atlanta. It was the opening that led to my current professional life. I was green, but I taught myself how to estimate, purchase, manage crews, and act on a job site. With no accounts, I focused on finding new business. Within the year, I brought on one of their biggest accounts by doing what comes naturally to me – creating relationships. The company went from doing no business with us to signing a little over a million dollars in a very short period. 

Manufacturing, Distribution, and Product Development

Eventually, I moved to Owen's Corning and then, Baker Distributing, where I managed national accounts. Baker was instrumental in my growth. Not only did I learn about pricing and distribution from contractors, but Baker had wanted to create business partnerships with universities and institutions. Since relationship building was a strength of mine, I took on the challenge. Realizing that the potential decision makers were ordering from their desks out of the Grainger catalog, I set out to change that. I’d walk the campus weekly to learn about various sectors and meet people. Two years later, after sufficiently building my book, I received an offer from Johns Manville (JM), for an HVAC product manager role. It was an ideal next move and I stayed there for six years. I loved the company. It exposed me to manufacturing and my boss became a life-long mentor, instrumental in my success both then and now.

He told me, “Take this job and mold it to you. You're the face of our HVAC business.” It was a gift he gave me. It’s how I got involved with SPIDA. I'm now the president, and we are a premier partner to SMACNA – amazing. 

With that move, more doors opened within the industry, and I found inroads to grow our product portfolio. 

I spent much of my time listening to contractors, asking them, “What do you need from us? What products do we need to innovate for you? That dialogue led to the development of new products and four patents. 

Vital to my growth there – I learned to listen to people and find ways to offer them a solution for their needs. If you come from that space of service and solutions, you’ll grow. It’s inevitable.

Eventually, I arrived at my present role at Conklin, a rapidly growing company – it’s exciting. With fourteen locations currently and as the Director of Duct Fab Supplies and Air Distribution Products, my job is truly about solving problems.

The Super Fabricator & Consolidation

From your unique vantage point, what trends do you see in the industry?

We’re hyper-aware of the emergence of what I call the super fabricator and its direct correlation to consolidation. Twenty years ago, there might have been fifty guys fabricating sheet metal in Atlanta, as an example. Then someone figured out how to consolidate that to thirty, fifteen, and then ten. For us, it’s essential to understand automation and the trend of consolidation.

Conversations with contractors about automation are constant. What you learn is that the same ductwork might be made in several different ways. Although every owner likes to do it differently, the truth is most never step outside of their own four walls to recognize that the guy two miles down the road is doing the same project differently and it might be more cost or productivity efficient. 

In my experience, there is real value in being willing to venture beyond your comfort zone. Be curious. It’ll serve you in ways you never imagined.

An example of this was my role in the building of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The 96-inch ductwork that goes all the way up around the top of the bowl, was done by RF Knox in Atlanta and the parts were sold by a competitor of ours. Chad Smith, the foreman at RF Knox, reached out and asked to meet with me in Texas to talk about the product and the process. He wanted to understand it fully. I agreed and flew to RF Knox to review their workflow plans and the product. As a result of that meeting and my visit with him, we advised him to reduce the width of the product by two inches, which eliminated almost a hundred thousand dollars of labor and streamlined the process. It cut out a full step from the fabrication process and the entire stadium project. That was made possible because Chad was interested enough to ask for our input and see how it might work for him. In the end, it was that combination of passion, skill, and curiosity, that helped us find real solutions. 

It was the most successful project of which I’d ever been a part. 

What practical tips can HVACR owners borrow from your lessons and real-world experience?

Well, one complaint I consistently hear is that HVACR owners tend to ignore their own workers’ feedback regarding the need to upgrade equipment or products. Usually, it’s for cost reasons – I get it. 

But two pieces of advice I’d offer:

- Trust your people enough to listen first and then review the cost. Sometimes a cost if you weigh it, is instead, a valuable investment. A simple educational call with a supplier will allow you to ask the questions you need answers to and address your specific pain points. Buying is secondary, which leads me to the second piece…

- Be open to taking meetings both with distributors and sales vendors. Listen to existing solutions. You never have to buy but take the call. We do educational calls all the time. You may learn the very thing that will lead to more profits.

The Four Ps

I believe people are your biggest asset – protect this asset like its capital. With the current lack of skilled labor, it’s vital. Passion and performance of course are equally important. But it’s the package – it’s what JM calls the four Ps. If you have that, and specifically the people, quick, give them the rope! Tell them, “Mold this job to you. You are the face of this HVAC business. Go, be successful. Be uniquely you.” Then let them take the reins. It worked for me.            

I attribute my long-lasting relationship with the HVACR industry to the people. This industry is the closest thing I’ve found to team sports – the camaraderie, the competition, the like-mindedness – I love it!


Brennan Hall is the Director of Duct Fab Supplies and Air Distribution Products at Conklin and the President of The Spiral Duct Manufacturers Association (SPIDA), 2023.







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