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Industry Titan, Valued Friend Retires … Again.

Originally published: 11.01.18 by Terry Tanker

Jim McDermott, our editorial advisor, is retiring … again. After spending 37 years in a number of leadership positions with a large publishing company, Jim retired in 2002.

Four years later, I asked him to help me launch HVACR Business, and it was difficult to tell who was more excited. Jim had been in the HVACR contracting and engineering space since the late 1960s and he’s seen it all. His knowledge spans multiple industries — contracting, engineering, distribution and manufacturing. With his help and guidance, I knew HVACR Business would be a success.

We wrote a business plan, which became the foundation for HVACR Business. Once this blue print was complete, we went about recruiting other industry leaders to write for and advise us. Within weeks, Ron Smith, Ruth King (still writing for us today) and Jackie Rainwater were on the team.

Later, Theo Etzel, Mike Coyne, Guy Kawasaki, Paul Grunau and others joined our growing list of contributors. Based on their knowledge, we had every aspect of business and contracting covered.

It’s not often you find a person with abundant knowledge to share, a passion for business and a willingness to help the next man in line. I guess you call that

type of person a mentor. But over the years, Jim has been more than that — he’s been a friend.

When we first started, we talked on the phone a lot, Jim in North Carolina and me in Cleveland. He’d launch into one topic after another, all editorial ideas we should be executing. I simply could not write things down fast enough. As a result, we invested in a VOIP phone system. Jim would call with an idea (or three or four) and I’d simply press one button and every detail was recorded — no pen in hand. I’ll miss those calls (though, I suspect I’ll still get occasional calls from time to time).

I’ve asked a few who worked with Jim to share a thought or two below.

Ron Smith, consultant and author of “HVAC Spells Wealth”

I first met Jim McDermott sometime in the late 1960s or early in the 1970s when he invited me to attend a meeting he was hosting for several HVACR contractors at a resort in Florida. As a group, we had interesting conversations, shared processes and ideas that worked in our own companies with the other attendees, formed relationships and had a dinner together.

I was a diligent reader of anything Jim published and shortly thereafter began writing and submitting articles to him. I had never written before, but apparently Jim thought the articles were worth publishing, so I continued to submit them for a long while. Many years later, and after I became well known in our industry, I realized that the articles Jim accepted and published contributed to establishing “The Ron Smith brand.”

Jim and I built on our relationship as we continued to see one another at meetings and national events. And, in 2006 when he reached out to gauge my interest in joining HVACR Business, well, that just felt like old times and I had to accept!

In my opinion, the single greatest contribution he made to our industry was when he, recognizing the adversarial relationship between manufacturers, distributors and contractors, took the initiative to do something about it. He started arranging a number of major dialogue meetings of great contractors with major manufacturers.

I find it hard to believe and accept that Jim is finally retiring from the industry that he obviously cares about so deeply. I wish both Jim and his wife Sandy the very best, however, and hope that they enjoy the well-deserved rest.

Ruth King, profitability master and president of HVAC Channel TV

Jim McDermott has done a lot for the industry and contractors over the years. I am so sorry to see him retire.

His main focus was contractors — he simply wanted to help them do well and he knew he could provide the blue print to do it. All they had to do was read and follow along.

He also worked through trade shows and alliances to help contractors. His work with HVACR Business allowed him to continue to influence the industry from a positive, profitable perspective. Jim, I wish you well.

Matt Michel, president of Service Nation, Inc.

Jim McDermott is a towering figure in the HVAC industry. From his editorial platform, he oversaw one of the greatest periods of service innovation the industry has seen, helping to bring Ron Smith and his best of class practices he was pioneering at Modern Air in Ft. Myers, Fla. to the entire country.

We take all of this for granted today because it seems so ordinary. At the time, it was anything but ordinary. It was revolutionary. Ron was the pioneer and Jim provided the spotlight. Cheers, Jim!


About Terry Tanker

Terry Tanker

Terry is the owner of JFT Properties LLC and publisher of HVACR Business magazine. He has more than 25 years of experience in the advertising and publishing industries. He began his career with a business-to-business advertising agency. Prior to forming JFT Properties LLC in January 2006, he spent 20 years with a large national publishing and media firm where he was the publisher of several titles in the mechanical systems marketplace.

In addition to his experience in advertising and publishing, Terry has worked closely with numerous industry-related associations over the years including AHRI, NATE and ABMA. 

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