Contractor organizations empower plumbing pros to grow
Contractors learn better systems, solutions and best practices with group memberships.
Eleven years ago, Edmonton, Alberta-based Capital Plumbing & Heating was in a tough situation — the company was not making money. The company was heavily involved construction and wanted to change its focus to residential service.
That’s when Wendy Ellis, president of Capital Plumbing & Heating, joined Success Group International (SGI) and Capital plumbing moved from the red and into the black.
“We’ve made a good profit every year since joining SGI,” she says. “We have learned to operate our business professionally, changed our bookkeeping, hiring, training, purchasing and every aspect of the business. We now produce an annual budget and look at our numbers daily, ensuring that everyone understands the cost to running a business, the expectations of profit and the benefits to everyone — customer, employee and company.
“Being an SGI member has been life-changing for me and I’m serious about that,” she continues. “I was a single mom and worked in other careers prior to joining a company that was an SGI member. I went to work as the general manager for Capital Plumbing when they joined SGI. The owner I worked with and the confidence he had in me to turn things around made Capital very successful. He empowered me to make any decision necessary, believed I could do what was necessary and provided whatever was needed to turn Capital into a highly-respected, profitable business. It’s been eight years, and last year, he moved on to a new business endeavor and I bought Capital Plumbing & Heating! I am still amazed by what he and SGI helped me to accomplish.”
Eric Dutton, president, Dutton Plumbing, Simi Valley, California, has been a Service Nation member for the past eight years.
“I decided on my own to build my company — I wasn’t a networker or someone who belonged to groups,” he says. “I was an island. We grew to $3.5 million in revenue, which to me at the time, was big. Then, I just decided that I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I was familiar with other groups out there, but what I liked about Service Nation was that it supports the independent individual contractor, which I thought was way cool. It came across as a grassroots type of thing. It was a great organization run by good people with contractors’ best interests at heart.
“With Service Nation, it’s like an a la carte thing,” Dutton continues. “You can use Kenny Chapman or Joe Cunningham, and pick the sales training that fits your business model or your personality, and I liked that.”
The membership also introduced Dutton to Ken Goodrich, CEO of Goettl Air Conditioning, who acquired Dutton Plumbing this past fall.
“We call it a merger and partnership, but basically, we’re now part of the Goettl family,” Dutton says. “We’re still under the Dutton brand, and we’re helping Ken realize his vision of national dominance in the home service industry. We’re going to be adding to his plumbing side, and really building Goettl’s plumbing division. I would look forward to seeing Ken every time I went to a Service Nation event. I respect him and consider him a friend — that’s the only reason I decided to go into business with him. Being able to bounce ideas off a guy as great as Ken Goodrich over the years and having that resource, that’s the kind of stuff you get with Service Nation, and other network groups as well. That’s how you learn.”
Phil Smitherton, owner, Aux Home Services, Bessemer, Alabama, joined Nexstar Network in 1997 to learn better systems and processes to grow his business.
“We were small in size, doing a lot of commercial work, but we just really did not have the systems and processes that would get us to the next level,” Smitherton says. “We would have stayed at that level probably forever, like a lot of con-tractors do. You know, those two and three man truck operations that get hung up because they don’t have the band-width to be able to take the business to the next level. We wanted to transition out of commercial work and focus on residential, which we were not very experienced in. And we wanted to understand profitability and income statements and balance sheets.
“If I tell anybody anything, it’s don’t try to reinvent the wheel,” he continues. “There are trade organizations out there that will help you grow your business, show you how to grow the business and make your business worthy of adding people to it and just adding value to those people. Nexstar has been a great organization for me — it gave me the opportunity to spend more time away from it. Work-life balance is getting more important. You have to find an organization that can help you understand how important that is to your internal customers, but also to yourself and to your family. All too often, we get in these businesses and we just work ourselves to death. We see it every day.”
Advantages of Membership
An independent contractor operates in a vacuum, notes Jack Tester, president and CEO of Nexstar Network.
“Their point of reference is limited to the people they see everyday, and in a small business that’s either a family run or just located in one location, you just don’t have a lot of context, you don’t have a lot of points of comparison and you don’t have a lot of free flow of good ideas,” Tester explains. “The benefits of being a Nexstar member cascades through the income statement. It’s not just about training the owner, it’s about training the owner, the general manager, the service manager, the technicians and installers and the call center. We have training opportunities, best practices for every position in the organizational chart. So it’s soup to nuts, top to bottom.”
Service Nation provides affordable means to help business owners grow and improve their operational and financial results regardless of the size of the business by offering multiple membership levels, notes David Hemier, senior vice president, Service Nation.
“The simple truth is we learn from others,” Heimer says. “No ‘self-made’ person actually achieved success alone. Along the way, we have all been helped by parents, family, teachers, friends, coaches and mentors. The people we spend our time with have the biggest influence on our attitudes, our behaviors and our success.Service Nation facilitates the networking of these industry professionals to promote new ideas and best practices. We work together to learn from each other and help each other.”
Service Nation’s mission is to help service contractors improve their business and financial performance, leading to a profitable exit strategy.
“The last part of that mission statement (‘a profitable exit strategy’) is too often overlooked by business owners,” Heimer says. “But the goal of every business owner should be to create a business of value that is run by professional management, following documented procedures that will deliver predictable, profitable results. Too many contractors build a job for themselves and not a business. Sadly, at the end of the owner’s business career when it’s time to retire and enjoy the ‘golden years,’ there’s nothing in the business of value and the business simply shuts down after selling inventory, parts and the customer list. Service Nation will continue to add new programs, tools and techniques to improve the performance of the business, but will also add new opportunities to help contractors prepare for a profitable exit.”
SGI also helps contractors run their business more efficiently and profitably, notes David Hernandez, COO of SGI.
“Our members receive access to our proven systems, processes and tools in the areas of people management, marketing, human resources, communications and sales training, accounting and beyond,” Hernandez says. “Members are also able to access exclusive programs like the SGI Partner Network and our training operation called Learning Alliance, and they have access to an SGI-exclusive software platform called ServiceLine. Plus, we have industry experts who work with members one-on-one to help them become immediately more successful. Our program has a 20-year track record of helping contracting companies of all sizes in every type of market increase both their top and bottom lines.”
According to PHCC—National Association President Jonathan Moyer, PHCC’s mission statement emphasizes the organization is “…dedicated to the advancement and education of the plumbing and HVACR industry for the health, safety and comfort of society and the protection of the environment.”
“This is true in all we do, whether it is advocating on Capitol Hill to protect contractors’ interests, participating in code bodies to ensure professional standards or developing new programs to help our members strengthen their businesses,” Moyer says. “In addition, we partner with other contractor organizations on common issues to expand our influence even more. We hear more and more PHCC members talk of the value of being associated with an organization that is recognized as committed to the vital mission of protecting public health and safety and the environment.”
In the past year, PHCC has reinforced the value of membership by implementing numerous new programs and opportunities to connect its members with a powerful network of professionals, help them maintain high standards, safe-guard their interests and provide them with the best education and training in the industry, Moyer notes.
“During the PHCC Board of Directors’ meeting this January, we discussed several current challenges occurring in our four geographic zones, including licensing battles, unfair utility competition, skilled worker shortages, keeping up with technology and the Amazon effect,” he says. “We are all impacted by these in some way. To help our members address these challenges, we make sure to remind them of PHCC tools that they can access as a member.
“We also identify new resources that could be helpful, such as a webinar or education session, that focus on any new topics that arise,” Moyer adds. “In fact, we are in the process of developing a slate of trending education topics for PHCCCONNECT2020, Sept. 30 – Oct. 2, in Dallas, Texas. We also have some exciting initiatives underway in 2020, including taking on critical challenges such as workforce development, apprentice ratios, unfair utility competition, aging infrastructure and other difficulties impacting PHCC members.”
In addition to PHCC membership, contractors also have the option of joining Quality Service Contractors (QSC), an enhanced service group of PHCC— National Association. QSC exists to enhance the business acumen and success of service and repair professionals, while raising the identity of the plumbing and HVACR industry and promote the health of the nation.