Peer pressure was definitely a plus at last month’s Quality Service Contractors’ Power Meeting VI held in New Orleans, Jan. 30 - Feb. 1. Dynamic speaker Bob Kreutzer, (Tatro Plumbing, Garden City, KS), urged fellow contractors to take control of their companies, “It’s your business!! — Run it!” In his session Controlling Overhead & Understanding Financial Statements, Kreutzer stressed the need for business owners to manage company finances by designing their financial statements to fit their needs. “Don’t accept figures and bills just because they’re sent to you — question and challenge everything,” advised Kreutzer. He also emphasized the need to attain insurance certificates from subcontractors, examine worker’s compensation polices, and obtain a competitive quote on insurance every three years.

Kreutzer’s battle cry was echoed throughout the two-day conference as members discussed various ways to manage their companies instead of their companies managing them. At the beginning of his talk, How to Build a Service & Repair Business that Works, California contractor and entrepreneur George Hedley posed this question to QSC members: “Are you going to work just as hard as last year even though you made a New Year’s resolution not to work as hard?” The consensus was a reticent “yes.” But by the end of his three-hour session, Hedley had provided numerous ways to work smarter, not harder including viewing your company as an owner interested in purchasing it and making necessary changes, establishing systems for such tasks as marketing and call-taking, practicing effective delegating, and developing an expert niche for your business.

At round table discussions, during breaks, and even on the streets overflowing with Mardi Gras revelers, QSC members could be found in deep conversation over the challenges presented by Kreutzer and Hedley. Top problems identified by members included hiring qualified employees, excessive accounts receivable, utility competition, time management, compensation, growth, renewing service agreements, inventory control and customer follow up. “We are a give-away industry,” said Roger Peugeot, (Roger the Plumber, Overland Park, KS) during a round table discussion led by Hedley. “We’ve limited ourselves as an industry — demanding no real money resulting in no pride in the work,” said Peugeot. Members agreed that a lack of pride has had devastating effects, and can be found to be at the root of many of the industry’s problems.

Solving these problems requires not only the business techniques of flat-rate pricing and scripts for call-takers, it requires a level of motivation many contractors lack. In the concluding session Powersell! Powerself! Powerchange!, Bonnie Dean energized the audience with techniques on how to motivate employees and improve the industry’s image for the ’90s and beyond, or what she calls “the decade of decency.” “In order to motivate either employees or customers, you must know what they want,” said Dean. One QSC member shared how she sends out forms to all her employees asking what they like to do and what they’ve always wanted to try. When she wants to reward them for a job well-done, she gives them a gift certificate to do something they want to do, not something she chooses for them. Another spoke on how he finds out the likes of his customers and either buys them tickets to a film or play they’d enjoy or sends them an accessory that matches their bathroom or kitchen. “Keeping that personal connection with employees and customers can turn the image of the industry around,” said Dean.

QSC Goals: According to committee chairman William Trombly in his opening address to members, 1997 will see the achievement of four of the organization’s primary goals, including the completion of the Fast Track Training Program manual; the compilation of a service agreement manual to be mailed to all members; the activation of the group’s Internet site; and the installation of a full-time staff person assigned to QSC.

“We still have a long way to go,” said Trombly. “Our job is to achieve the goals you’ve asked us to achieve, but it is a collective effort.” Member-ownership of the QSC is of primary concern, said one attendee. “By working together we have an opportunity to really change the shape of our businesses and the industry.” Members weren’t shy in sharing their views on the organization, both positive and negative. But with 80 percent of the membership attending Power Meeting VI, and the majority looking forward to Power Meeting VII this June in Toronto, talk of adding a third Power Meeting this year, and the re-election of Trombly as chairman, QSC is obviously on the right track. For information on QSC and Power Meeting VII, which features PM’s editorial director Jim Olsztynski, contact Kim Oleson, 800/533-7694.