“Don’t ever forget you are in the people business,” said leadoff speaker Frank Maguire in a slam-dunk presentation that set the tone for a meeting that almost outgrew the sizable hotel where it was held.

Maguire was one of the four original founders of Federal Express and also served as a senior vice president of marketing back in the Colonel Sanders days at Kentucky Fried Chicken. He attributed both companies’ success to attitudes and relationships more than any technical or business expertise.

“Your employees will treat customers exactly the way you treat them,” Maguire said to an audience of Contractors 2000 members. They burst into applause when he told them: “Don’t ever let your people leave for the weekend without feeling good about themselves.

“The main challenge of managers today is to be leaders, not bosses, and coaches, not critics. Employees are not just manual labor. They will increase their productivity if they feel needed, wanted and respected,” lectured Maguire.

Tech Day: More than 530 registrants signed up for the Contractors 2000 “Super Meeting XI,” held Feb. 27- Mar. 1 at the Hotel Inter-Continental in Miami. About 130 of them were service technicians that member contractors brought into town for special “Tech Day” programs on the last day. Some companies brought in multiple service technicians — 10 was the largest total I heard of — while others held a contest with the winner earning the trip.

Consultant Peg Neuhauser spoke to technicians and managers about changes that occur in a company and how to make the changes successful for all. That was followed by a panel discussion in which a manager and service technician from two different companies shared stories about turmoil.

For instance, one service tech related how disruptive it was when the boss suddenly introduced a complicated new time card breaking down activities into tiny increments. Nobody explained or justified these new procedures. The change was simply thrust at the employees without warning. Worst of all, after a few months management decided the complicated cards weren’t working very well and introduced yet a new time card without employee input.

Consultant Steven Howard followed with a program telling technicians how to sell service agreements and extended warranties. Tech Day concluded with a motivational presentation by C-2000’s Don Rickles-like sales consultant Harry Friedman. Friedman also conducted special classes on selling for specially enrolled service technicians the next two days.

New Programs: Contractors 2000 invariably uses its Super Meetings to announce new member programs. Unveiled in Miami were:

Water conservation performance contracting. Performance contracting based on energy-efficiency improvements is a hot business in the commercial HVAC industry. C-2000 has joint ventured with a company that specializes in bringing this concept to the plumbing marketplace. Gold Star Management Academy. This is a four-day resident school for sales and service professionals. The first session is slated for April 9-12 outside of Minneapolis. Subsequent programs are scheduled for August and November.

Executive director Jack Tester also briefed members on consolidation activities taking place in the industry and where C-2000 fit in.

Customer Satisfaction Audit: Members in attendance were presented with results from the second annual “Customer Satisfaction Audit,” in which 189 C-2000 companies participated. The CSA is conducted by an outside firm using scientifically valid surveying techniques to gauge customer satisfaction with member companies.

Overall, C-2000 companies finished above industry standards in workmanship, promptness, customer relations and overall satisfaction levels, and only slightly behind the industry standard in price. The company hired by C-2000 for its CSA performed an industry at-large sampling as a control in 1995.

Finishing first among all C-2000 members in customer satisfaction was Miranda Sales & Service of Fort Pierce, FL.

An interesting addition to this Super Meeting was the group’s first ever TV commercial contest. More than 30 members participated. First though third prize winners for best TV commercials were: 1. George Brazil Services, Culver City, CA; 2. All Service Plumbing, Heating & Cooling, Springfield, MO; 3. Lovelace Plumbing Co., Decatur, AL.

The next C-2000 Super Meeting will be held in New Orleans, Sept.18-19, 1997. For information call 612/426-2000.