The Plumbing-Heating-Cooling-Contractors - National Association believes it has "stopped the bleeding" from losing 32 percent of its members in the first half of 1999, according to its chief executive officer.
Nearly 1,800 PHCC-NA members have not renewed their membership since Jan. 1, leaving the organization with 3,753 members. Those 1,800 members are clearly expressing their opinion on the tiered dues structure that was implemented last October.
Allen Inlow, chief executive officer of the PHCC-NA, said the board of directors met in late June to "re-evaluate everything we've done and try to put a modern face on it." It was a regularly scheduled board meeting.
"We realize there were some major shock waves from the tiered dues structure," Inlow said. "It probably resulted from two things: Its fairly late submission as a resolution at the meeting, and the very short lead time for putting it into place."
Despite the membership loss, the organization remains strong financially, Inlow said. "As long as we take care of business, we're not in danger of going bankrupt."
Some states, like Virginia, were so angry with the dues structure that they withdrew affiliation from the national association. At least five states - California, Illinois, Kentucky, Texas and Wisconsin - considered, or even voted on, withdrawing their affiliation with the PHCC-NA.
The five states are continuing to work on some resolutions that would change the method of operation, while allowing flexibility in the way the organization is run. However, another option being considered by several states allows contractors to join on the state level without national affiliation.
"Now that the shock waves have died down somewhat, everybody has sat down to give us some rational thoughts," explained Inlow.
"We're working on recommendations for the meeting in Nashville."
Inlow said a dues task force is studying what happened after the tiered structure was implemented last October. The report concluded it wasn't the structure that PHCC-NA members had a problem with, it was the collection procedure and how it was implemented. The report said a grace period would have helped phase in the new structure instead of springing it on the membership.
The PHCC-NA is analyzing its communication methods, according to Inlow. "We've found out our current methods of communicating are not working," he said. "The message we are getting out there is not reaching the grassroots contractor. We need to revitalize that effort."
The trade organization uses three methods of communication - e-mail, fax and old-fashioned "snail" mail. Inlow said only half of the membership is equipped with the technology to receive e-mail. "An amazing number of people don't even have fax machines yet," he added.
According to Inlow, the PHCC-NA is going as far as to look at the way directors are sent to the national level. Part of the problem, Inlow admitted, was that contractors don't feel they are adequately represented under the current system. "It's something we discussed as much as two years ago. We should have moved a little faster."
Programs, however, continue to be developed by the organization. A new product in the Professional Product Line was introduced in mid-July at a press conference in Chicago. Television and radio commercials will be ready by the Nashville convention, which is being held Oct. 13-17.
Bob Kreutzer, who was named as the spokesperson for the line, will be holding another radio tour at the end of August. No dates have been announced, however.
"We're finding a great level of diversity in opinions of what we need to do," said Inlow. "We think that everything has capped off as far as the losses go. We're obviously working very hard to make sure that it has."
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