Franchise plan likely in the works for PSI operation

PM columnist Ellen Rohr was named president of Benjamin Franklin Certified Plumbing at the Plumbers' Success International Summit Meeting, Jan. 29-31 in Chandler, Ariz.

"I want to create the perfect plumbing company," Rohr said. "A company in which the good work that plumbers do is honored, recognized and rewarded commensurate to your contribution to society - a value so memorable in its detail in the consumer's experience that price becomes a nonissue."

Last May, PSI announced plans to make the Benjamin Franklin name into a national brand. The choice was the result of a market survey of 1,600 residential service customers, which found that most customers see plumbers as honest, frugal and hard working.

Following the announcement, about 50 PSI members signed up immediately to use the name under a free licensing agreement. To date, 88 PSI members hold temporary licenses to become franchises of Benjamin Franklin Certified Plumbing, while PSI works out all the paperwork related to franchising. Currently, about 15 PSI members already have the name on their truck.

"Ellen is well known for her grasp of what it takes to convert a small business to a successful, growing enterprise and has a comprehensive knowledge of the dynamics and the people in our industry, said Jim Abrams, PSI cofounder.

Rohr told us after her speech that much of the future use of the name will be hammered out in March at a strategic planning meeting. Until then, Rohr urged the audience to have patience, adding that Ben Franklin has to concentrate on the relationship between customer and technician first.

"I'm going to be obsessed with the relationship you have with your customers," she added during her speech. "We need to figure it all out first. But won't it be something when we do?"

Despite her new position, Rohr will still be writing her monthly PM column, "Small Shop Talk." She also will remain actively marketing her two books on finance, but admits that some of these items "will have to be handed off."

Other highlights of the meeting included the announcements of the following services:

  • The formation of the New Millennium Academy, which provides training for service technicians in sales and customer service communication. Classes are to begin in March. Abrams announced that for the first year, the school would waive tuition for members of PSI. Terry Nicholson, a nationally known sales trainer and frequent presenter at PSI meetings, operates the institute.

  • A members-owned insurance company organized by Burcor International will underwrite business insurance policies for PSI members at premiums 10-15 percent lower than anything available in the marketplace. Also, because members own the company, their premiums increase their ownership stake in the company.

  • A consumer-financing program operated by Union Financial exclusively for members of PSI. Service technicians in the customer's home can arrange financing and get credit approval using handheld Internet devices.

  • Members now have access to "Financial Formatting," a set of business benchmarks, formulas and ratios for successful operations. PSI executives examined the books of hundreds of member companies, successful and struggling, to establish the guidelines. With Financial Formatting, members can compare their numbers to the benchmarks to see where they need to make adjustments to increase profitability.
In addition, PSI cofounder John Young presented a session on customer appreciation, explaining the importance of giving customers options. The session included distribution of an opinion survey and product brochure that technicians can offer customers while on service calls. In addition to seeking the customer's opinion on most desired products and services, the brochure describes the 10 products that every homeowner would love to have.

Finally, Tom Kuttnauer a technician with Yorkville Premier Plumbing & Heating Co., Yorkville, Ill., collected $10,000 for earning the title of "Supertech 2000" by bringing in more revenue for his company than more than 300 other competing technicians.

Kuttnauer brought $133,279 in sales during the four-month contest. The contest was open to technicians of PSI member companies who attended the Supertech seminar last August. For sales to qualify, the technician had to sell the job, do the work and collect the money.

Kuttnauer, who has worked in residential plumbing service for 14 years, said he planned to apply the prize toward a new motorcycle and an engagement ring for his fiancé. The couple plan to marry at the next Supertech convention this August in Las Vegas, Nev.

Second place went to Scott Shem, Neighborhood Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning, Foley, Minn., who was responsible for $128,817 in sales. He received $3,000 in prize money.

Third place went to Mark Mathews, Carter Service, Indianapolis, Ind., who brought in $118,335 in sales. His prize money was $2,000.