Some things haven't changed, such as the group's take on the Super Bowl in tying Roman numerals to its biennial gatherings. “Super Meeting XXIII,” held Feb. 19-21 in San Francisco, resembled in many ways the previous 22 sessions of the service contractor affinity group formerly known as Contractors2000.

Quite a bit is different, though, beginning with the recently enacted name change to Nexstar Network, or more commonly Nexstar. Super Meeting XXIII was the first under its new identity, and marked a transformation that encompasses much more than a different name.

“A lot has changed in the last 12 years,” said Nexstar president and COO Greg Niemi. “What started as an organization for plumbing contractors now includes plumbing, heating, air conditioning and electrical contractors.

“Nothing will be left untouched,” Niemi said. “We will update our systems, procedures, schools and programs, all with the intent of making our resources quick to implement and provide a return on our members' investment.”

A major transformation already has occurred in membership recruitment. Founded in 1992, for about the first 10 years of its existence, Nexstar was hamstrung by restrictive membership rules tied to SMSA (Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas) boundaries and hit a wall of around 275-280 members. Bylaws were changed to create different levels of membership and, although still a private, selective organization, Nexstar membership (as of SM XXIII) crossed the 300 level for the first time, at 304. Niemi announced a goal of reaching 500 by 2006.

Nexstar also has taken steps to address a nagging problem that has plagued the group since its formation. That is to help its members implement the group's vast array of business programs detailed in manuals weighing close to 100 pounds cumulatively. To that end, Nexstar has hired a couple of former members to serve as business coaches. They also are in the process of putting the content of the manuals into an electronic format.

Super Meeting XXIII introduced one revamped and two new programs to the membership. The group updated its 10-year-old customer service training for technicians. It is more comprehensive and modernized, with a new approach to building and retaining satisfied customers. Nexstar also unveiled a new training program for dispatchers to maximize the profitability of each customer call via a nine-step process.

The other new launch is the Nexstar Select Service Program. It is a certification with stringent requirements based on member rankings in surveys of customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction and financial performance, along with other criteria. Eventually the organization hopes to do national advertising to boost recognition for Select Service qualifiers.

Conference Highlights: The conference featured two keynote motivational speakers and 10 different educational programs. Entertainment was highlighted by an “Evening of Stars - Spotlight on Members” program featuring a talent show and contests to determine the “Coolest Truck” and “Best TV Commercials.”

The San Francisco conference drew a record 393 attendees. Winner of the group's most coveted award, deemed “Best of the Best,” was Brasington Plumbing, Heating & Air (Columbia, S.C.). Among its claims to fame is an impressive 92 percent conversation rate, which measures the proportion of calls received that are converted into revenue-producing service jobs.

Brasington tied for first-place with McGuire & Sons Plumbing & Heating (Twin Cities, Minn.) in the financial performance subcategory.

Nexstar's financial position is strong. Niemi reported the group's FY2003 revenues at $3.29 million, with a net profit for the private organization of $214,000, based on what he called “a squeaky-clean audit.” Profits are used mainly to fund programming.