It's no surprise that after Frank Blau announced he would not be writing a column for PM, plenty of readers sent us their thoughts on his retirement.

Dear Frank,
It was with mixed emotions that we read about your retirement in this month's issue of PM. While we are very happy that you will finally get some much-deserved relaxation, we are saddened by the gap that your retirement will cause in this industry. We are sure that Randall Hilton will do an excellent job of filling the void you leave behind.

A few years ago, our business was the kind that you so often write about. We were a steadfast time-and-material shop, and we were clueless regarding our true cost of doing business. In fact, my husband David and I were so dead set against flat rate pricing, that he occasionally "pushed your buttons" on the PDL, and often commented that "those kind of rates will never fly in our small market."

You, among others on the PDL, finally convinced us to crunch our numbers because we couldn't possibly run a decent business at the rates we were charging. How right you were, Frank! What a shock it was to us to find that we were losing money consistently on every job. Once we knew our costs, flat rate pricing was soon to follow.

When we changed our way of doing business, it opened up a whole new world for us. We have increased not only our profits and our customer satisfaction, but we have expanded our services as well. Instead of living a miserable day-to-day existence that included unhappy customers and even unhappier business owners, we actually look forward to working on our business.

All the money in the world could never repay you for the sound advice you gave us.

Maureen K. Francis
David G. Francis Plumbing & Heating
Norwich, N.Y.

Dear Frank,
I wanted to wish you the best and also thank you for all you have done, not only for the industry, but for me personally. When I met you in 1997, I was struggling and didn't have a clue what to do. I had been in business since 1981, and had gotten an associate's degree in business in the 1980s by attending night school. Still, I was not equipped to be running a contracting business.

I had been caught up in the "going rate" mentality and was fast going broke. I really think my meeting you was providential. Since I attended your seminar, I have completely turned my business around. Instead of operating on what Randy Hilton calls the "cost minus 10 percent," I now base my prices on what it takes to give my customers the service they deserve, while paying myself and my crew what we deserve.

Thanks again. At that time I never dreamed I could be knocking down a six-figure income, paying all my bills, let alone being involved in charitable activities. I am really enjoying life these days.

Dusty S. Cook
Dynamic Plumbing
Houston, Texas

A special thanks to Frank Blau for his contributions over the years to both the industry and PM. This man has given a good kick in the pants to those who would listen. And to those that listened and learned, they usually started to understand the difference between cash flow and net profit. I'm grateful for his Herculean efforts to teach business to contractors, and will miss his presence in the magazine. Thanks, Frank, for your friendship and tutorials.

Paul Pollets
Advanced Radiant Technology
Seattle, Wash.

Let me chime in here with how much Uncle Frank has helped me and others in this trade. He has been a champion for all sectors of our industry for years. I first saw him back in 1988 at a PHCC-sponsored seminar, and I knew he was the real deal. No nonsense, no bullshit, no touchy feely, no woulda, coulda, shoulda, just plain old-fashioned in-your-face common sense.

If you did not like it tough, if you wanted to make excuses about how you could not possibly charge as much as he was talking about he said fine, don't change, but quit wasting my time here.

At first I was a little put off by Frank's gruffness, but I knew in my heart the only thing that would work for me and the others that day was total honesty in dealing with the numbers that Frank was showing us. So I watched and I listened to someone who really knew how business is supposed to work.

It was like watching an artist paint. He started out at 9 a.m. with a blank canvas, and ended up at 4 p.m. with a masterpiece. Only a fool could not see he was right, only a fool would not change, only a fool would not go home and do the things that needed to be done to help his family and business. But sadly that day there were many fools in that class, and some of them failed to act. A few of them have finally made the changes and are still around, but many of them did not and are gone.

I have had many conversations with Frank since then, and he has always taken the time to share some of his knowledge with me whether it be about the industry or life itself. What a joy it is to talk with someone who really cares about you as a person and wants to sincerely help you make your life better. And that in a nutshell is what Uncle Frank has always done best.

Gene Burch
Gene Burch Plumbing Heating & Air
Novato, Calif.

My long-time friend, Frank Blau, is going fishing and hunting? This is unbelievable! What about all the contractors who still do not see the light, who still need to be converted into progressive business people? What a gap his departure will leave.

Frank has been an institution to this industry. No one can compare to his unselfish commitment and dedication to help anyone seeking his advice. He has brought peace and wealth to many contractors with his unbridled energy and unyielding will to lift this industry from the doldrums of doom. Frank is a true industry pioneer who has taken many arrows in the back. He can now go out to the wild blue yonder and revolutionize hunting and fishing. Thanks, Frank, for all the education.

Chuck Sternod
The Dwyer Group
Waco, Texas

I and my two sons, Matt and Jeremy, met Frank at a business class he put on in Cleveland in the spring of 2000. His class has made a difference in our lives as nothing else has. It is with great appreciation, respect and admiration that we wish Frank all of God's blessings and a long and enjoyable retirement.

He has an extended family that has been educated and mentored by him that will go on forever. All the time and effort that he has given our industry is appreciated more than you will ever know.

God bless you, Frank, and all of your family. Enjoy your retirement and know that you weren't one of the herd. You stood out, took measure of what needed to be done, and completed the job as any good plumber would do.

James C. Mills
Precision Plumbing and Welding
Lancaster, Ohio

Dear Frank,
I want to wish you a happy and well-deserved retirement. You have had a great impact on me and my business as well as many others in our great industry. I first attended one of your seminars in 1994 and then another in 1996.

You and your sons allowed me to come visit you in 1997 and spend the better part of the day. We used your services for our flat rate book for several years (we now do our own). Although we still do some new construction for favored clients, we have moved into the service area more each year. I always considered you as a mentor. You treated me as a friend. I will always be thankful for that.

Again, I wish you the best. May God bless you.

Russ Wegner
Wegner Plumbing Co.
Mokena, Ill.

Dear Frank,
Congratulations on your upcoming retirement. I agree with you. It is time. You don't want to die in the saddle. Grab some years while the body still functions. I sold my plumbing and heating business in 1994, at age 54, and came to Florida for some of the good life.

I just read where an entrepreneur said life is lived in three parts: learning, earning and serving. You pretty well covered the bases. I think you did a fantastic job at educating and trying to educate the shop owners across this great nation. Some listened and prospered ... I will leave the others alone.

Your advice was usually given with a salty flair. And that is OK. Tends to make people listen closer. I didn't always agree with your philosophy, such as flat rate. I don't think that there is a "one size fits all" when it comes to business. But that isn't what this note is about.

This note is to say thank you for a job well done. You didn't preach in vain. You're one of the "Old Warriors" who earned his place in the sun. Enjoy your time, and God bless you.

Chuck Garot
Naples, Fla.

I took one of Frank's seminars back in 1992. Wow, what an eye opener. He inspired me to give it a try right from the start by using his business strategies and going into business for myself. My wife had a big part, too. In January 1993 she earned a great promotion at her job, and said if I had any inkling of going out on my own, now was the time.

So with $300 in the bank and two small jobs lined up, I gave my employer notice. Did I mention I did this 16 months after getting married and buying a house?

Well, skip to today. We are now an L.L.C. with three full-time mechanics and a part-time office/book keeper (no, not my wife). My wife left her job in 1996 to raise our three daughters, 6, 4, and 21 months. I am most proud of the fact that I have been able to give her that choice.

We provide three-weeks vacation, paid holidays, health benefits, retirement plan and uniforms. My only confession is that I still have not completely made the jump to all set pricing. We mix set pricing with some T&M. I am sorry, but this seems to work for us.

I just wanted to say thanks to Frank for all he's done for this industry, and if it were up to me the licensing process would have to include your seminar.

William R. Gripp
Gripp Plumbing & Heating, L.L.C.
Parsippany, N.J.

Dear Mr. Blau:
We've never met, but when I read your last regular column I felt compelled to thank you for all the free advice. I haven't been in the plumbing business for several years, but am in the service business contracting to industries in our area.

I have continued to read Plumbing & Mechanical just for the management articles and found your advice sound and perfectly matched for our business, as service is also our main commodity.

I read several business magazines each month but none addresses the meat and potatoes of business as well as you do. Your articles are right on the money. So, thanks again for all the good advice and I wish you luck with the hunting and fishing.

R. Scott Gibbs
R. D. Gibbs Ent. Inc.
Bloomfield, Mo.