Business was pleasure for Construction Contractors' Alliance attendees who met Sept. 13-15 in New Orleans, La. Members gathered in the Big Easy to explore successful business succession procedures and swap tips and overviews of their companies, with two members presenting virtual tours of their own facilities.

Keynote speaker Michael Grunkemeyer, senior vice president of business development at Ferguson Enterprises Inc., kick-started Thursday morning's seminars with a challenge for the group: Change the way you think. A few adjustments to rote ways of thinking and acting can help a company grow bigger, better and faster, he advised. Some processes Grunkemeyer suggested reconsidering are buying direct, evaluating costs and becoming involved with e-commerce.

Bob Kreutzer and Jim Johnson of Tatro Plumbing facilitated the first seminar, which focused exclusively on succession options, a hot topic at the CCA's last meeting. Kreutzer explained planning an exit strategy is an intricate detail that requires goal setting, evaluating the company's worth, transferring leadership and, ultimately, letting go. Johnson urged listeners to figure out their company's worth and determine crucial matters, such as whether they want to sell their company to a third party and relinquish control, or sell to employees or family, but risk creating financial hardship for all involved.

Certified public accountant Michael Lansdon elaborated on methods of disposing of a company, an aspect he said often is ignored in favor of building the business. Disposal options include liquidation, gift, merger or sale. Bruce Armstrong of Menke & Associates looked at employee stock ownership plans as an aid for succession. His talk focused on determining whether a company is the right size for an ESOP and what the pros and cons of the plan entail.

On Friday morning, the CCA's chairman, David Cooper, opened with general alliance happenings before giving peer groups, the foundation of the CCA, the chance to report on their progress. Peer groups meet throughout the year to examine each member's operations and share tips and challenges for improvement.

Members then split into groups to discuss several hot topics. Attendees interested in contractor liability suits determined that the best way to ward off insurance pitfalls is to keep accurate documentation of all work indefinitely. Another roundtable shared its ideas on employee relations, which varied from company picnics to vehicle privileges to performance acknowledgement.

The Contractor Spotlight brought two CCA members' companies to the fore, giving each the chance to bring the group on a virtual tour of his company. Rod Robbins, president of Nova Plumbing Inc. in Orange County, Calif., detailed his company's start in 1994 to the present with pictures and charts. He also shared challenges he's had with manpower and frustrations with work schedules.

Father-and-son team Bill and Matt Erickson led members on a tour of Alsip, Ill.-based C.J. Erickson Plumbing Co., which was founded in 1906. Old black-and-white photos of workers, vehicles and jobsites grabbed the audience's attention. Matt, the company's vice president and estimator, talked more about its progression from past to present while Bill, the company CEO, talked about current policies and practices.

The next CCA meeting will be in February at the Walt Disney World Swan Resort in Orlando, Fla.