PHCC new dues structure meets little opposition;
QSC gains16 new members since last meeting;
C-2000 to decide whether to be an enterprise.

PHCC - NA Assembly Settles Future Direction

The Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors - National Association resolved to change its name and dues structure during the group's 118th convention, which met Oct. 4-7 in Chicago in conjunction with the NEX show. The organization also appointed a new vice president, secretary and four board members and considered other resolutions to expand membership of the executive committee.

The dues structure now is tied to an automatic cost of living adjustment not to exceed 3 percent annually and passed with landslide support from the 209 members present for voting. The dues structure has long been a heated issue for the association, evident at last year's meeting where debates raged before setting dues at $375 and severing ties with the U.S. government's cost of living increase.

The change is effective Jan. 1, 2002. David Singleton from the Massachusetts PHCC, which sponsored the resolution, explained the delayed implementation is because some members already have begun to pay dues for the upcoming fiscal year. The 2002 start date will ensure all PHCC affiliates are subject to the same dues.

The group also voted to officially change its name from the National Association of Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors to Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors - National Association, replacing all previous name references. PHCC - National Association now is the accepted acronym for the organization and will be standard for all references, effective immediately.

Before the name change was adopted, members questioned what the cost impact would be and what would become of the organization's Web site, currently located at PHCC - National Association President Skip Flatten assured the group the cost would be minimal, as the association's stationery already reflects the change. He also said details concerning the Web site would be worked out, most likely with a link connecting users to a new address.

The final resolution passed changed the association's title of chief staff officer to executive vice president, the position now filled by Terry Peters, who replaced former CEO Allen Inlow in August.

Two proposals designed to increase the number of members serving on the executive board were defeated. Both called for an additional member to join the board to prevent tie votes and deadlocks. The PHCC - National Association Board of Directors' resolution created a secretary-designate position, where the incoming president-elect nominates a member who eventually would advance to the secretary position. The Indiana Association of Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Inc. proposed a fifth member selected by the National Board of Directors.

In other news, Eddie Hollub ousted Tom Gent in the organization's vice presidential election. Herbert "Skip" Pfeffer, Rick Whitaker, Dave Hammerquist and Jo Wagner also were elected to the board of directors. Don Morin, chairman of the PHCC Professional Product Line, was appointed secretary.

At the In-Sink-Erator luncheon, Betty Jean Berlin of Louisiana was named Member of the Year, and the Louisiana PHCC Auxiliary received the 2000 Robert Cox Humanitarian Award.

Convention speakers tackled topics ranging from people-reading skills to managing and determining finances to protecting employees when they're behind the wheel of the company truck. Internet technology captured many attendees' attention, with seminars on joining e-commerce and using the Internet drawing standing-room only crowds.

The PHCC - National Association's 119th convention will meet Sept. 12-16, 2001, in Reno, Nev.

CCA Tackles Succession Topic

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 held Feb. 21-23 at the Walt Disney World Swan Resort in Orlando, Fla.

QSC - The 'Best Of The Best'

With its membership numbers continually on the rise, the Quality Service Contractors can indeed qualify the "power" in its Power Meetings. Gaining 16 new members since its last meeting in February, QSC's Power Meeting XIII in Denver, Colo., saw 35 first-timers attending the three-day seminar and welcomed 125 attendees and nine sponsors.

QSC, a subgroup within PHCC - National Association, is aimed at residential service members and entails its own separate dues of $3,000 annually. This most recent meeting September 21-23 began with an overview of the group's second annual member survey by Grandy and Associates, which took a look at how members currently operated their businesses and also how QSC has affected the membership's success in the areas of pricing, software and Internet usage.

The meeting included several worthwhile speakers and seminars in the areas of selling, business insurance needs, product warranties and other business management tools. Members learned from one another as well with a panel of members dispensing customer service tips.

QSC trustee Paul Nebrasky educated fellow members on a recent addition to his business - CO testing. Many attendees were interested in how to take part in this aspect of the industry and make a profit while keeping customers safe and alive.

This sharing of ideas among members is one of the most important benefits that comes with joining peer groups of similar companies. QSC members prosper from the opportunity to interact with non-competing companies around the country facing similar challenges.

Executive director Charlie Wallace reinforced this notion of peer group education when he called the group the "best of the best."

The next QSC meeting will take place in February in Orlando, Fla., at the Coronado Springs Walt Disney World Resort. For more information, contact the organization at 800/533-7694 or visit the new Web site of QSC at

Contractors 2000 Present
A Vision Of The Future

Are they to be a trade association or something else? And if something else, what?

Those were the issues starkly put to Contractors 2000 members at the group's 18th biennial Super Meeting, held Sept. 21-23 in Kansas City. Marketing consultant Matt Michel, retained by the Board of Directors to put together a vision of the future for the organization, responded with a plan intended to transform C-2000 into a "force majeure" for the service trades.

Force majeure is a military term for a new, overpowering, unstoppable force, Michel explained. The longbow was a force majeure for Henry V at the battle of Agincourt, enabling the English to defeat a vastly superior French force. The tank was Rommel's force majeure as he conducted blitzkrieg warfare. Laser-guided weapons of the U.S. armed forces were a force majeure during the Gulf War. In the business world, so-called category killers such as Wal-Mart and Microsoft serve as examples of force majeure in their respective marketplaces.

The key to becoming a force majeure in the service trades, he said, lay in branding. "A brand that climbs to the top of the hill first becomes extremely difficult to dislodge." A prime example is Coca-Cola's dominance of the soft drink market, despite Pepsi's winning all the taste tests - and despite one of the greatest marketing blunders of all-time when Coke tried to change its formula.

"There is no king for the service trades. The top of the hill is unoccupied," said Michel. "For the first time, however, serious efforts with a realistic chance of success are being made to climb the hill in the form of consolidators, utilities and retailers."

He portrayed C-2000 at a turning point where members must decide "whether to be a trade association or an enterprise." Concerning the latter, Michel drew up a game plan for an organization with different levels of membership. At the first tier would be a buying group of contractors coming together to compete on the purchasing front with the giant consolidators and utility companies. Potentially thousands of companies could participate, although for many, this would be their sole involvement with C-2000.

At a second level would be an alliance of selective contractors coming together for networking, marketing and other interests, essentially the functions provided by the organization today.

The third tier would be a branded alliance of companies doing business under a common name. Not all members would be invited to participate. "They would have to earn the right to the brand name, because a brand is only as strong as its weakest link," said Michel.

The top tier would be a fully consolidated group in which ownership would be transferred to a central entity.

A similar, if less detailed, proposal had been put to the membership several years ago. It met with widespread opposition, even hostility from a small segment of the membership. The standing ovation given to Michel after his presentation suggests they may be more receptive today in light of all the changes that have taken place in the industry since then with consolidators, utilities and various affinity groups staking out strong positions.

The Kansas City Super Meeting also was highlighted by the introduction of an alliance between PEPCO Energy Services, C-2000 and computer software vendor Energy Design Systems (EDS). The voluntary program will enable C-2000 members to use EDS software to make exclusive offers based on energy savings by using high efficiency products, bundled with new gas and electric savings tied to PEPCO as a supplier. The program puts C-2000 members into the energy marketing business with an energy company committed to working with independent PHC service firms, as opposed to operating in competition.

EDS also will train C-2000 contractors to sell residential and commercial low interest finance programs with its product offerings. Members also would promote themselves in PEPCO mailings.

After a period of stagnation, C-2000 is enjoying a growth spurt with membership topping 280. This despite a new dues structure that entails an initial buy-in fee of about $20,000 - almost three times as much as before.

Some 270 members attended the Kansas City Super Meeting, representing 163 firms. The next Super Meeting is slated for March 7-10, 2001, in Dallas.

PCA Debuts First Conference

More than 125 plumbing contractors attended the Plumbing Contractors of America's first education conference, Sept. 21-23, in St. Louis.

The new group is a part of the Mechanical Contractors of America Association, and represents the association's attempt to cater to smaller plumbing contractors.

"The MCAA has built a reputation as being an association for larger, mechanical union contractors," says PCA Managing Director Joan Braun. "While the union aspect won't change, we already have a strong foothold in the plumbing industry, and we're refocusing our attention on the issues of plumbing contractors."

Despite perceptions, Braun pointed out that half of all MCAA members employ eight or less employees. Only 5 percent of MCAA membership, on the other hand, have 100 or more employees.

Conference participants attended seminars on codes, prefabrication, safety and marketing. The opening general session featured a presentation on next year's International Sanitation and Heating (ISH) Show in Frankfurt, Germany. A closing session included presentations from UA representatives Don House and Gary Hamilton on the status of the new National Service and Maintenance Agreement and the Residential Construction Program.