The loudest cheer at the Contractors 2000 business session came when executive director Charlie Avoles informed members that they would no longer seek to affiliate with other industry organizations. It was the kind of ovation a ballplayer gets when he smacks one out to end a slump.
C-2000 had been in a slump for about a year. Its Board had been in talks with at least one industry consolidator about being acquired. Its respected executive director went to work for someone else. The group lost some key members to an upstart competitor, and some veteran members were grumbling that C-2000 wasn't doing enough to keep them interested. Attendance at its biennial "Super Meeting" last February was down by about a third from previous gatherings. Nobody knew where the business education group was headed.
It was stunning to see how much had changed at its latest Super Meeting, held last Oct. 28-30 in Washington, D.C. Attendance was back up to around the 300 mark. Avoles had shed the interim label and presided over an expanded staff now numbering seven people with some dazzling credentials among them. Most impressive was a litany of new and improved programs introduced in Washington that had just started or were about to start, along with others still in the dream stage. Programs underway or soon to begin included:
- A turnkey program to enter the automated pipe-lining business. Demonstrated at a breakout session in Washington, this business combines with sewer camera inspections and draws from a technology widely used in Europe but new to America. Employing a plasticized liner fed through one end of pipe and then expanded inside, the technique is far less costly and time consuming than digging up sewer lines, and does away with destroying landscape.
- A new four-day "Boot Camp" will introduce new members (or older ones who need refreshing) in some of the basic business techniques common to the C-2000 service philosophy. The "Boot Camp" is patterned after C-2000's popular Gold Star Management Academy.
- A National Yellow Pages program will enable C-2000 members to qualify for 15 percent in-house advertising agency discounts on all YP advertising placed by members. Introducing this program, board member John Ward noted that this program alone saves him enough to pay for his annual membership dues.
- The Board approved a public relations and communications program by Godfrey Public Relations to step up publicity in appropriate trade and consumer media.
- Recently hired director of marketing Charlie Thorpe Jr., whose background includes a stint within the vaunted marketing department of Procter & Gamble, introduced some dazzling marketing materials that has already earned him the nickname of "marketing genius" within the organization.
- It has linked up with a company that specializes in strategic business planning as part of its Preferred Vendor program.
- Under the direction of new buying group manager Scott Pearson, it has set a goal to increase C-2000's Preferred Vendor program from 12 firms to 50 within a year.
- It has formalized an Integrated Implementation ProcessT under director of development Greg Niemi to help members implement C-2000 programs in their companies - an area of weakness in the past.
Other new programs soon to begin include extended educational "camps" on open book management, marketing, dispatching and technician sales training; Dale Carnegie training; member co-op advertising for recruiting service technicians; a private label branding program.
New Conference FormatContractors 2000 tried out a new educational program format in Washington that featured a greater array of programming in shorter breakout segments over a two-day period. During the first day, members got to choose three out of six sessions on: 1. Open Book Management; 2. Business Planning; 3. "The Energizing Equation" (on motivating employees); 4. "Turning Dots Into Stars" (referring to C-2000's "dot" program of sales management); 5. Yellow Pages advertising tips; and 6. "Profiling" to identify prime job candidates.
On the second day, members were able to attend two of five program choices: 1. Water Treatment; 2. Sewer Cameras and the new Pipelining technology; 3. Residential Service Agreements; 4. No Pressure Selling; 5. "Comanche Marketing," a term coined by marketing consultant Matt Michel.
Two keynote motivational speakers kicked off and ended the Washington meeting: FedEx co-founder Frank Maguire, and Ed Foreman.
Winners of top C-2000 awards were:
Top Financial Performance, Service category: Levine & Sons, Southfield, Mich.
Top Financial Performance, Contracting/Construction: Assured Plumbing & Heating, Amityville, N.Y.
Top Financial Performance, Blended (Service & Construction): Empire Heating & A/C, Decatur, Ga.
Master Marketer: Scottco Service Co., Amarillo, Texas.
Customer Satisfaction Audit: Heuman Heating & A/C, Sparta, Ill.
Rusty Quarles (Banks-Quarles Plumbing-Heating-Cooling, Tuscaloosa, Ala.), continues another term as Board Chairman. Vice President is Keith Broyles (Keith Broyles Plumbing, Heating, Cooling, New Castle, Ind.); Treasurer is Kathy Love (Gene Love
Plumbing Services, W. Columbia, S.C.).
Rounding out the Board of Directors are: Randy Arnold (R. Arnold & Sons, Plumbing & Heating, Peoria, Ill., George Brazil (George Brazil Services, Yorba Linda, Calif.); Jack Simonson Jr. (The Irish Plumber, Villa Park, Ill.); Rob Steier (Rob's Plumbing & Mechanical Services, Edmonton, Alberta); John Ward (Applewood Plumbing & Heating, Denver, Colo.); and Ed Wolfe (Wolfe Plumbing, Heating, Air Conditioning, Newburgh, N.Y.).
C-2000's next Super Meeting is slated for September 21-23 in Kansas City.