Improve not only your business, but yourself as well.

Joe Schmitt started his business in 1955 as a one-man shop. Today, he has changed the name of his Englewood, Ohio, company to Joe Schmitt & Sons to reflect the fact that his sons - Joe Jr. and Ron - now work with him. The company boasts four journeyman plumbers and one apprentice. Other family members in the business are daughter-in-law Terry (the office manager) and his wife Dottie.

A certified Ohio plumbing inspector, Schmitt also holds licenses in plumbing, hydronics and backflow prevention. He has kept his company diversified, becoming proficient in plumbing, hydronic heating, fire protection, backflow prevention, water treatment and HVAC.

A long-time PHCC member, Schmitt served locally as a backflow instructor, certifying and re-certifying member and nonmember plumbers in southwest Ohio, as well as serving on the state’s Plumbing Advisory Board. He also served two terms as president of the Ohio PHCC.

On the national front, Schmitt served on the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors - National Association’s legislation committee and was zone trustee representing Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia before being elected vice president in 2006.

Schmitt was inducted as president of the PHCC - National Association at the group’s recent convention in Atlanta. Prior to that, we asked Schmitt about his hopes for PHCC, as well as his thoughts on the future of the industry.

Q. How has the industry changed and where do independent contractors fit in to these changes?

Schmitt:When I first started my business, there were no cell phones, no computers to enhance communication. Technology, new materials and equipment was through the factory rep or supply house education.

The contractor today has instant communication via the cell phone and computer. All the information about equipment, new materials and business education to help your business improve is at your fingertips. Most important for the PHCC member are the programs through the PHCC Educational Foundation, which are passed on to our state and local associations.

When I first joined PHCC in 1968, my first purchase was the “labor calculator.” What a great tool for contractors! Another great tool is “Pricing for Profit.” I believe every contractor, especially the younger contractors, should attend these seminars.

Q. What do you perceive as PHCC's main strengths and weaknesses?

Schmitt:We have 200 state and local associations within PHCC that exist to make sure our members are successful. With 125 years of experience, we are a nimble and effective association that speaks for the industry in the legislative and regulatory bodies of this country. Our 20-year old foundation provides the best educational offerings available for PHC contractors.

As far as weaknesses, we sometimes try to do more than we are capable of doing. We need to provide more services to our HVAC members.

Q. What are the top items on your agenda when you take over as national president of PHCC?

Schmitt:I want to continue the work of President Jim Finley and Past President Jo Wagner to develop an effective workforce for our industry. We will continue to support the efforts of our local and state associations so that they bring greater value to each and every member.

We will be the go-to organization on Capitol Hill when Congress addresses water conservation issues for homes and businesses. We will continue to run a lean organization that utilizes the resources our members give us in the most effective way.

By the way, we also plan to have a bang-up convention in New Orleans, Oct. 21-23, 2009. It will be unique and offer something to every contractor who attends.

Q. What are the biggest challenges facing the PHCP industry and how is PHCC - NA helping con-tractors address them?

Schmitt:There is a need for about 900,000 new plumbing and HVAC technicians over the next seven years, according to government figures. That is an astonishing figure. We have to start now, even though the economy is down, to build an effective workplace for the future. I am closing out my career, but my children and my grandchildren have a great opportunity in this industry. PHCC is going to get the word out and we are going to make a difference in the workforce of the future.

The second issue is the contractor’s place in the efficiency or “green” movement. PHCC contractors are in the best place to guide homeowners and building owners in efficient water and environmental installations. It is going to take a lot of resources to make sure contractors stay at the forefront of this evolution in our industry. Manufacturers play an important role, politicians play a role, but contractors are the experts and must play a role in this arena.

Q. PHCC Executive Director Ike Casey stresses the importance of PHCC's involvement in legisla-tive issues that affect the plumbing and heating industry. What legislative issues do you believe PHCC should be concentrating on? And what can PHCC do to be more effective in this way?

Schmitt:As I stated earlier, PHCC will be the go-to organization when Congress addresses water conservation issues in homes and businesses. We are involved with the Alliance for Water Conservation, the EPA WaterSense Program, the U.S. Green Building Council and other groups, but they all look to PHCC for guidance on efficient water installations.

We will also continue to address the issues that affect every PHCC member, such as healthcare, 3 percent withholding, immigration and utility competition.

Our efforts are successful because we have members who step up to the plate and give their monetary support to the PHCC Political Action Committee. There is no better way to protect our businesses than to maintain a strong PAC. The more members who contribute, the more we can do to support their businesses.

Q. Any additional comments?

Schmitt:I wish more contractors know what I know about PHCC. It is an organization that exists to make our industry better. I have been involved on the local, state and now on the national level. On each level, I have learned how to improve my business, but moreover it has improved me as a person. We have a lot of great people in our industry. The best way to meet them is through your association, the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors.