If you’re looking for an exit strategy or just some help to run your business, this list is for you.

Being an independent plumbing, heating or cooling contractor these days isn’t easy. The economy is unsteady, your techs are either quitting or retiring, you can’t find qualified replacements, you’re tired of having to compete with the lowest-price guys in your market…the list goes on. At some point, you admit to yourself that you need help.

So what is an affinity group? As Editorial Director Jim Olsztynski wrote back in 2000, “The PHC industry teams with affinity groups that represent a middle ground between selling your business to a consolidator and going it alone. Traditional trade associations still play an important part in representing the industry as a whole, but they are not well-suited for servicing narrower business interests among the membership.”

Now, there aren’t too many of those consolidators on the playing field anymore - some have re-invented themselves as smaller entities focused on a particular section of the market, while others no longer exist in any context. But, if you don’t have any kind of succession plan in place, selling your business is still an option - if you’ve got a well-run organization with a good client base. If that doesn’t describe your business, then you may need to join one of the groups listed here to bring your company up-to-date.

What about franchising? Aligning yourself with a franchise can solve a lot of problems in the marketing and business management arena - all that is handled by the “front office,” leaving you time to focus on other aspects of your business. You’ll still have your business, if you want to keep on working, without the headaches of developing marketing, selling or pricing systems. For those who do not have the requisite business skills, or just plain don’t like administration work, a franchise might be the way to go.

[Editor's note: Rescue Rooter and Service Experts were not included under franchises as they seem more like consolidators than franchisors - firms are purchased by a corporate entity and operated as branch locations. Franchise opportunities are not advertised.]

PHC Affinity Groups

AirTime 500

Founded: Part of the Success Group International family, the group was formed in 2000 to help independent HVAC contractors gain a competitive edge in their markets.

Number of members: More than 400 members.

Markets to: The independent residential contractor who is looking for those systems and tools which will give him a competitive advantage in his market. 

Qualities looking for in members: AirTime 500 members must be driven to success:  They are committed to providing their community with the best service, to providing a pleasant environment for their employees and dedicated to operating a profitable, ethical and growing company.

Membership restrictions: Yes; membership with AirTime 500 is restricted in order to ensure contractors have a competitive edge in their respective markets.

Membership dues/fees: There is an initial membership investment that covers: training; securing of the territory; and access to marketing, management and training tools. A minimal ongoing membership fee is assessed and goes toward ongoing development of the industry’s latest tools, marketing pieces and systems.

Why you should join: AirTime provides contractors and business owners with the knowledge and expertise to improve their businesses on all levels. From leveraging the vast experience of the founders and other successful members, contractors learn how to avoid challenges and setbacks.

Contact: For more information on AirTime 500, contractors are urged to attend a no-cost Profit Day seminar; call 800/505-8885 or visit www.airtime500.com for upcoming dates.

Construction Contractors’ Alliance

Founded: Formed in 1998 as an enhanced service group of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors-National Association to provide contractors with a means to find solutions to the specific issues new construction contractors face.

Number of members: Membership averages 25 members. 

Markets to: CCA serves PHCC’s plumbing and mechanical contractors specializing in residential, industrial, commercial and institutional new construction.

Qualities looking for in members: Professional, forward-thinking business owners who have an entrepreneurial approach to business.

Membership restrictions: There are no territorial restrictions, but prospective members must belong to PHCC.

Membership dues/fees: $5,000 a year.

Why you should join: Members join to enhance the profitability and professionalism of their business through education and networking opportunities. CCA’s key focus areas are workforce issues, construction methods, business practices, networking/peer groups, industry/business evolution, and education and personal growth.

Membership benefits include: two CCA Alliance Meetings each year; specialized meetings for CCA employees (e.g., controllers and purchasing agents); CCA Connect e-mail communication with members; peer groups; Contractor Spotlights (“virtual tours” of member companies); “Hot Topic” contractor roundtables; and a Forms Notebook.

Contact: For membership inquiries about CCA, contact Charlotte Perham at 800/533-7694, perham@naphcc.org. For general inquiries, visit www.phccweb.org and click on the CCA logo at the bottom of the page.

Mechanical Service Contractors of America

Founded In 1975 as the National Mechanical Equipment Service and Maintenance Bureau, a subsidiary of the Mechanical Contractors Association of America. In 1990, the organization changed its name to a streamlined Mechanical Service Contractors of America, the name it goes by today.

Number of members: More than 1,200 members who work in mechanical service.

Markets to: Primarily union mechanical service contractors.

Qualities looking for in members: MSCA members are interested in learning about new ways to increase productivity and profitability.

Membership restrictions: Restricted to union mechanical service contractors.

Membership dues/fees: MSCA’s dues are .05 cents per manhour, with a minimum of $600 and a maximum of $11,500. Members who belong to both MCAA and MSCA make only one minimum dues payment, which applies to both organizations.

Why you should join: MSCA provides education, marketing and labor/management services to assure its HVACR contractor members deliver quality performance, value and expertise for all building system needs. MSCA’s contractor qualifications program, MSCA STAR, recognizes contractors that have met the highest standards of excellence in the industry and employ highly skilled UA STAR-certified technicians.

Contact: For more information, visit www.msca.org. For membership inquiries, contact Jan Letow at 301/869-5800 or jletow@mcaa.org. For general inquiries, contact Barbara Dolim at 301/869-5800 or bdolim@mcaa.org.

Nexstar

Founded: In August 1992, a pioneering group of 16 contractors, headed by service industry veterans Frank Blau and George Brazil, formed Contractors 2000, a member-owned organization dedicated to sharing and developing best practices in the service and repair industry. The group changed its name to Nexstar in 2004.

Number of members: 400 member companies in four countries and on two continents.

Markets to: Independent plumbing, HVAC and electrical home service providers.

Qualities looking for in members: Those who are dedicated to being “simply the best” in customer service, profitability and employee satisfaction. The organization attracts members who believe in business ethics and best practices, and are willing to adhere to the organization’s code of ethics. Members must also be committed to “success through education and sharing.”

Membership restrictions: Yes; membership is limited to a population of 300,000 within a metropolitan statistical area. Competing companies within an “owned” territory may join if granted permission by the existing Nexstar member.

Membership dues/fees: There are several levels of membership, each having a range of dues and fees appropriate to individual needs.

Why you should join: Nexstar offers members access to a body of knowledge called The Vault. Located on a proprietary section of the Nexstar Web site (www.nexstarnetwork.com), The Vault contains more than 15 years of accumulated and developed best practices.

Nexstar also employs experienced business coaches, a training school and self-study programs for virtually every position in a service provider company, along with educational events and peer group meetings in which members visit other members’ businesses to thoroughly dissect its operations.

Contact: Contractors with general or membership inquiries should contact Nexstar Business Enhancement Coach Lisa McNeil, 888/240-STAR, lisam@nexstarnetwork.com; or Nexstar Business Enhancement Specialist Rich Piepenburg, 888/240-STAR, richp@nexstarnetwork.com.

Plumbers’ Success International

Founded: Part of the Success Group International family, PSI was formed in 1999 to provide independent contractors with the tools and strategies they needed to succeed in the market today.

Number of members: More than 300 members.

Markets to: Contractors who are seeking a competitive edge in order to provide those individuals with tools and systems to help them rise to the top of their market.

Qualities looking for in members: PSI members must be driven to success: They want to provide their customers with unparalleled service, build wealth for themselves and their employees and operate their businesses in a highly ethical manner.

Membership restrictions: Yes; membership to PSI is restricted in order to ensure members have a competitive edge in their respective markets.

Membership dues/fees: There is an initial membership investment that covers: training; securing of the territory; and access to marketing, management and training tools. A minimal ongoing membership fee is assessed and goes toward ongoing development of the industry’s latest tools, marketing pieces and systems.

Why you should join: PSI provides contractors and business owners with the knowledge and expertise to improve their businesses on all levels. From leveraging the vast experience of the founders and other successful members, contractors learn how to avoid challenges and setbacks.

Contact: For more information on Plumbers’ Success International, contractors are urged to attend a no-cost, day-long Profit Day seminar; call 866/428-8248 or visit www.plumberssuccess.com.

Plumbing Contractors of America

Founded: Started as the Plumbing Committee within the Mechanical Contractors Association of America in 1982. Evolved into the Plumbing Bureau in 1990. In 2000, officially became the Plumbing Contractors of America, a subsidiary association within MCAA, with its own board of directors and by-laws. 

Number of members: Every member of MCAA is automatically a member of PCA without separate dues.

Markets to: Union-affiliated plumbing contractors. 

Qualities looking for in members: Prospective members must be interested in education, new technology and optimizing their companies.

Membership restrictions: General membership is restricted to union-affiliated plumbing contractors. Potential members who do not fit into this category may be eligible to join as Associate Members.

Membership dues/fees: Part of MCAA’s dues; based on manhours.

Why you should join: PCA provides the highest level of education for contractors; labor representation through our open dialogue with the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada; and research for industry technology, techniques and issues.

Contact: Sean McGuire, LEED AP, director of industry programs, smcguire@mcaa.org.

Quality Service Contractors

Founded: In 1994 by a group of PHCC-National Association members that were looking for ways to improve their business that weren’t necessarily being addressed by PHCC.

Number of members: 253.

Markets to: Any plumbing-heating-cooling contractor involved in or looking to get into service and repair.

Qualities looking for in members: Those that are willing to participate and make changes based on what their particular needs are. The group wants members with the desire to be the “best of the best” in the industry.

Membership restrictions: None; anyone can be a member, even multiple contractors from any area. QSC believes that even competitors can benefit by learning the proper way to run a business, how to figure their true cost of doing business and price their service to make a profit. However, prospective members must be members of PHCC first; then they can make the choice to join QSC.

Membership dues/fees: The 2008 QSC investment is $3,686 for 12 months. This can be broken down into monthly payments.

Why you should join: QSC has Power Meetings, held twice yearly, to help members learn new business techniques and to refocus and recharge in order to maximize the profitability and productivity of their companies.

QSC employs two business coaches, and is also heightening its focus on Internet technology and developing Web-based member services, such as its Online Customer Service Training.

The group also is continuing to develop traveling programs - Business Operations & Systems Success seminar, Sales Boot Camp and Total Opportunity Performance Systems technician training program.

Contact: QSC Executive Director Charlie Wallace, 180 S. Washington Street, Falls Church, VA 22046; 800/533-7694, www.qsc-phcc.org.

Service Roundtable

Founded: The Service Roundtable was formed in 2002 to offer contractors an affordable business support alternative to existing alliances, which can be expensive and, due to territorial exclusivities, often unavailable. It launched in September 2002 in the HVAC industry and opened to plumbing companies one year later. 

Number of members: More than 2,500 people.

Markets to: Residential and light commercial plumbing contractors, and HVAC service and installation contractors.

Qualities looking for in members: Contractors who want to grow and improve, who are seeking to build legacy companies that will live on after present ownership exits the business.

Membership restrictions: None; any plumbing or HVAC company can join.

Membership dues/fees: $50 per month for plumbing; $75 for plumbing and HVAC together. Membership is monthly. 

Why you should join: The Service Roundtable helps contractors build the top line and drive more profit to the bottom line, in less time. Contractors joining the Service Roundtable get all the business tools and resources necessary for success at their desktop, without hype, without major expense, without lectures, without costly mandatory meetings and “without Kool-Aid.”

Contact: To learn more, visit www.serviceroundtable.com. For membership or vendor inquiries, contact Liz Patrick by e-mail at Liz@ServiceRoundtable.com or toll-free at 877/262-3341.

The Unified Group

Founded: In 1998 by a small group of independent commercial HVAC contractors in response to the consolidation movement affecting the industry at the time. 

Number of members: 53.

Markets to: Top-quality independent, commercial and industrial contractors around the country. The group has a mix of small and large companies, both union and nonunion members.

Qualities looking for in members: The Unified Group looks for contractors that are well-rounded and can provide multiple services. They must have a strong belief in constantly improving and learning, and a real desire to share with and learn from other contractors.  Participation is key to the group. Members believe in ongoing training, and send their employees to the various training programs offered. 

Membership restrictions: Territories are geographically exclusive. The territory depends on the member company and is typically one in which the member can reach its customers within 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  This varies by the size of the member and the density of the territory.

Membership dues/fees: Annual dues are $9,000.

Why you should join: The Unified Group offers several training programs per year that are industry-specific. The members select the topics and the sessions are very hands-on.

The group negotiates purchasing partnerships with select vendors to allow its members to purchase more effectively. Not only do members receive discounted pricing or rebates, vendor partners also provide training and additional customer support.

Unified Group members use each other to provide service to their customers regionally and nationally. And Unified Group members have the opportunity to learn best practices from each other by sharing information. 

Contact: Unified Group Executive Director Julie Bishop at 888/714-5990, bishopj@theunifiedgroup.com, for all inquiries. Web address is www.theunifiedgroup.com.

Union-Affiliated Contractors

Founded: In 1995 to address the specific needs of signatory contractors within PHCC.

Number of members: 336.

Markets to: Union plumbing and mechanical contractors.

Membership restrictions: The only restriction is that prospective members must employ union plumbers and pipefitters, and belong to PHCC.

Membership dues/fees: $366 per year.

Why you should join: UAC pursues a national agenda via direct, high-level links to the United Association. The group also: negotiates national labor agreements; assists local affiliates in addressing labor issues; provides top speakers to discuss the key issues facing the industry; identifies opportunities for helping contractors improve market share and profitability; and, when appropriate, UAC works with other industry organizations to establish shared positions and implement the appropriate responses.

Contact: UAC Executive Director Rodney Jones, 888/997-0535, jones@naphcc.org.

PHC Franchises

Aire Serv Heating & Air-Conditioning

Founded: Established in 1992, Aire Serv is a global franchise organization providing installation, maintenance and repair of HVAC and indoor air quality systems. It is a subsidiary of The Dwyer Group Inc.

Number of franchise operations: There are more than 150 locations in North America and all are company-owned.

Markets to: Heating, air-conditioning and ventilation contractors.

Qualities looking for in franchisees: Aire Serv franchisees must possess a strong work ethic along with the willingness to learn and apply proven, successful business systems.

Franchise restrictions: Yes; Aire Serve restricts how many franchises are in a territory/region.

Franchise costs/fees: Initial investment is $57,195 to $170,400. The investment varies due to size of territory and population that a franchisee purchases. There are ongoing fees.

Why you should join: Franchise owners receive management, marketing, sales and start-up training. They also benefit from national conferences, regional training and ongoing telephone and on-location support.

Contact: Krystal Humphrey, lead development, or Director of Franchise Development Bruce Knudson. Phone: 800/583-2662; Fax: 800/209-7621; E-mail: AireServFranchise@dwyergroup.com; Web site: www.discoveras.com.

American Leak Detection

Founded: In 1974; franchising began in 1984.

Number of franchise operations: 129 franchisees in the United States and seven countries. Of those, four offices are corporate-owned.

Qualities looking for in franchisees: Entrepreneurs who are strong leaders with sales, marketing and people skills, and who are results-oriented. The top “Team Members” are those who want to run their own businesses (with help), and receive satisfaction knowing they have helped their customers.

Franchise restrictions: Yes; every territory is defined and protected.

Franchise costs/fees: The current initial franchise fee is between $29,500 and $80,000, but varies based on the size and other characteristics of the territory. The estimated initial investment required ranges from $83,255 to $233,500.

The other costs associated with opening an American Leak Detection franchise are: six weeks training (travel and living expenses are additional); equipment package ($25,500 to $52,000); and start-up costs ($18,755 to $80,550; includes vehicle, insurance, marketing, telephone, etc.).

Royalties paid on monthly adjusted gross sales are as follows: 10 percent on the first $5,000; 9 percent on the next $5,000; 8 percent thereafter; 6 percent when annual adjusted gross sales reaches $750,000 in the calendar year.

Why you should join: American Leak Detection franchisees will receive: initial training, as well as ongoing training and support; an Internet lead-generation program; marketing and public relations assistance; access to the private intranet site; personalized Web pages; annual conventions; a bi-monthly newsletter; corporate-approved vendors; and a complete equipment package.

Contact: If you have questions, contact American Leak Detection by e-mail at franchise@americanleakdetection.com or phone 800/755-6697 to speak with the Franchise Sales Department.

Benjamin Franklin Plumbing

Founded: In 2001 and is Clockwork Home Services’ nationally branded franchise in the plumbing market.

Number of franchise operations: At the end of the first quarter of 2008, there were 171 Benjamin Franklin Plumbing franchises across the United States in over 235 territories.  Of these, nine are company-owned.

Markets to: Ambitious contractors and business owners seeking to grow their companies and dominate their markets by providing trustworthy plumbers who will show up on time.

Qualities looking for in franchisees: Benjamin Franklin looks for contractors who value professionalism, punctuality and who consider customer satisfaction their No. 1 priority. Benjamin Franklin Plumbing contractors recognize the importance of their customers’ time and go to great lengths to make sure service, replacement and repairs are done right the first time with courtesy, convenience, cleanliness and competence.

Franchise restrictions: Yes; franchisees are given exclusivity in a defined territory.

Franchise costs/fees: To become a Benjamin Franklin Plumbing franchise, contractors must be able to qualify both financially and ethically. There is an initial investment, which varies according to the population of the territory, and ongoing fees based on sales volume.

Why you should join: The Benjamin Franklin franchise offers residential service plumbers the opportunity to compete with industry consolidators and franchised drain cleaners; plus, it provides them with an appropriate exit strategy.

Franchisees have access to company-wide programs and training opportunities provided by Clockwork Home Services: wholesale distributor Buy Max provides significant discounts on private label manufacturing equipment; the SuccessAcademy training program helps improve technical service with respect to the customer’s home, budget and time; CKYellowPages helps franchisees negotiate advertising contracts in the YellowPages; and Phone Facts Evaluations, a telephone tracking program.

Contact: Contractors interested in becoming a Benjamin Franklin Plumbing franchise should contact Milton Dunlop at mdunlop@clockworkhomeservices.com, 877/236-2899 to request a free information kit or visit www.thankyoubenjaminfranklin.com. General inquiries should be directed to 800/695-3579.

Linc Network

Founded: In 1979. The Linc Service Network provides energy solutions to commercial building owners worldwide. Linc Network is the franchisor of the Linc System, a business format for operating a commercial HVAC service business. 

Number of franchise operations: 141; 23 are company-owned.

Markets to: Independently owned mechanical contractors looking to specialize in preventive maintenance for the commercial HVAC industry.

Qualities looking for in franchisees: To be recognized as leading contractors in their marketplaces; reputation for quality and ethical standards; the desire to grow their service business; the willingness to adhere to a business format that has proven to be successful for nearly 30 years; the aspiration to expand their overall operations by increasing the amount of maintenance and project work they perform for customers.

Franchise restrictions: Yes; Linc Service contractors each purchase the franchise rights to a specific territory. In some cases, more than one Linc Service contractor may purchase the rights to a given area.

Franchise costs/fees: The franchise fee is $65,000. Royalty fees are charged by a schedule based on service revenue. Some additional fees for training and recruiting are charged.

Why you should join: Linc Service contractors have: access to quality tools and training; chances to share best practices with top professionals in the HVAC industry; membership in an organization that’s expanding its scope and service offerings on a worldwide level.

Contact: For ownership, contact Director of Franchise Sales Brian Hall, 512/748-7669, Brian.Hall@thelincgroup.com. For general inquiries, contact COO Bert Kendall, 724/873-2948, Bert.Kendall@thelincgroup.com.

Mr. Rooter

Founded: Franchising began in the 1970s. Mr Rooter is a subsidiary of The Dwyer Group Inc.

Number of franchise operations: About 250 franchises in the United States and Canada, and 110 in other foreign countries. None of the franchises are company-owned.

Markets to: Plumbing contractors (new construction and service) and mechanical contractors.

Qualities looking for in franchisees: Customer-centric business people who want to grow their businesses through positive customer experiences and disciplined business systems.

Franchise restrictions: Yes; Mr. Rooter determines how many franchisees may be in an area based on population.

Franchise costs/fees: Total investment, including franchise fees of $22,500, ranges from $51,700 to $142,000.

Why you should join: Mr. Rooter provides systems for approaching the customer; managing the financial end of your business; as well as consulting and coaching in areas of operations and personnel management. Mr. Rooter also works with each of its franchisees on a regular basis to help set and achieve both personal and professional goals.

Contact: Phone: 800/298-6855; Fax: 800/209-7621; E-mail: MrRooterFranchise@dwyergroup.com; Web site: www.mrrooter.com/franchising.

One Hour Air Conditioning & Heating

Founded: In 2003; One Hour Air Conditioning & Heating is Clockwork Home Services’ nationally branded franchise in the HVAC market.

Number of franchise operations: As of Dec. 31, 2007, there were 204 One Hour franchises across the United States. Of these, 36 are company-owned.

Markets to: Contractors and business owners who are interested in accelerating their growth and revenue through the implementation of the company’s professional business practices, high ethical standards and dedication to delivering outstanding customer service.

Qualities looking for in franchisees: One Hour Air looks for contractors who value professionalism, highly ethical business practices, punctuality and who consider an outstanding customer experience their top priority. One Hour contractors recognize the importance of the customer’s time and go to great lengths to make sure service, replacement and repairs are done right the first time.

Franchise restrictions: Yes; One Hour gives each of its franchisees exclusivity in a defined territory. 

Franchise costs/fees: To become a One Hour Air Conditioning & Heating franchise, contractors must be able to qualify both financially and ethically. There is an initial investment, which varies according to the population of the territory, and ongoing fees based on sales volume.

Why you should join: One Hour Air Conditioning & Heating franchisees have the following available to them: access to state-of-the-art, private label equipment at affordable prices through the company’s wholesale distributor BuyMax; business and customer-service training programs; technical training is made available through Clockwork’s Success Academy; tools and training for franchisees on ways to generate greater revenue more efficiently; access to business process software applications; and marketing, communications and branding solutions.

Contact: Contractors interested in becoming a One Hour Air Conditioning & Heating franchise should contact Jim Nichols at 877/463-6147 and request a free information kit or visit www.thankyouonehour.com. General inquiries should be directed to 800/746-0458.

Plumbing Doctor

Founded:
The Plumbing Doctor company was founded in 1995, but did not start offering franchises until 2007. The first several years were devoted to research and development, during which time it operated a company-owned franchise, which was used to test and refine the systems that are currently in place.

The founder and CEO, Michael Farias, has been a plumbing contractor for more than 30 years. In 1993, he decided to open a plumbing service company with an image - fast, efficient service combined with a complete operating system. He took an ambulance and converted it: kept the bright colors, created a great logo and found instant recognition and positive response wherever he went. With the success of this business, he decided to document his systems and offer them as a franchise.

The company was founded in a small market and currently serves several small markets in the area. One of the founding principles is that customers in smaller and mid-sized markets should have access to a best practices experience, which is currently primarily available in larger markets. Plumbing Doctor’s goal is to offer its franchise system to other plumbing contractors in small- and mid-sized markets. It also strives to assist sole proprietors in growing small operations into larger, successful businesses.

Number of franchise operations: Three franchises; two are company-owned.

Markets to: Service and repair plumbing contractors in secondary markets. Plumbing Doctor is currently targeting 15 markets in northern and central California. The goal is to grow the brand regionally and then take it national.

Qualities looking for in franchisees: The Plumbing Doctor is looking for licensed plumbing contractors. If a contractor has the technical skills, it can give them the business tools and operating systems to help them succeed. Contractors who want to start their own business or currently own a small- to mid-sized company and want to grow it are ideal candidates.

Franchise restrictions: Yes. Territories are based on Yellow Pages distribution markets - one franchise per phone book market.

Franchise costs/fees: Franchise fee is $20,000 for conversion companies and $25,000 for start-ups. There are additional costs, such as purchasing tools and insurance, but none of the fees go to Plumbing Doctor and it does not dictate where franchisees have to purchase goods and services. The estimated cost of the franchise is $24,500 to $64,300, depending on what contractors already own and how much they choose to spend on equipment.

Why you should join: The Plumbing Doctor provides a comprehensive operating system that has been proven to help establish and grow service and repair plumbing businesses. It has developed a successful customer retention program and provides a memorable brand name, federally protected trademarks and an exclusive territory.

Also provided is an operations manual that describes the complete operating system for all aspects of the business: office management training; advertising plans complete with printable, ready-to-use, full-color ads; press releases and marketing pieces; a variety of ready-to-use forms and contracts; sales pieces for all aspects of the business from snaking a sewer line to selling a trenchless sewer replacement; and a pricing system which includes full-color pricing books.

Franchisees receive three full days of training, as well as ongoing assistance and DVDs of the training to keep. The Plumbing Doctor provides all the tools necessary for a franchisee to be successful, but allows franchisees the freedom of being their own boss.

Contact: Bethany Helmboldt, operations manager, at 707/678-3659, bethany@plumbingmd.com or www.plumbingmd.com. The Web site includes information about the franchise opportunity, the company and contact information.

You can also find The Plumbing Doctor in two BNP Media publications: a feature story in the May 2006 issue of Reeves Journal; and a Truck of the Month mention in the October 1997 issue of Plumbing & Mechanical.

Rooter-Man

Founded: In 1970; began franchising in 1981.

Number of franchise operations: 396.

Markets to: Contractors and business owners looking for an opportunity in the sewer and drain-cleaning business.

Franchise restrictions: Select territories are available.

Franchise costs/fees: Total investment is about $46,800-$137,600; franchise fee is $3,800; and there is an ongoing royalty fee that varies. Term of agreement is five years, renewable; renewal fee is $2,500.

Why you should join: Low overhead; on-the-job training, both technical and management; marketing/advertising plan; bookkeeping and telephone sales training; employee incentive plans; step-by-step business plan.

Contact: Visit www.rooterman.com or call 800/700-8062.

Roto-Rooter

Founded: In 1935 by Samuel Blanc. The Blanc family sold the company to Chemed Corp. in 1980. In 1986, Roto-Rooter was spun off as a private company, but was back in the Chemed fold in 1996 when Chemed bought back all outstanding shares.

Number of franchise operations: 600; 100 are company-owned.

Qualities looking for in franchisees: Ambitious, innovative and technically competent individuals with good management skills and a desire to grow the business. The independent contractor must possess or be willing to obtain a plumbing license, or the contractor must employ a licensed plumber.

Franchise restrictions: Territories are owned by Roto-Rooter and are generally in select markets with a population ranging from 200,000 to 1,000,000.

Franchise costs/fees: Through a licensing agreement, Roto-Rooter contracts with an individual to run a Roto-Rooter business in a select territory.

Why you should join: Established customer and sales base; paid advertising program; relocation opportunities, if desired; support of a national company; business training; equipment; management, accounting and marketing support. The independent contractor keeps his portion of all labor sales plus 100 percent of all parts and consumer product sales. After expenses, yearly income ranges between 8 percent and 13 percent of customer sales.

Contact: E-mail contractorrecruiting@rrsc.com or call 800/780-3292.

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