Since we first published this list last year, the U.S. and global economies have gotten worse. And no one knows exactly when it will rebound, although some experts say we have finally hit bottom.

Some of your competitors may have hit bottom, too, and are no longer your competitors. This type of business climate can really weed out the underperformers - just look at all the out-of-business signs you see everywhere.

Some of these business owners may have just decided they wanted out and didn’t have any formal exit strategy, so they just shut the business down. Others may have not had the business knowledge they needed to prosper, so they had to close up shop or declare bankruptcy.

For contractors in the plumbing and heating industry, you have better options that will keep your employees working and your communities viable and flourishing. The first step is admitting you need help. The second is to decide if you want to stay working on the business or get out. The third step is to examine the different franchise and affinity groups listed here. The next step is to decide on a group or franchise that best fits your business philosophy.

The final step? Take action! If not, one of those out-of-business signs could be in your window.

[Editor’s note: Rescue Rooter and Service Experts are not listed as all their locations are company-owned and franchises are not available.]

PHCP Franchises

1-800-Plumber

Founded: In 2009. 1-800-HomeServices, under the  1-800-Plumber name, is now offering plumbing and/or HVAC franchises to a limited number of entrepreneurs throughout the United States and Canada.

Markets to: Business owners, entrepreneurs and plumbing/heating/cooling contractors looking for a distinct advantage that the 1-800-PLUMBER name, number and systems bring to the contracting business.  

Franchisee qualities: Entrepreneurs and contractors who want to grow and run their business, are committed to customer service through technology and innovation, and operate with high standards and integrity.

Restrictions: Yes. Territories are exclusive, limited and protected by agreement.

Costs/fees: 1-800-Plumber operates through a licensing agreement to the franchisee in a defined territory. Initial franchise fees are determined by population. Other costs are based on gross income.

Why you should join: Contractors will be able to synonymously market the name and number, 1-800-Plumber. Overhead costs can be reduced by 24/7/365 call-taking, electronic dispatching, real-time accounting and in-home computer presentations. Innovative systems allow the contractor to run the business more efficiently, thus producing higher profitability.

Contact: To schedule an appointment for a Discovery Day, go to www.1800plumber.com or call 800/758-6237.

ACE DuraFlo Systems

Founded: In the 1990s. ACE DuraFlo began offering in-place pipe restoration system franchises in 2001.

Number of operations: 55 franchisees in North America and Europe. Of those, seven are corporate-owned.

Markets to: Plumbing contractors and leak detection firms.

Franchisee qualities: Those who want to gain a competitive advantage in their market and increase their bottom line by offering their customers a choice when it comes to repairing pinhole and slab leaks.

Restrictions: Yes; based on population.

Costs/fees: Initial investment is as low as $39,900. Investment varies based on equipment package and size of territory. There are ongoing fees.

Why you should join: ACE DuraFlo Systems’ ePIPE Advantage Program is designed to provide a “Local Competitive Edge” through specially designed equipment, comprehensive training, marketing materials, 24/7 field support, communication through Internet and Intranet, as well as patented-protected technology.

Contact: Derek Cherry at dcherry@aceduraflo.com, 888/775-0220 for a free information kit or visit www.aceduraflo.com/franchise.html. General inquiries should be directed to 888/775-0220.

Aire Serv

Founded: 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 operations: There are more than 170 locations in North America and all are company-owned.

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

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

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

Costs/fees: Initial investment is $62,300 to $181,900. 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. 800/583-2662; Fax: 800/209-7621; AireServFranchise@dwyergroup.com; www.leadingtheserviceindustry.com.

American Leak Detection

Founded: In 1974, for the purpose of providing nondestructive detection of concealed water, sewer and other leaks. Franchising of American Leak Detection began in 1984.

Number of operations: 129 franchisees in the United States and seven countries. Four are corporate-owned.

Franchisee qualities: Entrepreneurs who are strong leaders with sales, marketing and people skills, and are results-oriented. The top “Team Members” are those who want to run their own businesses while following a proven system, and receive satisfaction knowing they have helped their customers and the environment.

Restrictions: Yes; every territory is defined and protected.

Costs/fees: The initial franchise fee is between $29,500 and $80,000. The overall investment ranges from $83,255 to $233,500.

Other costs include $4,500-$6,000 for six weeks training (travel and living expenses are additional).

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

American Leak Detection participates in the International Franchise Association’s VetFran Program, which provides a discount in initial fees to U.S. veterans who meet the requirements of the program.

Why you should join: The training program includes: training on proprietary equipment in a variety of settings; marketing and business management tools and techniques; an operations manual; an Intranet site; lead-generation program; and access to an individual, customized Web page.

Support systems include: refresher courses through American Leak University; a network of support staff and franchisees to answer questions; quarterly newsletters; and an annual convention.

Contact: Judy Howard, director of franchise operations, 800/755-6697, jhoward@americanleakdetection.com.

Benjamin Franklin Plumbing

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

Number of operations: As of December 2008, there were 249 across the United States. Of these, 12 are company-owned.

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

Franchisee qualities: Contractors who value professionalism, punctuality and 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.

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

Costs/fees: 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 Success Academy training program helps improve technical service with respect to the customer’s home, budget and time; help with negotiating advertising contracts in the Yellow Pages; and PhoneFacts evaluations, a telephone tracking program.

Contact: Bryan Richards at 866/362-0763 to request information or visit www.thankyoubenjaminfranklin.com/pm.

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 operations: 151; 23 are company-owned.

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

Franchisee qualities: 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 30 years; the aspiration to expand their overall operations by increasing the amount of maintenance and project work they perform for customers.

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.

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., providing plumbing installation and repair.

Number of operations: About 260 franchises in the United States and Canada, and about 100 in other foreign countries. None of the franchises are company-owned.

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

Franchisee qualities: Customer-centric business people who want to grow their businesses through positive customer experiences and disciplined business systems.

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

Costs/fees: Total investment, including franchise fees of $24,000 per 100,000 population, ranges from $54,950 to $145,250.

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.

Mr. Waterheater

Founded: In 1981; franchising began in 2007. Mr. Waterheater is an emergency response specialty plumbing business that can be added to a full-service plumbing or HVAC business.

Number of operations: Five, operating from Connecticut to Oregon in addition to the company operation in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Markets to: Plumbing and HVAC contractors.

Franchisee qualities: Contractors devoted to growing a business through marketing, and providing great service and pricing to customers.

Restrictions: Franchisees are awarded a contiguous market area of zip codes. Size is dependant on current size of operation and finances.

Costs/fees: The initial franchise fee is $9,900 and a territory fee of 25 cents per household. Total investment ranges from $46,750 to $140,495. The royalty rate is 4 percent.

Why you should join: Mr. Waterheater is a profitable, simple-to-operate, recession-resistant niche business. Franchisees are provided all the tools to build a great business - a proven marketing program; back-office solutions; group purchasing power; and ongoing support. Franchisees will be able to build equity, grow the business and sell to other qualified professionals as an exit strategy.

Contact: John Sembower, 412/823-6000, www.mrwaterheater.com.

One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning

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

Number of operations: As of December 2008, there were 240 One Hour franchises across the United States and five in Canada. Of these, 45 are company-owned.

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

Franchisee qualities: 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.

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

Costs/fees: 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 Heating & Air Conditioning 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 through Clockwork University; technical training through Clockwork’s Success Academy; tools and training on ways to generate greater revenue more efficiently; access to business process software applications; and marketing, communications and branding solutions. It also provides an appropriate exit strategy.

Contact: Bryan Richards at 877/337-4112 to request information or visit www.thankyouonehour.com/pm.

Plumbing Doctor

Founded: In 1995 by Michael Farias, a plumbing contractor for more than 30 years. Plumbing Doctor began offering franchises in 2007. The goal is to offer its franchise system to other plumbing contractors in small- and mid-sized markets, and assist them in growing their small operations into larger, successful businesses.

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

Markets to: Service and repair plumbing contractors in secondary markets. The company is currently targeting 15 markets in northern and central California.

Franchisee qualities: Licensed plumbing contractors who want to start their own business, or currently own a small- to mid-sized company and want to grow it. If a contractor has the technical skills, Plumbing Doctor can give him the business tools and operating systems to help him succeed.

Restrictions: Yes. Plumbing Doctor’s territories are based on Yellow Pages distribution markets (one franchise per market).

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 the company. It does not dictate where franchisees have to purchase goods and services. The estimated cost of the franchise is $24,500 to $64,300.

Why you should join: 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.

There is also 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.

Contact: Bethany Helmboldt, operations manager, 707/678-3659, bethany@plumbingmd.com, www.plumbingmd.com.

Rooter-Man

Founded: In 1970; began franchising in 1981.

Number of operations: 396.

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

Restrictions: Select territories are available.

Costs/fees: Franchise fee is $3,975 per 125,000 population; ongoing royalty is not a percentage of sales but ratehr a flat fee of $75 per 125,000 population. Total investment in the business equipment is about $46,800 to $137,600, depending on size of operation.

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 Roto-Rooter U.S. independent franchise system is full (international franchise opportunities are still available), but Roto-Rooter continues to partner with independent contractors in various markets.

Number of operations: 51 company-owned branches, 500 independently owned franchises and 65 independent contractors (hybrid partnership between company and contractor, with limited company oversight and assistance).

Franchisee qualities: Independent contractors should be ambitious, innovative and technically competent with good management skills and a desire to grow the business. He or she must possess or be willing to obtain a plumbing license, or the contractor must employ a licensed plumber.

Restrictions: Independent contractor territories are owned by Roto-Rooter and serve markets with population sizes of 200,000 to 1,000,000 people.

Costs/fees: Through a licensing agreement, Roto-Rooter contracts with an individual to run a Roto-Rooter business within 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 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: Call 800/780-3292 or e-mail contractorrecruiting@rrsc.com.


PHCP Affinity Groups


AirTime 500

Founded: In 2000. Part of the Success Group International family, AirTime 500 provides independent HVAC contractors with management direction, buying power and training.

Number of members: More than 400 members.

Markets to: HVAC contractors seeking a competitive advantage who want to provide superior service to homeowners and profit from it. 

Member qualities: AirTime 500 members must be driven to succeed.  They are committed to providing their customers with unparalled service, build wealth for themselves and their employees, and operate their businesses in a highly ethical manner.

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

Dues/fees: An initial membership investment gives members access to the Instafix system and franchise-level tools: million-dollar turnkey ad campaigns; world-class trainers; and a team of negotiators working daily to boost members’ purchasing power. A minimal membership fee provides access to a team of industry experts for consultation.

Why you should join: AirTime has the tools, systems and knowledge to help HVAC contractors turn around a struggling company or expand an already successful one. Contractors can make more money and spend more time with their families.

Contact: Contractors are urged to attend a no-cost Profit Day seminar; call 800/483-8190 or visit www.airtime500.com

Construction Contractors' Alliance

Founded: In 1998. An enhanced service group of the PHCC-National Association, the Construction Contractors’ Alliance provides 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.

Member qualities: Professional, forward-thinking business owners who have an entrepreneurial approach to business.

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

Dues/fees: $5,000 a year.

Why you should 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: Charlotte Perham at 800/533-7694, perham@naphcc.org. For general inquiries, visit www.phccweb.org/cca.

Mechanical Service Contractors of America

Founded: In 1975. The Mechanical Service Contractors of America is a subsidiary of the Mechanical Contractors Association of America.

Number of members: More than 1,200 members.

Markets to: Union mechanical service contractors.

Member qualities: Interested in learning about new ways to increase productivity and profitability.

Restrictions: Restricted to union mechanical service contractors.

Dues/fees: MSCA’s dues are .06 cents per manhour, with a minimum of $600 and a maximum of $12,500. Members who belong to both MCAA and MSCA make only one minimum dues payment.

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 1992. Contractors 2000, a member-owned organization for the plumbing, HVAC and elctrical service and repair industry, changed its name to Nexstar in 2004.

Number of members: 427 member companies in the United States, Canada, Australia and the Cayman Islands.

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

Member qualities: 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 willing to adhere to the organization’s code of ethics. Members must also be committed to “success through education and sharing.”

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.

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, which 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: 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: In 1999. Part of the Success Group International family, Plumbers’ Success International provides independent plumbing contractors with management direction, buying power and training.

Number of members: More than 300 members.

Markets to: Plumbers seeking a competitive advantage who want to provide superior service to homeowners and profit from it.

Member qualities: Must be driven to succeed. 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.

Restrictions: Yes; to ensure members have a competitive edge in their respective markets.

Dues/fees: An initial membership investment gives members access to the Profit Success System and franchise-level tools: million-dollar ad campaigns; world-class training; and a team of negotiators working daily to boost members’ purchasing power. A minimal membership fee provides access to a team of industry experts for consultation.

Why you should join: PSI has the tools, systems and knowledge to help HVAC contractors turn around a struggling company or expand an already successful one. Contractors can make more money and spend more time with their families.

Contact: Contractors are urged to attend a no-cost Profit Day seminar; call 800/419-6551 or visit www.plumberssuccess.com.

Plumbing Contractors of America

Founded: In 1982. Officially became the Plumbing Contractors of America in 2000, a subsidiary association within the Mechanical Contractors Association of America. 

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

Markets to: Union-affiliated plumbing contractors. 

Member qualities: Prospective members must be interested in education, new technology and optimizing their companies.

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.

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 an 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 Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors-National Association members that were looking for ways to improve their business that weren’t necessarily being addressed by PHCC.

Number of members: 234.

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

Member qualities: 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.

Restrictions: None; anyone can be a member, even multiple contractors from any area. Prospective members must be members of PHCC first.

Dues/fees: The 2009 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, 800/533-7694, www.qsc-phcc.org.

Service Roundtable

Founded: In 2002. The Service Roundtable was formed to offer contractors an affordable business support alternative to existing alliances, which can be expensive and, due to territorial exclusivities, often unavailable.  

Number of members: More than 2,500 people.

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

Member qualities: Contractors who want to grow and improve, who are seeking to build legacy companies that will live on after present ownership exits the business.

Restrictions: None; any plumbing or HVAC company can join.

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 get all the business tools and resources necessary for success at their desktop - without hype, major expense, lectures,  costly mandatory meetings and “without Kool-Aid.”

Contact: Visit www.ServiceRoundtable.com to learn more. 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.

Member qualities: Contractors that are well-rounded and can provide multiple services; have a strong belief in constantly improving and learning; a real desire to share with and learn from other contractors; and believe in ongoing training. Participation is key to the group.

Restrictions: Yes; 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.

Dues/fees: $9,000 annually.

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 members have the opportunity to learn best practices from each other by sharing information. 

Contact: Allison Rodgers at 888/714-5990, rodgersa@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: 281.

Markets to: Union plumbing and mechanical contractors.

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

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.