Thompson PHC found a way to make hay without sunshine.

Last year was one of the bleakest in history for most of us economically. Yet Cincinnati’s Thompson Plumbing, Heating and Cooling claims it grew more than 50 percent in 2009. The company now has more than 50 service vehicles on the road and employs upwards of 80 people, with a penchant for hiring military veterans.

Founded more than 80 years ago, Thompson has a spiffy Web site,, that reveals the company to be at the forefront of operational excellence and progressive marketing. One element of its marketing program is especially noteworthy - adopting our country’s disabled veterans as a way of saying thanks and reaping rewards for the company along the way.

Last year Thompson celebrated Veteran’s Day by hosting a Veteran’s Day Breakfast for military veterans. At the breakfast, it presented a check to the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) for $22,470 - a portion of Thompson’s profits from Aug. 1 through Sept. 30 that was the focal point of a “Disabled American Veterans Campaign.” The 1.2 million-member DAV is a nonprofit organization founded in 1920 to represent this nation’s disabled vets.

More than 100 military veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan attended the complimentary breakfast, held at Thompson’s headquarters. In a PR coup, two major network news stations broadcasted live from the event.

Thompson’s owner, Wesley Holm, conceived the program in honor of military veterans everywhere, dedicating it especially to his father, father-in-law and Thompson employ-ees who have served. “Thompson Plumbing, Heating and Cooling is proud to financially support these heroes who have helped keep our country free and safe, precisely at a time when others are cutting back on charitable giving,” said Holm.

“This is an incredible contribution at a time when our nation’s disabled veterans and their families need our services more than ever,” said DAV’s National Headquarters Executive Richard Patterson. His assistant, Marc Burgess, attended the breakfast and accepted the check on the DAV’s behalf, noting that it was one of their largest individual contributions.

Thompson PHC is doing it again this year, and every year from now on, Holm told me. This year’s goal is to raise $25,000 for the DAV. (Persons wishing to make a contribution to the DAV may do so via Thompson’s Web site at

The company also latched on to an equally good cause by sponsoring the Freedom Concert. Since 2003, the Freedom Concert Series has raised millions of dollars for the Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund, which provides scholarship money to the children of military personnel who have lost their lives in service to our country.

In a telephone conversation, Holm gushed about the widespread support his veterans’ initiatives have received from the news media and his community at-large. Thompson’s robust performance in a miserable recessionary year ought to raise some eyebrows about the potential of charitable marketing as a business tool. The positive publicity he received was priceless - yet free. “But this fundraising event was really about the heroes who have made incredible sacrifices to ensure our freedom. A company like Thompson could not thrive and succeed in any other country in the world,” said Holm.

He told me a big reason the event went over so well was holding it on the more subdued Veteran’s Day rather than our widely celebrated patriotic holidays when people are distracted by weekend getaways and cookouts. On Memorial Day or Independence Day the breakfast likely would have been overshadowed by parades and government ceremonies and barely noted by the news media.

Giving to charitable causes is worthwhile in its own right, yet nothing is wrong with doing it in a way that also benefits your business. Opportunities are available in every community to do well for your business by doing good for others.

Years ago I wrote of a PHC company that gave away free CO detectors as a promotion, and a local TV station treated it like a public service announcement. They sent a camera crew to a customer’s home and interviewed one of the firm’s service technicians about the dangers of CO gas and how to prevent it.

Other companies, including Thompson, have donated service agreements to PBS stations to auction off as part of their annual fund-raising drives. Opportunities are endless. Of course, some causes are more worthy than others, and to my way of thinking, Thompson’s ranks near the top.