The Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors – National Association will install Keith Bienvenu of Bienvenu Brothers Enterprises as its president this month during its convention in Minneapolis. Plumbing & Mechanical recently interviewed Bienvenu about issues facing PHCC members and the plumbing industry.
Brothers Louis, Kirk, Vint and Keith Bienvenu represent the third generation of plumbers working in the New Orleans area. Their $1.6 million business primarily does service work, 60 percent residential and 40 percent commercial. The 14 employees include Keith Bienvenu’s daughter, Maria Landry, and nephews Louis Jr. and Vint Jr.
PM: Six years later, are plumbing contractors still getting work from the post-Hurricane Katrina recovery?
KB: Yes, there still is a lot of work in rebuilding to be accomplished. But now the secondary work is starting to be more prevalent. What I mean by secondary work is that we have to go back and make corrections on jobs that unqualified persons did in the initial recovery. We’re seeing inferior work done with noncode materials; for example, leaks where pipe was not glued properly.
PM: Looking at the national picture, is PHCC membership more important during a recession or a recovery?
KB: Membership in PHCC is important during a recession and a recovery. During bad times, it is extremely beneficial to know you have a network of contractors and national resources you can turn to for advice and support. As conditions improve, and you have questions on the best approach moving forward, that network and those resources are just as valuable.
We’re in recovery in south Louisiana, and only some of this has to do with Katrina. Our economy didn’t get hit as badly as other parts of the country.
PM: What are the top items on PHCC’s legislative agenda?
KB: This past summer we were working hard to keep our issues on the minds of Congress, which was consumed with the debt-ceiling increase. Now that debate is over, we can expect other measures to begin moving.
On a daily basis, we’re making sure PHC contractors’ voices are heard on these issues: the repeal of the estate tax; the repeal of the 3 percent withholding requirement on government payments to contractors; lead abatement regulations; and full funding for the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act because funding for technical education is drying up. Congress is focused on the advancement of small business, and I would expect that trend to continue throughout the rest of the 112th Congress.
In addition to our daily work in Washington, we’re also strongly encouraging PHCC members to contact their national legislators directly. We have an easy-to-use grassroots system in place through which PHCC members can contact their representatives and remind them of the significant contributions small businesses make to local, state and national economies. Whether through letter-writing, emails, phone calls or in-person meetings, this outreach has proved very successful. It has given PHCC enhanced visibility at a time when Congress has indicated it wants to hear from small businesses.
PM: Where do you see the greatest business opportunities for PHCC members this year and in 2012?
KB: The greatest business opportunities vary from region to region and company to company. These could include solar, geothermal, residential fire sprinklers, federal government work, energy- and water-conservation specialties and retrofits for the aging-in-place market. But overall, with the economic situation still so uncertain, PHCC is advising contractors to take this time to analyze their structure and practices to consider ways to streamline and improve operations for the “new normal.” Many of our members have done that already and, as a result, believe they are in good position for what the future brings.
At our company, we’re looking into residential fire sprinklers, which is a hot topic in Louisiana right now. The state fire marshal wants them. I serve on a committee that is trying to develop rules and regulations for residential fire sprinklers.
PM: How does PHCC help contractors take advantage of these opportunities?
KB: PHCC offers a wide range of educational opportunities on emerging technologies and business management topics. These include monthly free webinars that are becoming increasingly popular. Our website also offers valuable resources that are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
And at Connect 2011 in Minneapolis, there will be a comprehensive lineup of seminars and a Product & Technology Showcase developed especially for PHC contractors.
PM: If you had only one message to give to contractors who are not PHCC members, what would it be?
KB: Simple. It is that PHCC offers valuable business benefits and services that are not available if you are out there standing alone.
PM: How do PHCC members become recognized as the leaders in water conservation and energy efficiency?
KB: PHCC is making great strides in this area. In Washington, we are a respected partner and resource for federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency. We also have been very active developing energy and water conservation training for PHCC members.
Our contractor members are spreading the message that they are the experts in this area. As examples, they’re including their certifications and qualifications on their company materials and training their technicians to make sure customers know they can help them make good decisions about ways to save energy and water in their homes and businesses.
PM: Why did you decide to become one of the founding members of Quality Service Contractors?
KB: I was involved with PHCC’s Service and Repair Task Force before it officially became the Quality Service Contractors in January 1995. Our company was in a transition at the time from new construction to service and repair. I saw QSC as an opportunity to build relationships with the giants in the service-and-repair industry, and the decision has paid off tremendously.
PM: How does joining QSC, Construction Contractors Alliance or Union-Affiliated Contractors benefit PHCC contractors?
KB: Joining a PHCC enhanced group will give contractors added value to their PHCC experience. Every contractor has a specialty; these groups will bring the members in-depth information that enhances their regular PHCC investment. The groups offer services and in-depth studies that the average contractor can’t get.
PM: Why should younger contractors join PHCC?
KB: Networking and experience. It is hard to know everything as a young contractor starting out. Through membership in PHCC, there are literally thousands of hours of business experience, knowledge and training assistance from people who are willing to share information that will help. All these resources are at his or her disposal simply for the asking.