When outgoing President Robert Armistead spoke at MCAA’s convention in March in Maui, he said his mechanical contracting company had to make some tough choices in the last couple years.

When outgoing PresidentRobert Armisteadspoke at MCAA’s convention in March in Maui, he said his mechanical contracting company had to make some tough choices in the last couple years. Many other contractors have had to do the same.

Here are the adjustments Armistead Mechanical made:
  • Devote more time and effort to strategic business development and positioning within the marketplace than in prior years;

  • Focus on winning the right type of work;

  • Focus on process improvements to take productivity and efficiency to the next level; and

  • Place great importance on leadership and taking care of its people.

“Many of our younger employees had never experienced the ugly side of the business cycle,” Armistead said. “Keeping them motivated and engaged through these challenges has been vital to having a successful company coming out of the recession.

“Leadership through educating, motivating, supporting and encouraging our people has been, and will continue to be, our top priority.”

Helping Armistead Mechanical through the dark days of the last two years, he said, was its membership in the Mechanical Contractors Association of America. Armistead compared MCAA to an extended family that has open communication, a sense of shared involvement, mutual interdependence and helpfulness.

Starting on page 32 of this month’s issue, we’re publishing our annual listing of trade associations, best practices groups and franchises. We feel it’s important to let you know about the industry’s organizations that can further your education, assist your personal and professional development and help improve your business operations. They can help you make the tough decisions that Armistead Mechanical had to make.

As someone who has covered the plumbing industry for 21 years, I learned a long time ago that the goals of the best of these groups line up well with the goals of a good trade magazine such as PM. We both try to raise the level of the industry by sharing ideas and information.

Trade associations such as MCAA, Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors - National Association and Radiant Professionals Alliance offer technical training, political advocacy or both. Best practices groups such as Plumbers’ Success International, Nexstar Network and Quality Service Contractors provide business-related systems and resources.

In MCAA’s case, Armistead said the association continued to provide education to its members during the recession to help them meet challenges and identify new opportunities. He specifically mentioned programs on BIM and green buildings, which will position MCAA members to take advantage of the recovery in the nonresidential construction market.

You can find another example of an organization helping contractors in an interview that appears herefrom month’s issue. Nexstar President and CEOGreg Niemitalks about a new online learning tool that will help residential service contractors expand their businesses.

 In addition to the structured education these groups offer, many members find an even greater value in learning from one another. Through peer groups, online bulletin boards, email messages, phone calls and private conversations at annual meetings, contractors can exchange solutions to challenges they share in their individual markets.

Contracting companies that stayed involved in their outside organizations during the recession will benefit from their investment as the economy recovers. We encourage contractors that still are going it alone to explore the benefits these groups offer to them.