Whether your business is an industry franchise or a small- to mid-sized independent entity, it’s difficult to succeed in today’s business world on your own. Employee payroll, insurance, building codes, taxes, state and federal regulations, marketing, training, customer service — plumbing and heating contractors have a lot of plates to spin to keep their employees productive and their businesses profitable.

The United States continues to deal with a slow-moving economy, but glimpses of growth in the housing industry are reasons to remain positive for plumbing and heating contractors. The key is to make sure contracting businesses use the best information available to streamline their businesses, train their employees and reach out to their customers.

Franchises have systems in place to help them in all aspects of their businesses. The International Franchise Association, in its Franchise Business Economic Outlook for 2013 (updated in March), says that franchises will continue to grow this year at a slightly faster rate than other businesses in terms of job creation, new business formation, economic output and gross domestic product contribution. The report adds that businesses in commercial and residential services have something to look forward to this year.

“With the accelerating improvement in the housing market, spending on home improvement is also growing more rapidly,” the report notes. “Spending on residential additions and alterations as recorded in the investment component of the GDP accounts was up 4.4% in nominal dollars in 2012, and we expect an 8% increase in 2013. Businesses associated with the broadly defined residential housing market can expect 2013 to be a better year than 2012.”

On the commercial side, vacancy rates in retail, industrial and commercial building are decreasing and investments have been made in new building construction as well as remodeling and retrofitting of existing facilities, the report says. Growth in spending is expected to slow to 2.9% in 2013 but then ramp up to double digits beginning in 2014.

Output of franchise businesses in commercial and residential service businesses expanded by 4.9% in 2012 and should grow by another 5.2% in 2013, the report predicts.

Independent plumbing and heating contractors can access similar processes and systems through the various groups listed on these pages. Some groups excel at marketing strategies and sales training, while others provide access to government sources and deal with national issues.

Whatever your situation, partnering with one or two of these groups can provide education and training on a variety of business topics to keep you focused on making your business profitable. Do your homework to find the best fit for your business philosophy.

Read the full article with the listings her in pdf form.