Enlisting at Contractor Boot Camp

November 22, 2000
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The new batch of C-2000 recruits falls into line.
CHASKA, MN — All right, they knew it was called “Boot Camp,” but when the participants lined up the first day before drill instructors in uniform and witnessed a barber giving one gentleman a crewcut, they must have wondered exactly what they were in for. It turns out the military hairstyle was optional, but the boot camp for contractors put on by Contractors 2000 had an authentic feel to it, right from the start, which was run like an old-fashioned induction.

The new batch of C-2000 recruits included 34 people, representing 22 contracting companies from all over North America, and each had enlisted to learn from some of he best hvacr, plumbing, and electrical contractors in the business. These mentors functioned as drill instructors, leading participants through four days of intense instruction, often reinforcing lessons by chanting them in cadence as military music swelled. There might not have been pushups or an obstacle course, but there were wally-ball and floor hockey to release the tension after days crammed with classes, videotapes, and homework exercises. The process was designed to tear everything apart in order to rebuild it — like the military boot camp that was its inspiration. Only here, it was not an elite fighting force, but a better business that was the underlying goal.



Part of the instruction included target practice -with a Nerf TM dart gun.

Drill Instructors

Chosen because they have either been through the C-2000 experience, or because they are indeed the best at motivating people to understand a given subject, the drill instructors were there not only to give guidance, but to share their own stories.

Tim McGuire, Ed Wolfe Jr., Steve Reed, Bill Raymond, John Edson, Marla Coffin, and Greg Niemi made up the team that worked with the participating contractors over the four-day event. In addition, two speakers from The Friedman Group, Matt Smith and Lisa Whitehead, joined the fray during the last few days to discuss customer service and wrap up the sessions. The topics covered included business planning, marketing strategies, ethics, customer acquisition and retention, and increasing customer satisfaction. A principal focus was on improving profits, and sessions also explored understanding and controlling finances, implementing flat-rate pricing, and unleashing the salesperson in technicians.

“C-2000’s Management Boot Camp concentrates on the fundamental skills and tools that you need to build your business for profitability and growth,” said Bill Raymond, owner of Frank & Lindy Plumbing and Heating in Peekskill, NY. “For new members, it is getting started on the right path. Boot Camp is an absolute must-attend!”



Boot camp attendees participated in four days of instructional seminars.

KP Duty

Rules of decorum were strictly enforced, and tardiness and disobedience were met with instant punishment. Those who were late for a meeting — or whose cell phone or pager caused a disruption — were promptly given a potato to peel.

In addition, a total is kept for the four days of camp, and the recruit offending the drill instructor the most during that period actually receives a prize. This time the winner was Joe Chickachop, owner of Chick-A-Chop Electrical Contractors, located in Cherry Hill, NJ, who walked off with a Mr. Potato Head to commemorate the experience.

One of the few electrical contractors attending boot camp, Chickachop said that he got a lot out of the sessions, and he is looking forward to implementing what he has learned.

“I see the hvac and plumbing industry as a tool that can be useful to me, as an electrician,” said Chickachop. “I know I can give and learn a lot about how to deal with customers, employees, and flat-rate pricing implementation through these contractors, even though they are not from my specific field. I am glad I had the experience.”



THE MISSION

Defined in manuals and emblazoned on corporate letterhead is the mission of C-2000: “To build a national, professional organization which on the aggregate owns the dominant position in its chosen markets by demanding, prescribing, and maintaining business operations at the highest measurable standards in the industry.”

Upon joining C-2000, new members are given a set of comprehensive materials and best practice manuals. The fundamentals of business finance and marketing make up the core subject matter, and the manuals are supplemented with classes, seminars, and meetings.

The first of such meetings is generally boot camp — for owners and key managers.

But before any of them set foot on Minnesota soil, they had homework to turn in, including background information on the company and financial data.

Why financial information? Well, the only way to determine the financial health of a company is to examine the numbers and do the math. In this case, drill instructors calculate what a contractor’s individual break-even point is, and give him or her the information needed to set pricing to their advantage.

Using a flat-rate pricing system is one of the main pillars of C-2000. Through its classes, books, meetings, and mentoring, the organization helps contractors put together flat-rate programs that will work for their individual business.

War Stories

Brett Lascko, of Lascko Plumbing & Mechanical in Muskegon, MI, member of C-2000 and recent boot camp attendee, said, “I have never seen so much information that is trade specific shared so openly. I could not have found this wealth of information at any price anywhere else.”

Lisa Bogart, of Brasington Plumbing & Heating in Columbia, SC, a member of C-2000, reflected on her recent boot camp experience. “Content and presentation were both educational and well presented,” she said. “Boot camp is terrific and a highly beneficial course of study. I have become wiser, clearer, and feel a greater sense of confidence in management of our firm.”

According to Greg Niemi, C-2000’s director of development, all of the C-2000 schools are rated by the attendees. “Everything from topics, to materials, to the support team is rated. Our average score out of a 5.0 is 4.64. We are very proud of it.”

Drill instructor Raymond summed it up this way: “A lot of effort goes into making these camps and seminars go smoothly. The success of the programs rely heavily on the quality of people running C-2000, and contractor success makes being an instructor worthwhile.”

One of the reasons many give for attending boot camp is to make their business better. When asked why contractors come, Raymond replied, “To see change. You cannot do the same thing you have been doing in running your business, because it is obviously not working. Behavior must change or nothing else will.”

The important thing to remember, according to Niemi, is that programs like boot camp can give business owners and employees the inspiration and motivation to succeed. “The difference between you and your competition is good people. They can copy your trucks, your uniforms, anything except for your people.”

However, Niemi cautions that “there is no guarantee for success. It all comes down to who wants it, and who wants to take the lead. We give you the tools; it is up to you what you do with them.”

For more information, contact Contractors 2000 at 2179 4th Street, St. Paul, MN, 55110; 651-426-2000; 651-426-0821 (fax); info@contractors2000.com (e-mail); or www.contractors2000.com(website).



Sidebar: MCAA Wins Award

ROCKVILLE, MD — The Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA) has been honored with a 2000 Award of Excellence in Education Certificate from the American Society of Association Executives for its National Education Initiative (NEI).

The NEI provides a variety of educational courses and delivery systems, emphasizing local delivery at reasonable cost.

The MCAA’s NEI entry will be displayed at the Management and Technology 2000 Conference, to be held December 10-12 in Washington, DC.

For more information about the NEI, contact Dennis Langley at dennis@mcaa.org (e-mail).

Publication date: 11/27/2000

Sidebar: C-2000: The Seeds of Revolution

Frank Blau of Blau Plumbing & Heating in Milwaukee, WI, and George Brazil of George Brazil Services in Yorba Linda, CA, met at a national trade convention in San Francisco, CA, in the late 1980s, and the first-ever service and repair committee for a trade association was born.

Blau and Brazil saw an industry that was ailing, and they both thought that flat-rate pricing was the key to restoring its health. “The whole idea behind their frustration was simple,” said Greg Niemi, director of development for Contractors 2000. “People in the industry were not making money, they were staying down at this low level. They talked about how nice it would be if there was a college they could send people to, in order for them to learn how to utilize a flat-rate program.”

Those who have reaped the rewards that come from commitment to learning within C-2000 are chosen to lead programs such as boot camp. Stretching across the United States, into Canada, and across the Pacific Ocean to Australia, C-2000’s 280 members would freely tell anyone, given the chance, what the organization has enabled them to accomplish — a good living for them, their employees, and all of their families.

With most clubs or organizations, members pay dues and go to meetings, but rarely get involved with the success of the organization. With C-2000, members all have one thing in common, above and beyond wanting to make their businesses better — they are all shareholders in the organization. And the goal of the organization is not to make a profit.

“Every dollar spent is maintained by the members,” said Niemi. “Every member owns a share, and all of the money made through dues goes back into running the operation. Frank and George make no money from the organization. Nor do they make money from the countless seminars they hold. They simply do what they do to help people learn how to be in business.”

Evident in the organization’s literature, website (www.contractors2000.com), video and audiotapes, seminars, and peer groups, the message of business success is the driving force for the people involved in running C-2000.

Through seminars and financial workshops like the management boot camp, C-2000 aspires to mold contractors into better businessmen. “We have a school for every role in the service industry,” concluded Niemi.



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