Linc Corp.: Linking Up Commercial Contractors

April 11, 2001
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There’s probably a lot of ways to describe the Linc Corp. To borrow from a description on the company’s website, Linc Corp. is a “business format franchiser of an operating system known as the Linc System®…which provides a worldwide network of comprehensive preventive maintenance and service programs.”

If that’s a mouthful, company president and ceo Brad Petzold has a more simplified version. “We are a network of independent contractors and we provide virtually everything the contractor needs to be successful in providing innovative solutions in commercial hvac service.”

He added that many of the Linc Service® contractors are also into other markets such as new construction and residential service, but the Linc System is focused mainly on commercial service.

The Linc Corp. is an Enron Facility Services (EFS) company headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA. The parent company of EFS is Enron, the nation’s third largest mechanical contractor with approximately $60 billion in energy and communications assets. Enron touts itself as “the world’s largest independent gas and electricity marketer.”



Maintenance Network

The Linc System is used by the Linc Service Network of locally-owned franchises (115 currently) to deliver hvac services and preventive maintenance programs for the following systems:

  • Hvac equipment;
  • Refrigeration management;
  • Air filtration, distribution, and balance;
  • Water treatment;
  • Piping, plumbing, and sheet metal;
  • Building automation; and
  • Energy management.
  • “We view ourselves as champions of the whole concept of preventive maintenance because we strongly believe in its merits and how it benefits both contractors and property owners in all of our markets,” Petzold said.

    “Our growth has been varied. Growth of individual contractors in our network has been strong, averaging around 15% network-wide in recent years and considerably higher in certain regions.

    “We’ve added some real good contractors and lost some to consolidators and utilities. The overall scope has been relatively even.”

    Petzold said it is hard to generalize about the “average” Linc contractor. “Size varies from small contractors, focused solely on service who are doing $1-2 million a year, all the way up to some doing $100 million a year,” he said.

    Pam Billet, director of marketing for Linc, added, “Some of our contractors have single locations and others have multiple locations. Some of our contractors are cold starts, having never had a service department, while others only had small service departments. These people felt they needed to learn the business side of the service business.”

    Joining the team of Linc contractors often comes through an initial call from Linc. “Historically, we have sought out contractors, looking for the most qualified contractor in each of the major metropolitan marketplaces in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and other countries,” Petzold said.

    “We have invited them to join our network through a franchise agreement. More recently we have gone into markets where we are not represented and have held Linc seminars, inviting contractors to learn more about us and what it takes to become a franchisee.

    “We may go to 20 to 25 U.S. markets this year.”

    Petzold said his company’s focus is to promote the ability to grow a proactive maintenance-based network of contractors.



    Tackling The Tough Issues

    Two topics of interest to the hvacr community — worker hiring/training and utility competition — are always on the mind of Linc contractors. For example, Linc faces the problem of training and worker shortage head-on.

    “We provide direct recruiting at the Linc Corp. for our franchise members,” Petzold said. “This includes recruiting professional managers, salespeople, and operating managers.

    “We don’t provide direct recruiting for technicians but we do provide access to hvacjob.com and have developed training courses to help our franchises recruit technicians at the high school and technical school stage.

    “We are in a tight labor market and we will continue to focus on that problem.

    “Further down the line, we provide professional training, which is one of our greatest strengths. We offer training in all aspects of business, such as locating and recruiting personnel, and because of our professional preventive maintenance programs, we feel that a lot of technicians would prefer to work for a contractor who has a stable flow of work and who operates efficiently.”

    Petzold added that there are opportunities throughout the Linc network for people who aspire to move up on both a local and a regional basis. He said contractors encourage their people to grow with them and they often provide career path opportunities for them to do so.

    But if a situation arises where a Linc employee must relocate, there’s a good chance that a Linc contractor in the new area can use his or her services. Movement between locations, according to Petzold, is “based solely on the cooperation between each individual owner.”

    Another issue — utility competition — is also being addressed by Linc. The company has seen its contractors cooperate with local utilities on a “limited basis,” according to Petzold. He said that utilities in his company’s markets have been more interested in acquisition, and some of Linc’s contractors have been purchased by utilities.

    “But most of our contractors would prefer to grow their business and stay with our organization. Some are working with groups through our contacts with [Linc’s parent company] Enron.”

    Petzold believes that deregulation in the energy market will continue to change the hvac landscape, with utilities focusing on acquisition for growth. However, he believes that acquisitions through the consolidation movement have peaked and are no longer dominating the industry.

    The Linc Corp. would prefer to look to the future and the opportunities that are available through e-commerce. That’s one of the main reasons why the company recently announced a new website, lincservice.com, for its members.

    Developed by fourthchannel .com, a provider of e-business selling “solutions,” the website “enables franchisees to participate in Net meetings, collaborate and solve problems online, contribute to a knowledge base, access corporate resources and directories, and receive up-to-the-minute information on corporate events.”

    “We are developing a Web community for people to transact online and promote the competitiveness of their business,” added Petzhold.

    The website is part of Linc’s overall plan to step up its public relations and industry involvement.

    Billet summed it up for Linc and 2001: “This year will be a breakout year for us.”

    For more information, contact 412-359-2236; www.lincservice.com (website).

    Publication Date: 04/09/2001

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