ST. LOUIS, MO — With one eye on the consolidation movement and the other on the future of independent contractors, hvacr visionary Jim Abrams has launched a network of independent hvacr contractors called AirTime 500.

Abrams told contractors assembled at the first AirTime 500 contractor meeting on Feb. 19 in St. Louis, that the organization’s goal is to build “a learning organization of cooperation, collaboration, and focus,” designed to help members achieve market dominance and rapidly expand their wealth.

Abrams, a cofounder of Contractors Success Group (CSG) along with John Young (which they later sold to Service Experts), has kept an interest in the plight of independent contractors but had signed a two-year no-compete agreement with Service Experts.

When those two years expired, he was ready to move ahead.

Way to wealth

“After seeing what has been going on in the industry, I came to the conclusion that putting different disciplines under one roof was the incorrect way of doing business,” he said.

“I believe that a group focused on one discipline” — in this case, residential service — “has the greatest source of success.”

AirTime 500 will focus on improving the independent residential service contractor’s share of the marketplace. Abrams said that contractors will learn new marketing techniques and explore various advertising mediums.

A new turnkey marketing program, MindShare™ marketing, was created by advertising and public relations experts and will feature campaigns customized to four climate regions, Abrams said.

Business training for contractors

The organization will also hold biannual classes for sales, management, and service personnel under the auspices of its New Millennium Institute. Employees can learn about successful sales techniques, technician communication, and management directions.

Another benefit of membership is group buying power. Member contractors will be able to benefit from the purchasing clout of several-hundred businesses. “We would like this benefit to cover the cost of the membership fees,” added Abrams.

Members also will have access to leading industry consultants, he said, including former CPAs who can help contractors find ways to run their businesses more efficiently and profitably.

“We will also ‘dot-com’ your business,” he said. “We will set up an Internet web page as part of membership, and we will chip in for the cost of hosting contractors’ web pages as well as the cost of setting up the web engines.

“We are putting our money where our mouths are. We have figured out a way to bring on-time service to our [residential service] customers. They can log onto the Internet, visit a member’s Web site, and immediately schedule a service appointment.”

Lots of interest

Abrams said his organization initially put out a single direct-mail piece to more than 11,000 contractors. Two hundred responded that they were interested and of that, 110 owners registered for the five-day seminar in St. Louis. Foul weather kept some away, but 96 owners showed up and 79 eventually signed up for membership.

Gary Weeks, owner of Weeks Service, Galveston Bay, TX, was among the first to sign up. He is quoted in an AirTime 500 press release as saying, “We joined CSG in 1992 and have grown our business six-fold since then. I’m looking to AirTime to take us to the next level.

“It’s important to stay one-up on our competition. What Jim and John have done for us in the past has worked really well, and I think they’ve got the creativity and the business insight to take us into the future.”

Young and Abrams are cofounders of Comfort Indoor Act (The News, Nov. 15, 1999). They also formed Plumbers Success International and TravelNow, an executive travel agency. Abrams said that membership in other organizations under their VenVest venture capital company virtually ensures contractors of an inexpensive entry into AirTime 500.

The initial membership fee is $20,000 but the first 150 contractors to sign up will receive a discounted package. Abrams said he hopes to have 500 contractors eventually, and he plans on doing things a little differently from CSG.

“We believe that selling CSG to Service Experts was a mistake,” he said. “AirTime 500 will remain free to serve the independent contractors. It will continue to increase in value.

“We are serving one niche market: residential service.”

For more information, contact VenVest at 800-524-1954.