BOSTON — With the city of Boston as an appropriate backdrop, Contractors 2000 held its 22nd Super Meeting in order to celebrate freedom. The session underscored the freedoms and advantages that come with being an independent contractor. Over 280 members of the organization attended the three-day event, which offered a number of workshops and learning opportunities for contractors and service managers who want to continue thriving in the service industry.

Greg Niemi, president of Contractors 2000, said that the Super Meetings are designed to provide members with the information and networking they need to strengthen their companies. But it’s not all about workshops and seminars. Niemi said that Contractors 2000 aims to provide an event that reminds contractors of their success.

“The annual meeting is really a celebration of our membership,” said Niemi. “We want to have an event where members not only network and learn, but a free space where they can re-energize from the daily routine of the business.”

John Pankratz, owner of Elite Electric Inc., works through his financial statements during “What’s the Score? Using Your Financial Information to Call the Plays.”

Freedom In Business

The theme for this year’s Super Meeting was “Freedom to Explore New Directions.”

During the opening session of the meeting, Niemi spoke to the participants and reminded them of the freedoms they have when it comes to business, including the freedom to develop a profitable and goal-oriented company. He reminded the audience that these freedoms flourish when contractors continue to learn how to perfect their business.

Niemi wasn’t the only one to address the audience on this point.

Marketing expert and business consultant Joe Calloway was one of this year’s keynote speakers. Calloway’s message at the meeting was “become the brand of choice.”

He explained that contractors and business owners need to take a look at their companies and decide what differentiates them from the competition.

“We go to the marketplace with tremendous sameness,” he said.

To change this, Calloway urged members to develop and promote the services that will set them apart in the minds of customers. He also told them to be ambitious in this endeavor.

“Don’t be the standard of service for your industry,” he said. “Be the standard of service for everyone.”

Calloway was followed by Brian Beaulieu, economist from the Institute for Trend Research. Beaulieu provided the members with real facts about where the economy is and where it is going. He also cleared up popular myths and misconceptions of what indicates a downturn in the economy and what turns it around. Beaulieu also advised the contractors of when to invest in their business and spend the money in order to grow.

Larry Winget was the final keynote speaker, closing out the event.

Winget, known as the “Pitbull of Personal Development,” addressed the audience with a no-nonsense message on how to improve business, as well as improve one’s personal life.

Winget explained to the audience that a business only improves when the people inside the business choose to improve.

Bill Raymond, owner and member of Frank & Lindy Plumbing & Heating Service, discusses implementation techniques with Nita Chaplin, service manager for Hornaday, All Systems Go. Raymond was the instructor in a preconference course on implementations titled “Build Wings on Your Vision and Make It Fly.”

Freedom To Learn

While the keynote speakers provided the motivation to succeed, the workshop classes available during the event gave members the opportunity to learn various ways to succeed.

Four pre-conference workshops were held the day before the official kickoff of the meeting. Members had the choice to attend one of the four all-day courses.

Two of the courses presented the ins and outs of financial stability and financial success, while the two other courses tackled the issues of realizing goals and implementing the plans that will help achieve that goal.

John Edson presented “Breaking Past Your Break-even.” Edson has an accounting background, and has helped Contractors 2000 in the past, specifically with the organization’s Financial Survey and Internal Control Checklist.

Edson educated the participants on the financial basics, including how to calculate the break-even costs of the company. Members had the opportunity to spend the day mapping out their own individual costs not only to determine where they break even, but what they need to charge in order to make a respectable profit.

Arnie Shaw, Contractors 2000 board member and owner of Centennial Plumbing & Heating, presented a session titled “What’s the Score? Using Your Financial Information to Call the Plays.”

In the course, Shaw built on the basics that Edson presented, providing members with further information designed to help them grow their business and go beyond breaking even. Shaw encouraged members not only to look at their day-to-day expenses, but the financial expenses over time, including liabilities, assets, bank loans, and more.

For those who wanted to realize their business goals and how to attain them, Bill Raymond, president of Frank & Lindy Plumbing & Heating Service, presented “Build Wings on Your Vision and Make It Fly.”

Raymond’s seminar was short on the lecture, heavy on the hands-on learning. Participants were asked to reveal what they want from their businesses. They were then taken through the process of mapping out how to achieve the goal, what is needed to get there, and how to avoid the pitfalls that come along with pursuing positive change.

Raymond emphasized the idea that if you want change, you have to do more than try — you have to actually do it.

The final pre-conference seminar was presented by John Pope. Pope, owner of the John Pope Company, presented “Boldly Go Where You Want To Go.”

Like Raymond’s seminar, Pope showed participants how to create a vision plan. This included envisioning a goal and then realizing what steps must be taken to make the dream a reality. Pope also took the time to explain to C2000 members that they must not forget to confront priorities and issues that must be taken care of on the way to accomplishing goals.

Sharing What Works

More workshops were presented after the opening session. Six breakout sessions ran the remaining half-day and confronted specific business issues.

Most of the instructors for this round of workshops passed on lessons they learned while in the business and in the industry. For example, Dave Smith and Rick Green, acquisition consultants from Marathon Partners LLC, presented a seminar titled “Lessons From Guys Who Learned The Hard Way.”

Green and Smith provided information on what business owners need to know when deciding to buy another company and detailed the mistakes to avoid.

Steve Howard, president of the ACT Group, called on his experience in the industry to present “Cultivating Lifetime Customers.” Howard is a veteran instructor for C2000, and gave members the tips and practices they need to keep and retain customers for a long time.

Money and finances were again an issue during the breakout sessions. Edson returned to present “Red Flags and Sticky Fingers,” which gave members the information they need to make sure that their business does not become a victim of fraud and theft. Sally Field, president of Sky’s the Limit Coaching and Consulting, brought up the issue of liability insurance during “Holding Down the Lid on Business Insurance Costs.”

Al Levi, president of Appleseed Business, presented “The Keys to Freedom From Daily Routines.” Levi shared his experiences as a manager and business owner, and gave members tips on how they can streamline daily operations in order to spend more time on the big picture of the company.

Finally, ad strategist Steve Smith and ad designer Ron Strauss conducted the course “Turn Yellow Page Ads Into Eye Magnets.” Smith and Strauss shared their expertise in what to do and what not to do when creating Yellow Pages ads.

The instructors and keynote speakers were not the only ones sharing what works for them. Members also spent a great deal of time educating each other. One example is C2000’s The Exchange. Over the past several months, several C2000 members contributed marketing strategies, employment and business ads, office procedures, or anything else that has been beneficial to their businesses. Over 40 companies contributed their business ideas for The Exchange. All of these ideas were then put together on one CD-ROM and distributed to all members attending the event.

The Exchange, the networking of ideas, and learning from others is, according to Niemi, the basis of C2000. “We’ve created a culture of community where people are willing to share,” he said.

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Sidebar: Contractors 2000 To Strengthen Member Services

During the Contractors 2000 Super Meeting, held recently in Boston, the organization aimed to inspire members to envision their goals and lay the foundation to bring those goals to fruition.

Greg Niemi, president of the contractor group, addressed this year’s participants and announced that C2000 would be following its own advice. In the next few years, C2000 will undergo a number of transformations, which Niemi said will ultimately strengthen curriculum, image, and the member base.

“We will re-examine all of our content, schools, and Web site, and offer more direction and opportunities for our advanced members,” Niemi said.

He explained that its current educational offerings have been a tremendous success, but the organization would like to find a way to make it even easier to use. Part of this will come in a planned revamping of the C2000 Web site. Niemi said that his goal is to make all C2000 information and resources available exclusively for members via the Web.

Also, there will be more perks for C2000 members. In the near future, members will have the opportunity to use the C2000 seal of approval in their marketing. This benefit will be available to those who take part in the group’s customer service, financial, and employee satisfaction survey programs. This will not only create more visibility for contractors, but also for the organization.

With increased visibility, C2000 plans to recruit more members. There are currently 280 member companies of C2000. Niemi said that he would like to see this number double over the next five years.

These are lofty goals for the organization, but Niemi said that the staff and board are up to the challenge. In fact, a group has been put together to oversee the transformations set to take place over the next several years.

— James J. Siegel

Publication date: 05/26/2003