Contractors must love e-mailed newsletters. Why else would there be so many of them? Everyone from suppliers to marketing companies is generating electronic flyers targeting contractors.

Imagine e-mailed newsletters as shotguns of the information world. The sender aims the newsletter at a target group (contractors), and hopes that this week's blast hits home with a few of the readers. These shotgun blasts help a few, but the odds are against them helping contractors with the problems they are facing at the moment. That contractor struggling with a change order problem that has to be solved by 5 p.m. will not find much help in this week's newsletter about customer service.

In 2002, the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors - National Association (PHCC) Educational Foundation established a new "Contractor Resource Center" Web site at The new site was designed to serve as a launching point to quality business management tools and information, accessible to contractors on a 24 hour/7 day a week basis. In other words, a contractor facing an issue with employee retention can get direct access to an article with help on that topic, as they need it, when they need it.

For the last two years, Educational Foundation staff has sifted through industry e-mail newsletters, extracting only the most useful nuggets of information. With permission from the authors, these pre-filtered "best-of" tips are added to the Resource Center library each week. A search feature on the site helps visitors quickly find assistance on the topic they need and, unlike newsletters, these useful bits of information don't disappear into the deleted e-mail folder after a month.

Business owners facing the task of training a newly hired or promoted project manager are getting a hand with the newly added "Introduction to Project Management" online training course.

This training tool covers the basics of what every project manager should know in a creative package that combines video, audio, and slide shows, all viewable over an Internet connection - anytime, anywhere. Additional courses, including "Becoming the Eyes and Ears of Your Company" are scheduled for completion next year.

Other materials, including a Human Resource Bulletin, sample North American Technician Excellence (NATE) test questions, sample business forms, and other tools are also slated for addition to the site.

John Zink is the PHCC Educational Foundation's Director of Programs and Education.

Publication date: 11/29/2004