Before the polls even opened in the Detroit area, at 7 a.m. on Election Day, I was flying into Chaska, MN, to attend an event put on by an organization that I knew nothing about. (Just for the record, I did do my civic duty and voted by absentee ballot.)

At this ungodly hour of the morning, I was in flight to attend a four-day seminar called “Boot Camp,” put on by Contractors 2000. “Full Metal Jacket” being the most prominent military movie in my mind, I did not know what to think about this assignment. Were they really going to make contractors run a field course, outside in the freezing cold of Minnesota? Were they nuts?

Keep in mind, my only idea of the military comes from movies, television specials, and news coverage of the Gulf War (I was twelve at the time). But somehow I always thought I had a pretty good idea of what went on in the Marine Corps, Navy, Army, Air Force, or Coast Guard. I was certain boot camp was just a name to draw people in.

Maybe that is why when I walked in, saw the chalked lines on the floor, drill instructors set up behind tables, men and women dressed in camouflage, a military cadence playing in the background, and a barber sharpening his tools, I thought I had just walked in on a joke.

I could not have been more wrong.

In the wilds of Minnesota, outside of the Twin Cities, 34 people from 22 hvacr, plumbing, and electrical contracting firms came together to listen and learn ways to improve their business. Through an intense class regiment, attendees tackled such topics as business planning, marketing strategies, ethics, and so much more. For more details, please check this week’s page 1 article.

I, for one, will never forget the experience. Lisa Bogart, of Brasington Plumbing and Heating, Columbia, SC, was more adamant.

“I have become wiser, clearer, and feel a greater sense of confidence in management of our firm,” she said, before leaving.

The first thing that hit me was the intensity that came in waves from the boot camp instructors. Because most of the facilitators have been through the program themselves, they knew its value. It was obvious that they genuinely wanted to help every contractor succeed.

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

Close-Knit Platoon

The second thing that hit me was how much like a boot camp Contractors 2000 tried to make it, without the habitual negativity that I associate with the armed forces. None of the participants actually drove from the airport to the convention center. In truth, attendees were isolated, which forced the small group together for activities and company.

This close-knit setup was great because attendees gathered information not only from the instructors, but from each other, too. Each shared detailed experiences, both good and bad. No one was afraid to tell the group that he/she was having a difficult time. No one held back on giving advice, either.

Camaraderie was evident almost from the beginning. Each had fun ribbing the people who received a potato, the prize received when a boot camp rule was broken. If your cellular phone went off, you received a potato. If you came in late for a session, a potato was there to peel.

One thing that everyone shared was this desire (or need) to make their respective businesses — and lives — better. It was such a good feeling, and so many positive things came out of the entire experience, that by the end of the week I was ready to join.

Yeah, they really pump you up.

I now know more about the people responsible for this educational and emotional event, Con-tractors 2000. This 280-member contractor organization is the brainchild of Frank Blau, of Blau Plumbing and Heating, Milwau-kee, WI, and George Brazil, of George Brazil Services, Yorba Linda, CA. I highly recommend that you visit their website ( to learn more about all of its programs. In my eyes, they have a good thing going.

I was surprised to find out that this organization does not make money. Membership dues go toward furthering the organization, or for supplies for members. The two men who started this organization did not do so to make money. Instead, they put their heads together in hopes to help contractors implement the right business strategies, make money, and be happy.

They make no promises. Nothing can be 100% when it involves a consumer base and technicians that may not always be willing to change. What they do is give you, the contractor, the tools with which you can make a change. It is up to you what you do with them.

Liegl is news and legislation/regulations editor. She can be reached at 248-244-6454; 248-362-0317 (fax); or (e-mail).