Let’s see. I now know who the worst actor is — and the honor goes to Dennis Rodman. I also know the best and worst movies ever made (“It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Xanadu,” respectively).

I now know that I should smile and use my imagination more — and that I should decrease or eliminate consuming red meats, dairy products, and alcohol.

Finally, I now know I never, ever want to actually climb Mt. Everest. I heard all that I wanted to hear about that mountain from Dr. Seaborn Beck Weathers.

And, to think, I learned all of the above at a contractor group meeting.

Huh? What?


To be exact, all of the above was revealed — plus tons more — at the recent International Service Leadership (ISL) Performance Planning Retreat 2001, held May 1-3 at the Rio Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV.

Let me apologize now to all contractor groups presently out there. I know I have not attended each and every one of your contractor group meetings. However, because I have attended ISL’s first-ever group meeting, I can comment on what I saw. And I did leave impressed with what the ISL team accomplished over a few session-packed days. Let’s just say I saw the future of contractor group meetings — and ISL might just be setting the pace.

In this case, the over 1,000 attendees (and that figure is definitely accurate) had the opportunity to get filled in on encouragement selling and the future of home comfort surveys. They learned how to establish a summer challenge and participated in informative breakout sessions on such topics as budgeting and pricing, selling value, motivation, and “preparing the customer.”

The News will provide a thorough report on this first-ever ISL event in future issues. I truly believe News readers could learn from what was said and done at this three-day event.

And, that’s what The News is all about: Providing information the contractor can use. That’s our promise.


What set the ISL event apart from some other meetings I’ve had the pleasure of attending is that this meeting had…well… entertainment mixed in perfectly with the serious issues.

For instance, Jim Whelan, ISL’s director of training, gave an inspiring talk, comparing climbing Mt. Everest to running a contracting business and life. What must be pointed out here is that Whelan caught the crowd’s attention right off the bat by having all imagine they were in heaven and then telling each and everyone what they missed on Earth. (He then revealed what were voted “the best and worst” in regard to movies, music, food, and beer.)

Speaking of beer, to conclude the first full day of events, “ultimate performance”coach/speaker Joseph McClendon III informed the crowd to stay away from alcohol and other “bad things.” McClendon did not necessarily provide the keys to building or maintaining a strong contracting firm. Instead, he zeroed in on each individual in the crowd to improve, providing what he referred to as the “A, B, C, D, E’s of Energy.”


ISL squeezed in more than enough information for contractors to digest and bring back with them. With ISL coach Tom (“Let me hear you say, ‘Bam!’”) Wittman providing the direction, general managers learned about reaching a new level of customer service. Even technicians had their breakout sessions — and ISL coach Dennis Mondul put each to the task by doing some important role-playing.

The theme for this performance planning retreat was “Peak Performance.” Yes, Mt. Everest, in all of its huge glory, consumed the stage’s backdrop.

Of course, the topper was Weathers’ grand finale. He described — in very emotional detail — the night of May 10, 1996, when a violent storm swept over Mt. Everest. Among the climbers severely injured by the spring storm was Dr. Weathers, a 49-year-old amateur climber who, lying unconscious and exposed on the mountain’s icy rocks, had been left for dead. Miraculously, Dr. Weathers lived to tell his tale of survival.

Weathers received a standing ovation from ISL members, including the contingent from Ken Wipple Plumbing and Heating. This Salt Lake City, UT, business brought at least 40 employees to Sin City. I’m betting the employees learned far more than they gained financially from those money-swallowing slot machines.

In Las Vegas, all bets are on.

Skaer is editor-in-chief. He can be reached at 248-244-6446, 248-362-0317 (fax); skaerm@bnp.com (e-mail).

Publication date: 5/21/2001