Sister cities: You’ve probably heard of the concept. That’s where a U.S. city is paired up with a city from another country. The two become “sisters,” sharing ideas and cultures, possibly sending citizens to visit each city as a friendly gesture and to learn more about a foreign community.

Wouldn’t it be great if contractors could develop their own “sister contractor” program? To be politically correct, I’d suggest a “fellow contractor” program.

Here’s how the idea would work:

Pick an area on a U.S. map that you are unfamiliar with. Let’s say you own a business in Orlando, FL, and you don’t know much about Boise, ID, but you’d like to know more about this part of the country. Try looking up a local heating-cooling contractor in Boise and ask them if they’d like to become a fellow contractor with your company.

How to Find Your Fellow

My suggestion would be to get on the Internet and use your “Search” function. Look up businesses under the categories heating and cooling contractors, heating contractors, air conditioning contractors, refrigeration contractors, and/or sheet metal contractors. Type in Boise, ID and wait for your list. You may have to tweak the category names a bit, but you’ll eventually get a listing of Boise-area contractors.

I used heating contractors and came up with 51 listings in Boise.

Next, pick a few names off the list (in case the first ones don’t want to become a fellow contractor). Give each a call and suggest the idea of partnering to exchange ideas about each other’s business. Maybe you’ve a way to market your business that the other company hasn’t heard of, a pricing plan that adds a few bucks to the bottom line, or a new diagnostic tool that service techs are crazy about.

Set up a joint newsletter and write about engagements, new babies, or the forthcoming company picnic. Use the “fellowship newsletter” to talk about your community, or use it to just plain chat.

Other contractors do it, but they use a different forum. In some circles, this is known as networking, where contractors from around the country join a MIX Group to swap ideas and form lasting friendships. I’d call the fellowship a scaled-down version of a MIX Group.

You may even want to look up an area of the country that hasn’t been affected by consolidation, utility acquisition, or whose contractors don’t belong to any national organizations such as ACCA, SMACNA, or PHCC, to name a few. (You can find this out by visiting the websites of these organizations and looking up their member locations.) Find out why they operate the way they do.

I envision an hvacr contractor from a large metropolitan area hooking up with a similar business in a smaller rural area and swapping ideas. It’s true that a business practice that works in a community of 500,000 people might not work in a town of 10,000 people, but it would be fun to compare.

Your relationship with the fellow contractor may eventually lead to visits to each other’s community. Or, if you can’t make a visit in person, you can invite them to chat in our HVACR Forum at

I know it’s a busy time of year, but for only a few minutes a day or even a week, you might open up a whole new world of understanding, friendship, and just plain fun. If one idea you swapped made a positive difference in your everyday routine, wouldn’t it be worth having a fellow contractor?

And here is one more carrot for the taking. If your new fellow contractor doesn’t subscribe to The News, let me know and I’ll send him or her a month’s worth of magazines — free.

Publication date: 08/28/2000