In truth, I cannot recall the name of the reporter, but I believe he was from a Sarasota, Fla., newspaper. He contactedThe News, looking to find out more regarding One Hour Air Conditioning and Heating, a national franchise organization that is being funded by VenVest Inc. One of his questions took me by surprise.

“So, why is this industry so fragmented?” he asked.

In truth, that is the $6 million question. It ranks right up there with questions like:

  • “What is the attraction to tattoos?”

  • “Why can’t we eliminate cancer?”

  • “Who are the top residential contractors in the replacement market?”

  • “Who are the top residential contractors in the new construction market?”

    The News Wants You

    Regarding those last two questions, The News is in the midst of trying to nail down that information for our Sept. 8 issue. It seemed easy enough to do, but … well, when it comes to identifying incomes, residential contractors — generally speaking — shy away from spilling the beans. They do not mind boasting, but when it comes time to placing those numbers in print … well …

    We believe we have a way of getting around this apprehension, but it is not necessarily the easiest route.

    We obtained the list of the top 1,000 contractors, as compiled by Dunn and Bradstreet. This list is based purely on income. And that’s OK. It’s a starting point, a base to work from. Now part of the task involves sorting out who is actually a residential contractor, as opposed to a predominantly commercial or industrial contractor.

    The way we interpret this, if more than 50 percent of your total annual sales volume comes from residential work, then you qualify as being a “residential” contractor. If you fall in that category, then our next task is to find out what percentage of your total residential sales is from replacement/retrofit/add-on, and how much is from new construction.

    This is where it is getting a little hairy.

    First of all, it can be tough getting a qualified person to discuss financial matters on the phone. As we are finding out, such a call is usually passed on to the owner, who may not be available the first time we call. Or, the second. Or, the third. Patience is a virtue, isn’t it?

    So, we continue our search for the Top 50 Residential Replacement Contractors and the Top 50 Residential New Construction Contractors.

    Time To Participate

    If you believe you are one of the top residential guns in the industry — Hey, don’t be shy. Be proud! — we ask that you fill out the survey on our Web site, On the home page, just click on “Top Residential Contractors” under the survey heading. After all, there is a chance we might not reach you by phone. So, if you think you belong to the elite, let us know right away. The deadline is Aug. 8.

    Again, we’ll need your company’s 2002 total sales volume. To be classified as a “residential” contractor, more than 50 percent of that income has to come from residential work. We will then need to know what percentage of your residential sales came from replacement/retrofit/add-on work and what percentage came from new construction.

    In the survey, we will also need your name, title, and contact number. We also will need your e-mail address, but please know that the contact information is gathered for internal use only. If your company should qualify as one of the top residential contracting companies in the United States, one of our editors may be contacting you further for more information and possibly setting up some photos.

    Yes, we want to make a big splash in the Sept. 8 issue. We want to relay to our readers how the successful contractors became successful, what they did to reach the top, and what “words of wisdom” each can pass along to those looking to climb the financial ladder.

    Don’t be shy.

    (By the way, why is this industry so fragmented? I did not have a good reason for the reporter. Do you?)

    Mark Skaer is editor-in-chief. He can be reached at 248-244-6446, 248-362-0317 (fax), or

    Publication date: 07/21/2003