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The PHCC couldn’t ask for a better commercial on the benefits of belonging to the trade association than from its incoming president.
“I don’t know if our company would be here today if we hadn’t been a part of the PHCC, whether that was chapter, state or national,” David P. Frame, CEO, Bob Frame Plumbing Services Inc., South Bend, Ind., told us.
The union shop currently serves residential, commercial, municipal, and industrial clients in the northern Indiana, or “Michiana,” area.
David’s grandfather, Samuel Frame, opened Samuel Frame Plumbing in 1932 with one truck and one employee. Samuel died while only in his early-50s, which left David’s grandmother, Orpha Frame, to run the show until her two sons could take over what would become known as Frame Plumbing.
At some point, David’s father, Bob Frame, decided to go off into business for himself. By the 1980s, with David an experienced journeyman plumber working alongside his father, Bob decided to retire and hand the business off to his son.
“My dad’s succession plan was to throw the keys at me and say, you know where I live,” David adds. “That was like getting a handoff in a relay race with the baton hitting your back!”
He can laugh about it now, but David was all of 26 at the time, and while he knew all about fieldwork, he had zero office management experience.
“That’s where the biggest risk for the company was,” he adds. “It wasn’t our technicians. It wasn’t our office staff. It was me. So I knew right away I had to surround myself with very smart people.”
Fortunately, he already had a great crew coming out of UA Local 172. And while he credits a couple of local business people outside the PHCP field who mentored him, he started first getting involved in his local chapter of the Indiana PHCC and on it went from there.
“That saved me,” David adds. “It really did. I could talk to other contractors and get their opinions not only about how to run a contracting business, but who they were using for attorneys and accountants. Without that advice, I would have made dozens of very expensive mistakes on my own.”
David also credits Brenda Dant, executive director of the Indiana PHCC, with being a tremendous help, and says he still talks to her at least once a week.
“I still always run things by her to get her input,” he explains.
David has always given back to the PHCC, including serving as president of the St. Joseph Valley PHCC and the Indiana PHCC and many other related industry organizations over the years in too many leadership roles to list here. Notable recent leadership roles include chairman of the PHCC Insurance Safety and Risk Management Committee; member of the Federated Mutual Insurance Board of Directors; and chairman of the PHCC Union-Affiliated Contractors.
Accolades include being named the Indiana PHCC Contractor of Year Award in 2004. And at the 2013 PHCCCONNECT, the company received the Federated Insurance Safety First! Contractor of the Year Award.
Incidentally, the family’s commitment to trade associations continues with David’s son, Tyler M. Frame, president of the business, currently serving as the president of the Indiana PHCC. The business remains very much a family business with Tyler’s sister, Amanda Frame as vice president.PHC News: What are the top issues facing the plumbing and HVAC industry right now, and how is PHCC taking a leadership role to address those issues and challenges?
However, the networking through PHCC membership has definitely helped us. Normally, I bet 95 percent of our business came through one wholesaler. We’ve had to spread that out over the past couple of years and the national PHCC has helped us make connections with other wholesalers that we ourselves didn’t have before. I’m just one business of many that has benefitted from these strong association relationships.
Supply chain issues will continue to be a big challenge for some time to come, but, of course, hiring employees and keeping those you already have remains a huge challenge for all PHCP businesses. We’ve had plenty of great seminars at the state and national level all designed to help keep our businesses, many of them like ours family owned and operated for generations with many long-term employees, thriving into the next generation.
In fact, PHCC’s new Business Intelligence Department just reviewed these issues and provided our best suggestions and resources to address them in the July issue of the PHCC Competitive Edge, a new quarterly reported that is provided to PHCC members.
This focus on business intelligence is part of a new strategic direction included in PHCC’s new five-year strategic plan that focuses on the areas that we see as critical to the industry and organization: Membership, Public Awareness, Workforce, Member Resources and Organizational Impact and Readiness.
These specific examples of current industry challenges come to my mind:
• Workforce development and the aging workforce – getting younger people into the trades and business ownership. PHCC is emphasizing job opportunities and providing world-class training programs.
• Decarbonization and regulatory actions that lead to electrification of products. Natural gas and LP are clean and efficient fossil fuels and offer reduced operating costs for consumers. Heat pumps have their place, but water heaters and cold climate heat pump heating systems do not offer the same performance and are more expensive products, which can be particularly burdensome for low-income and fixed income consumers. PHCC continues to speak to state and federal regulators through its national staff, state chapter offices, and also provides information to individual members so they can directly contact their local, state or national government representatives.
• Better business management and improved safety/risk management for contractor members. PHCC provides virtual training for its members through free members webinars that help them run better businesses, which in turn improve the work lives of their employees. Also, through its Insurance, Safety, and Risk Management Committee, the association strives to find answers to the most pressing issues that contractors face on a day-to-day basis.
PHC News: What do you see as the greatest business opportunities for PHCC members over the next 3-5 years, and how is PHCC going to help them take advantage of those opportunities?
Frame: Improving water and energy efficiency for consumers is a great opportunity. PHCC members need to be experts on new products that will save consumers money and appeal to environmentally conscious clients. Products are becoming more complex and incorporate more technology today; it will be important that these devices are properly installed and commissioned for optimum performance.
Another area of opportunity is offering clients indoor air quality assessments and upgraded equipment and services that address consumers’ COVID-19 concerns.
Tapping into new technologies also can be very advantageous to a company, whether for streamlining operations or communicating with customers. One area to keep an eye on: A recent report from our new business intelligence department predicts the increased use of “automation like artificial intelligence, inventory management, self-driving trucks and workflow analysis … ” This is something to pay attention to as more developments occur.
As PHCC sees new business opportunities occurring, we develop education programs and content on those topics to help our contractors be aware and make any adjustments in their business that will position themselves as the “Contractors of Choice” in their markets.
PHC News: What personal goals do you have for yourself during your tenure as president of PHCC?
Frame: It’s not so much what I personally want to do as much as it is to stick with our strategic plan that the association – staff and members – have already spent a lot of time deliberating on and working to implement. We’re going to stay the course, and if we do tweak something along the way, then we’ll only do it for the good of the PHCP trade and the association.
The one thing I do hope to bring to the table is by collaborating to bring people together for the benefit of the trade. That’s what it’s all about. For example, the one thing I’m happy to see the association doing is adding to the HVAC side of the business. We’ve always had great training on the plumbing side, but now we’re balancing out plumbing and HVAC by putting money and time into the heating and AC contractors. That’s something I’m very excited about. And I say that even though we don’t do any HVAC at our company. But it’s the right thing to do.
PHC News: What have you done in the past year to get ready for the new role?
Frame: It’s taken me a lifetime to get prepared for this role! This trade has been good to me, my father, my uncle, my grandparents, my cousins and my children. My whole family has been in the business for a long time and now it’s time to give back. And that’s how I felt when I was the president of my local Indiana PHCC chapter; the Indiana PHCC and now the national PHCC.
PHC News: What is the one thing you are looking forward to most as president of PHCC?
Frame: I think the answer remains the same whenever I’ve taken part in any association event and that’s the networking. That’s what I enjoy the most. There’s so much to learn from different people that you bump into and this industry is filled with good, honest people that are happy to help. You can spend all day at a trade show, for example, and run into the right people and come back with a new technique or a new type of equipment that you never knew about before. Likewise, I enjoy meeting other contractors and manufacturers, and share something that’s worked for our business that could help their businesses. It never fails.
PHC News: Let’s talk about PHCCCONNECT in Charlotte. What do you see as the big takeaways for the event?
Frame: I am really excited about PHCCCONNECT2022. The conference theme—“Constructive Collaboration”—is perfect for this event. The program is geared to everyone in the industry, including service and repair, new construction, union, non-union. It truly is an ideal opportunity to come together to learn new ways to work together to help our businesses and the industry.
In the 20-plus education sessions, attendees can choose from a strong line-up of timely, relevant seminars focusing on topics like “The Art of Managing Workplace Conflict,” “10 Stupid Financial Mistakes Contractors Make and How You Can Avoid Them,” “Electrification and How It Will Impact Your Business” and “Why You’re Losing Your Best People—How to Avoid the Great Resignation.”
We also have a special session for signatory contractors that is hosted by PHCC’s Union-Affiliated Contractors on “Is There an Alternative to the Union Pension Plan and Can We Bargain a New Way Forward?”
CONNECT offers the best event for contractors to learn from industry experts on many topics that affect their business. Between the many educational sessions available and the chance to network with other members and industry vendors during the tradeshow, attendees will have the opportunity to gather the right combination of information to take their businesses to the next level.
PHC News: Finally, with your industry experience, what is one piece of advice you would like to pass along to the younger members of this industry?
Frame: Instead of bringing up the value of networking again, I guess I’d put it another way: Keep your relationships strong. We’re in a people business, sure, but more importantly, we’re in the trust business. Your customers are really going to judge your business when there’s a problem. How will you react? How will you resolve it? There might be times when your crew replaced 1 foot of pipe, but now the customer says it’s leaking – but it’s leaking 7 feet away! All the customer knows, however, is that’s the pipe you were working on. You might be 100 percent in the right on that repair, but it’s best to give them a credit. It’s going to cost you right off, but in the end it’s going to pay off. Relationships are what it’s all about.
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