Keeping Current With Contractors' Needs

JEFF FORKER, my former boss who died Jan. 22, used to have a saying : If its the right thing to do for the readers, its the right thing to do for the magazine. Advertisers pay our bills and trade associations usually share our same goals of industry education and advancement, but magazine people cant go far wrong if they always keep the interests of their readers in the front of their mind. Our readers

JEFF FORKER, my former boss who died Jan. 22, used to have a saying : “If it’s the right thing to do for the readers, it’s the right thing to do for the magazine.”

Advertisers pay our bills and trade associations usually share our same goals of industry education and advancement, but magazine people can’t go far wrong if they always keep the interests of their readers in the front of their mind. Our readers (you, in other words) and a good editorial product are what make us matter to the suppliers that want to reach you. Jeff understood that as well as anyone else I’ve met in this business.

Unfortunately, I didn’t know Jeff as well as some of the others who have paid tribute to him both in this issue and elsewhere. CONTRACTOR Managing Editor Bob Mader, for example, got to know Jeff long before I did. Jeff was chief editor of Contracting Business magazine when Bob was hired as an editor in this industry 26 years ago. Bob still credits Jeff with teaching him how to write professionally for a living.

For seven of the 10 years that I knew Jeff, he was one of my toughest competitors. He was publisher of Contracting Business when I became CONTRACTOR’s chief editor in 1994.

What made Jeff so formidable was that he put his saying about doing right by his readers into practice. As a result, he would show up at virtually every industry event that I attended so that he could stay in touch with his magazine’s readers.

Jeff also was smart enough to realize that contractors are part of a larger community that includes manufacturers, wholesalers, engineers and trade associations, and he worked closely with those groups as well. Coming from a much different background in daily and community newspapers, I arrived pretty close to the same place where Jeff was philosophically. That made the transition so easy three years ago when Contracting Business went from being a competitor of CONTRACTOR to a sister publication, and Jeff Forker became group vice president of both magazines.

On the same page with Jeff Forker’s obituary this month, we’ve published stories about two contractor organizations that have changed their names to reflect more accurately what these groups hope to accomplish for their members. In this issue we’re also running an in-depth interview with the incoming president of a major trade association who talks about the challenges that lie ahead.

Contractors 2000 renamed itself Nexstar to signal the changes that have taken place since the group was founded in 1992 as a forward-thinking organization of residential service plumbers. The group has expanded to 300 members with broader services driven by its members’ changing needs.

Expansion also is behind the name change for the parent company of Plumbers’ Success International and AirTime 500 from Contractors Services to Success Group International. While the group’s focus today is plumbing and HVAC contractors, using the word “contractor” may be too restrictive in the future. On the other hand, the group’s president reasons, the word “success” never goes out of style.

The Mechanical Contractors Association of America’s new president believes that education is the key to overcoming the challenges faced by MCAA members. He adds that MCAA keeps its educational program current through constant observation of the needs of its members and the state of the industry.

These and other groups such as the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors and Radiant Panel Association have to continue to offer and update their services so that they stay relevant to their members. To paraphrase the words of Jeff Forker, “If it’s the right thing to do for the members, it’s the right thing to do for the organization.”

The rest of the equation is up to you, the members of these various groups. Your obligation is to communicate your needs to the leaders of your trade association or best-practices group. Or, to seek out the group that promises to help you the most. The experienced leaders of these organizations know a lot, but they can’t know everything without your help.

The role of magazines such as CONTRACTOR will be to continue to report news, spot trends, address the needs of our readers, serve as a forum for new ideas and to work as part of the mechanical contracting community to move our industry forward. We’ll continue to rely on your help to do our job better too.