LET’S KEEP 1954 in perspective. As proud as we are of our 50th anniversary, the start of CONTRACTOR was not the most newsworthy event of the year.
That honor would have to go the Supreme Court’s decision in the Brown vs. Board of Education case. The ruling made it clear that under U.S. law all schoolchildren were entitled to an equal education in the same classrooms.
Heck, the launch of CONTRACTOR wasn’t even the most ballyhooed startup in the magazine business in 1954. Among the magazines that began publishing that year was Playboy — which may have had just as many readers as CONTRACTOR within the plumbing-and-heating industry. During the first year, anyway.
Yes, it was a different world in 1954 when Herb Walther started CONTRACTOR with the goal of creating a better-informed industry. Walther and his original staff had covered this industry long enough at the old Plumbing & Heating Business magazine to know that they wanted to devote their careers to it.
He pledged that his staff would deliver to readers a “vigorous, enterprising journalistic service” based on “principles of honesty, fairness and integrity.” He noted that “brevity in writing style, familiarity with industry interests and people and editorial energy are characteristic of the people behind the venture.”
And, as for the helpful suggestions that we still get occasionally to reduce CONTRACTOR to a standard magazine size more suitable for stacking away, Walther had this to say: “The tabloid size permits the editor to assemble a variety of subjects before your eyes at the same time, permitting you to scan news quickly.” Even today we think that the tabloid is peculiarly well suited to readers in the mechanical contracting industry.
Fifty years later, through changes in owners and staff, we believe that CONTRACTOR remains committed to Walther’s original objectives. With all due respect to the founders, however, we’ve decided to focus our anniversary coverage not on the magazine itself but on the industry that CONTRACTOR has been a part of since 1954.
As you know already, the industry has seen many changes in those 50 years, most noticeably in new products that you install and innovative technology that help you run your business more efficiently. You’ve seen changes in the demographics of your workforce and in the size and shape of your competitors. Companies that have sought to consolidate the plumbing-and-heating business have come and some of them have gone.
In going through the last 50 years of CONTRACTOR, what has struck us is not only how the industry has changed, but also how contractors in each of the last five decades have faced many of the same challenges. What has been consistent through the years, as our front-page story this month points out, is that contractors frequently have had to deal with a shortage of skilled workers but no shortage of aggressive competitors.
Successful contractors have met these challenges by providing customers with the types of products and services that they demand and by continually improving their performance. They have recruited good people to work for them and retained them through effective training and safety programs.
We hope that we’ve helped along the way by informing you about new products and new technology to help you work smarter. With the idea that you could learn from your own colleagues, CONTRACTOR has published stories on how contractors perform on particular jobs or how they run their companies. In addition to our news coverage, we’ve also brought you management advice from experts within our own industry such as Joe Schmitt.
So, in the words of Herb Walther, we’re still attempting to create “a better-informed industry, and an industry more quickly responsive to its opportunities.” And, we still need your help to do that as we move forward.
As Walther requested 50 years ago: “Write to us about the subjects that we introduce; comment pro or con on opinions expressed; tell us where you think we can direct new editorial inquiries. In short, make CONTRACTOR part of your business existence. That will help us help you with a better magazine.”