WHEN STANLEY BERGER accepted the presidency of the Mechanical Contractors Association of America a couple years back, he noted that he was the first service contractor ever to lead MCAA. The Mechanical Service Contractors of America — MCAA's service arm that Berger helped to lead for a number of years — singled out his accomplishment at its own convention later that year.
Service contractors, for whatever the reason, rarely seem to get the recognition they deserve within the plumbing-heating-piping industry. That's not always the case in the outside world, however, when service contractors become the public face of our industry — for good and bad.
Good service contractors build their business through smart marketing yet depend heavily on positive word-ofmouth referrals from their satisfied and loyal customers. Under too many circumstances, however, local newspapers and TV stations expose the dishonesty and poor workmanship of those other service contractors.
In those situations, the service contractors that consistently take good care of their customers and pride in the quality of their work are all too easily overlooked. Yet these companies perform at a high level as part of their daily routine and when circumstances would test the mettle of most of us — in the middle of the night, during family holidays, in the midst of subzero or sweltering temperatures and in the aftermath of devastating storms.
In addition, these service contractors invest in their employees and in their companies and by so doing improve the industry through better training, systems and practices. They also find the time outside their businesses to devote to moving the industry forward by becoming active members in trade associations such as MCAA and Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors - National Association.
At CONTRACTOR, we find we're as guilty as anyone else. While we devote plenty of magazine space to the service sector and the activities of service-centric groups such as MSCA, Nexstar and PHCC's Quality Service Contractors, we have never named a service company our Mechanical Contractor of the Year — until now.
Bienvenu Brothers Enterprises of Metairie, La., embodies service contractors' best qualities and is a worthy Mechanical Contractor of the Year. Having survived the worst storm in the nation's history, the company continues to deliver the quality of service that had been its hallmark even before Katrina laid waste to the Gulf Coast.
Customers that made it through Katrina and either stayed in or returned to New Orleans still rely on Bienvenu Brothers for their plumbing, heating and cooling needs. In addition, the company has come across a raft of new work created by the storm.
So much work, in fact, that it has to turn down some of it. One reason is the area's lack of qualified workers. It's a situation that service contractors in other parts of the nation experience but not to the same extent as companies on the Gulf Coast do.
Bienvenu Brothers long has emphasized training as a way to improve its own fortunes and better the industry. Keith Bienvenu is involved in PHCC's apprenticeship program in Louisiana, and he is a founding member and current chairman of QSC. His wife, Linda, is president of PHCC's Women's Auxiliary, which raises money for scholarships given to students pursuing an industry-related curriculum.
We commend their efforts even though we understand that the Bienvenus recognize as much as anyone that they gain as much from their industry work as they give to it.
With the housing market slowing down, some service contractors around the country worry that new construction companies will try to edge into their side of the business. While circumstances in New Orleans make Bienvenu Brothers immune to this threat, the contractor still sets an example for service firms elsewhere.
Service contractors that build customer relationships, invest in the future of their employees and business and take an active role in trade associations have nothing to worry about.