BY BOB MIODONSKI
Of CONTRACTOR’s staff
PASADENA, TEXAS — Later this month in Toronto, Eddie Hollub takes over the easy job of being president of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors - National Association during the group’s annual convention.
“It will be a very easy job,” Hollub told CONTRACTOR. “I’m an earpiece. All I have to do is to listen to what our members want and then make sure our great PHCC staff knows what direction to go in.”
People who know Hollub, however, understand that while he may consider the president’s job “easy,” he will not “take it easy” as president. In fact, he has ambitious plans to increase PHCC member by a third — from 4,000 to 6,000 members — as well as to dramatically improve member services and communications among the national headquarters, local chapters and members.
Hollub, after all, is someone who has worked in the family’s plumbing business since he was 8 years old, full time since the day he graduated from high school. All he ever wanted to be was a plumber because he enjoys the work so much, he said.
Still, the president and co-owner of Modern Plumbing Co. outside Houston since 1976 has branched into related businesses. With younger brother and business partner, Albert Hollub, he opened a supply house 18 years ago. Modern Plumbing Supply Co. has a location in Pasadena and another in Houston, and it sells to other contractors as well as the Hollubs.’
More recently, the Hollubs have acquired an air conditioning contracting company and an appliance service and parts company.
Eddie Hollub said that he relates so well to other PHCC members because he has stayed active in the business. Along with being president, he is Modern Plumbing’s chief estimator and regularly goes out in the field.
The 80-person, 33-truck plumbing contracting operation specializes in medical gas, backflow prevention and installing large grease traps for hospitals and schools. The 46-person tunneling division replaces drains and commercial lines under slabs without tearing up the floor, Hollub said.
“We like middle-of-the-road jobs because of the competition,” he said. “The jobs are too big for the smaller guys but not big enough for the big guys to worry about.”
Being so involved in the company brings Hollub face-to-face with the same issues that confront other PHCC members. His business is so good that he has enough work for two more plumbers so he knows all about the industry’s manpower shortage.
“There’s a terrible person shortage, it’s not just men or manpower. It’s people power,” he said. “We have a lot of good jobs for single mothers and other women, and they’re not just in the office. Appliance repair and medical gas are two good examples.”
To get to younger people, Hollub said that contractors should talk directly to students rather than through school guidance counselors.
“We try to hit them before they turn 16,” he said.
“My company goes to high schools and junior high schools, and I’m on educational committees. We have to educate our members as well as the general public on why children should come into our trades.
“We go to colleges as well because some of the careers that students are studying for are going to be gone before they get out of school. Some computer-related jobs, for example, are not going to be available.”
Hollub hopes to swell the ranks of the PHCC as well as bringing people into the plumbing industry in general. The way to do that is to listen to contractors’ needs, respond with services that meet those needs and do a better job of communicating to companies the services that PHCC already offers.
Education, once again, plays a big role. As president of the Texas PHCC a decade ago, Hollub said his biggest accomplishment was to improve the group’s educational offerings.
“Education is the only way we’re going to survive as an industry,” Hollub said. “The local chapters teach a lot of education. The national association has the educational foundation, but we have to touch the local chapters and ask them how we can help them teach plumbers to be better businesspeople.”
Education also is critical in bringing younger members into the PHCC, he said. Hollub believes that many younger members want business meetings to focus on education rather than social activities such as golf. PHCC enhanced groups such as the Quality Service Contractors have done a good job of attracting younger contractors to the association, he said.
“We have to focus on younger members and get down to what they need to know,” Hollub said. “Thirty years ago we met the needs of members, but times have changed.”
PHCC also has been recruiting former members who had dropped out of the group. The callback program has had a 33% success rate among contractors still in business, Hollub said.
Overall, membership has been growing recently at a rate of about 45 new members a month. As of late September, membership reached 4,110, up from about 3,700 a year ago.
The increasing numbers make Hollub optimistic about the future as does the professionalism of the national staff under the direction of Executive Vice President Ike Casey. The staff in the Falls Church, Va., headquarters is doing a better job of listening to members and responding promptly to their phone calls and e-mails, Hollub said.
Even so, Hollub said he would like to see PHCC do an even better job of communicating the value of PHCC programs to members, who sometimes are unaware that such services exist. The association is looking at ways to consolidate its newsletters, e-mails and faxes into a more effective form of communication to get its message across, he said.
As for the message itself, Hollub has an easy answer on why contractors should belong to PHCC:
“It pays to belong. It will educate you and help you stay in business.”