Picking a Contractor of the Year is an impossible job.
I guess I should say, “very difficult job,” because year in, year out, we somehow manage to pick one, but it seems making the final decision gets more difficult with every passing year.
I’ve said before in this space that the real value of the trade press is in shining a spotlight on those people and organizations that are doing exceptional work, be they contractors, manufacturers or in fields such as code development, advocacy or training.
The problem is that there are so many contractors out there doing excellent work—and doing that work in so many ways. For some the focus is on innovative technology and processes; for some the focus is on the community they’ve built (both within and around their company); for some it’s in how they’ve managed adversity, or how they’ve adapted to changing circumstances.
When I first took the top job here at CONTRACTOR I relied on what was most familiar to me. I reached out to those mechanical contractors I already had some kind of relationship with, either from reporting stories or working up case studies. It didn’t make the decision any easier, but at least I had fewer contractors to choose between.
But now—and wow, this will be my fifth year as Editor-in-Chief—I either talk to or hear about amazing contractors doing amazing things every day. Check out our profile of New England Total Energy, or read about how Hiller Plumbing or Applewood Plumbing are giving back to their communities, or even how Ron the Sewer Rat is using new technology.
When it’s too late to put the decision off any further I fall back on the one standard that has served me most reliably over the years: what makes for the most compelling story? And this year, Editor-at-Large John Mesenbrink brought me a great one.
We are proud to name Linda Hudek, Master Plumber and owner-operator of LH Plumbing Services, LLC, our Contractor of the Year (you can read the feature here). LH Plumbing is an outlier compared to past award-recipients for a couple of reasons. And to be clear, these reasons are not the only reasons the company was chosen, but they are worth mentioning.
First, LH Plumbing is a one-woman operation. I think it’s important to note that while the size of an organization may give you the opportunity to do more things, or take on larger projects, no one has the monopoly on quality, innovation, or their ability to contribute to society in general and the PHC industry in specific.
Second, she’s a woman. We’ve given our Contractor of the Year Award to companies that were husband and wife teams, and to several family-owned companies that had mothers, wives, sisters and daughters in management, but this is the first female-owned company we’ve chosen to name COTY. And it’s long past time we did.
With less than 10% of the people working in the plumbing trades female, women represent an enormous untapped resource, one that could reshape the workforce and solve a lot of the hiring challenges almost every contractor is facing. But first women need to see people who look like them working in the trades—succeeding and thriving in the trades. If their perception never changes, our reality never will.
So again, our congratulations to LH Plumbing Services, and our wishes for their continued success in the New Year, and for many years to come.