Thou shalt know the difference between markup and margin.
If Frank J. Blau Jr. had been born when Plumbing & Mechanical published the 10 Commandments, this would have been number 11.
Soaring with Eagles: The Life and Legacy of Frank J. Blau Jr. by Ellen Rohr and Helena Bouchez is a wonderfully written account of Frank’s life march as a family man; from young entrepreneur to businessman to industry icon.
While Ellen devotes the Epilogue to what Frank means to her and even though the book has been scrubbed to a professional sheen, I can feel Ellen’s love and devotion to Frank throughout the pages. Combine this with “The FJB Effect”, a collection of testimonials from Frank’s disciples and it’s enough for me to highly recommend Soaring with Eagles. It’s a must have for every single person who knows or knows of Frank.
I think there’s another audience out there however, that can benefit just as much: everyone in the contracting professions who do not fit the description of that last sentence. While this is a script on one man’s evolution through business, it’s also a high level map for others to follow. Not necessarily directions from point A to B to C etc. It’s more a mindset for the entire journey.
This mindset is best summed up as a relentless drive toward business mastery.
This is precisely what caused me to markup, highlight, dogear and read the book a second time. No worries though. I took great care to keep the notes I made within the margins. That’s where the value is you know.
Frank began a plumbing apprentice in 1951 and went into business for himself in 1960. An example of this striving for mastery came quickly. He joined a plumbing contractor association. He noted that most contractors lacked a business acumen so he wanted the association to teach business management. A director put him in charge of the business management committee and they soon began to put on business seminars.
This pattern of seeking out knowledge and teaching others was to continue throughout Frank’s career. And even in retirement, it continues today.
Frank read an article in Domestic Engineering in 1962 that would forever change his life and eventually, through his effort, positively affect thousands of business owners. The article was about markup, margin and the correct selling price. Frank made it his mission to teach contractors how to determine a correct selling price. He believes that business owners and their coworkers should be properly rewarded for their professional efforts. The markup / margin story became one of Frank’s mantra.
The stories that Ellen and Helena captured from Frank’s drive toward business
mastery (you have to hear about how Frank cheated death three times!) are intriguing and
If you learn anything in this world that is valuable, you must share it with your fellow man before you die because each generation must have it better than the previous generation.
Inspired by his mother, Frank leaves us with invaluable advice for the next generation in Soaring with Eagles.
So I was telling my wife Rosemary about this book in detail and I told her my own personal story with Frank. I then said I didn’t feel comfortable including it here.
Rosemary said, “Your ass is grass and I’m the lawnmower if you don’t!”
There are certain forces of nature that one doesn’t take on. My wife is one.
At some point back in the 90’s, without knowing him, I called Frank up. I was a service manager at the time but I’m not sure of the call’s specifics. It didn’t matter. Within five seconds he grilled me with the markup / margin question. And that was that.
Can you say biological things that can happen in your pants?
My background was commercial HVAC and I wasn’t that familiar with Frank (familiar enough to be intimidated though). I’d never heard of his markup / margin story. Fortunately I grew up in a hardcore business culture. I took a deep breath and nailed the answer.
The funny thing is, until I read Soaring with Eagles, I had no idea Frank had grilled so many other folks in the same manner.
Thank you Frank Blau! Thank you for all of your efforts. Thank you for having made my business generation better than the last.