If you are interested in starting a local product/service provider referral service, here's how to get started.
There are a few ways to start any local referral business. You can go about it one of two ways. OPTION #1: Offer contractors to join your referral service for a monthly fee, and then post their information on a well advertised website for people in need of their services to review their company information. (Visit Servicemagic.com for an example of contractor information sites). OPTION #2: Here you will set up a website where you let project owner's post their projects for Free, and charge contractors to become members to access the posted projects. (Visit bidclerk.com for an example of project posting sites).
For the first option you will need several members on your sales staff. You will need to contact many local product and service providers to promote your new business. Explain how the public will find the information, via a telephone number and/or website, as well as how you will advertise to the public to get calls and visits to the website. The important thing here is to keep track of the number of calls/site visits to be able to give an accurate number of potential leads each new member can expect. It's probably a good idea to limit the number of members for each trade heading (no more than 3-4), so that each one has the option to bid each project for their trade, at least until you are getting enough requests to support multiple members.
The second option will probably be a bit easier to sell and will be done via a website. I would start advertising for "FREE Project Postings" immediately, as the more posted projects you have available, the more members you will get to purchase a membership to your website. You can get immediate postings by contacting local builders and general contractors to see if they are in need of any sub-contractors. This will help boost the number of listings you have. You could also look in the help-wanted section of your local classified ads and post flyers anywhere you can promoting "FREE Project Postings."
Search the internet for other "Referral Services" and get more ideas from these sites. ServiceMagic.com is a great example of posting CONTRACTOR INFORMATION. BidClerk.com is good to reference for posting PROJECTS.