Electrical contractors work hard to learn their business and understand how to complete a project professionally and make a profit. The profit part ensures ECs can stay in business. The professional part is mandatory if ECs want to stay in business and grow. To do so, ECs build their business by hiring professional technicians and providing them with the necessary training to meet their goals.


But how does an EC grow in the face of the many and varied systems that customers demand for their projects? By consistently making an effort to maintain personal and business professionalism, attracting and training professional staff members, and paying attention to all elements of the business that will ensure a profit. 


You might say that is impossible because you cannot hire the talent that is needed to perform the work on each different type of system. Of course, that’s true, but business can be increased through cooperation with other 
similar-sized companies to perform the work on the specialized systems that customers demand. The words “collaboration” and “cooperation” can be used interchangeably.


Napoleon Hill, author of “Think and Grow Rich,” offers the following thoughts on cooperation: “No individual has sufficient experience, education, native ability, and knowledge to ensure the accumulation of a great fortune, without the cooperation of other people. … Willing cooperation produces enduring power, while forced cooperation ends in failure.”


As one of the world’s foremost authorities on cooperation, Hill states two important points. If you become the “coordinator” (not the expert) of all of the systems that your customers require you to install at your current projects, the owners will believe that you serve as the go-to person for anything and everything electrical in nature. That perception alone will increase your business across the board. 


However, as Hill writes, “forced cooperation ends in failure.” It’s important to collaborate with others who share the same professional installation philosophy and work ethic.


You have to keep up with new technology and code requirements for every system, even if you install dozens of fire alarm systems every year. Requirements of NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, change frequently. Increasingly, fire alarm systems must also provide service as mass notification systems. 


Even with expertise in a particular type of fire alarm system or a general electrical system, the collaboration process does not change how the study and training on different codes affects individual projects. The contractor must maintain his or her knowledge of the systems that are installed. Similarly, the contractors with whom you collaborate must maintain their knowledge regarding the systems they will install. If collaboration is done with knowledgeable and trustworthy people that share a work ethic and penchant for reliability, systems can continue to be installed professionally and consistently, leading to profits.


New products, especially the advances in detection device technology, could become important factors in the winning bid because of a more efficient approach. Changing fire alarm codes and systems requirements in the building codes will herald evolution if you intend to truly grow your business.


For example, the building codes will soon adopt the requirement that, when an occupancy chooses to install a mass notification system, a knowledgeable person must perform a risk analysis and submit that analysis to the authority having jurisdiction. Most likely, this will mean collaboration with a fire protection engineer or security professional—not another installer—to provide the required analysis and show the client that everything is at the top of its game.


Building information modeling (BIM) is another newly required area where there might be some difficulty hiring someone with the right expertise. Since not every project requires BIM, it will seldom prove cost-effective to develop this expertise within your staff. Thus, when a project requires BIM, collaborate with someone capable of providing this service.


It should be obvious that collaboration will affect a business positively. Don’t be surprised, however, if it proves difficult to let go of some of the control so you can grow. Are you up for that challenge?