A new year has begun. A lot of old challenges remain, and new ones are sure to emerge. That’s a very exciting prospect for me as I begin my term as the president of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA). There are few things I love more than overcoming a good challenge or two.

My friend and immediate predecessor in this office, Rex Ferry, was the right president for the times. He steered NECA through severe economic conditions and made the tough decisions necessary to sustain our association. I’m taking up where he left off, and I’m looking forward to building on his progressive work, particularly with regard to labor relations.

One thing I want to do is help accelerate NECA’s work in developing business opportunities for electrical contractors. The bad economy took a tremendous toll on electrical contractors, as the usual method of obtaining new business—through the traditional bidding process—has dried up. So, we need to exercise new methods of finding and keeping customers that put us beyond the volatile swings of the construction economy.

We need to concentrate on markets where our services will be in demand for years to come, and we need to sell our services by promoting long-term benefits rather than low contract price. These concepts come together when we do energy solutions work.

Even during the recession, alternative-energy and energy-efficiency markets remained strong, driven by consumer interest in cutting energy costs, and these markets are expected to boom as the economy recovers. But, boom or bust, energy work will be needed and in demand. It touches all sectors—commercial, industrial, institutional and residential—and it’s a revenue opportunity independent of the construction market. When an electrical contractor helps customers save money, it doesn’t matter to them how healthy, or unhealthy, the rest of the construction market is.

Energy work has been called “counter-cyclical” because it’s attractive to customers who need to save money on operating costs during tough economic times. But, if and when the economy comes roaring back, customers will not suddenly become adverse to saving money on their utility bills. They’ll just be in a better position to afford the upfront costs of the energy solutions that qualified electrical contractors can provide!

Qualifying your company to sell and deliver services in this area starts with gaining expertise in green technologies. But it’s only the beginning (see Tom Glavinich’s Energy Services Column, page 112).
Obviously, before you can offer energy solutions, you’ll need to ensure your workers are trained adequately and skilled sufficiently to do the work. My philosophy is that, in order to ensure success, you must provide your team members with the latest technology, training, processes and procedures and hold them accountable. But you and your company managers must be trained and skilled in negotiating the sale of energy solutions, as well.

Can you tell a potential customer how your company can integrate renewable-energy and energy efficiency to ensure reliable and affordable power? Can you provide realistic projections for how the energy solutions you propose can reduce energy use and cut utility bills? Can you calculate payback periods proficiently? Can you point customers in the direction of government rebate programs, production incentives, tax credits and other means of financing their energy solution projects? Could your company itself serve as the middleman in helping a customer obtain financing? Can you negotiate ongoing service and maintenance agreements to turn your energy solutions clients into repeat customers?

I am looking forward to working with NECA to develop new resources to help you answer all these questions and get new business. But, mostly, I’m looking forward to engaging with my colleagues in the ongoing development of an innovative, forward-thinking strategy that, through the exercise of positive leadership, will ensure that we electrical contractors have all the tools, resources and knowledge we need to excel in any market.

A quote from Theodore Roosevelt best explains my involvement in association and industry affairs: “Every man owes part of his time and money to the business or industry to which he engages. No man has a moral right to withhold his support from an organization that is striving to improve conditions within his sphere.”

NECAis striving to improve conditions within the electrical contracting industry, and we all benefit as a result. So, yes, I am very excited to work for our association’s continuing success through my new role, knowing that NECA’s success flows down to enrich all of us.

I hope 2012 is a successful year for you, and that you enjoy increased happiness and health, peace and prosperity!