For G&M Electrical Contractors out of Chicago, adding a low-voltage division to its existing high-voltage services made perfect sense, according to Megan Sanchez, senior project manager.
“It is a perfect marriage to have both a high-voltage and low-voltage side,” she said. “For one thing, it makes you more competitive, and you don’t have to partner up with as many different people. In addition, you can take care of the whole job yourself from beginning to end.”
The company offers wide array of low-voltage services, including structured cabling, fiber optic voice/data, A/V systems, security and alarm systems, CCTV/access control, and fire alarm systems. In addition, it offers riser management services, which involves developing and maintaining the complete telecommunications infrastructure necessary for a building’s communications and information technology requirements. While the company provides all of these services, demand for the various services ebbs and flows, according to Sanchez.
“These days, we are doing a lot of card access, security and fire alarms,” she said.
In terms of getting the word out to prospective clients, things have changed in recent months for the company.
“We used to do a lot of in-person handshaking and getting out to meet the customers,” she said. “These days, with the pandemic, we have had to get more creative. We do a lot more phone calls and emails.”
In addition, Sanchez particularly likes using LinkedIn to communicate.
“I think it is a great way to get the word out on the projects we are working on, who we are working with, and who we are doing work for,” she said. “In fact, we have gotten quite a few good leads as a result of people researching us on the internet in general.”
G&M provides services to a number of different industries.
“It is harder to get into healthcare on the low-voltage side, because of the complexity and detail of the specifications,” she said.
These days, the company is doing a lot of work with the Chicago Public School system.
“These projects tend to be difficult because of all the paperwork. However, the work itself tends to be easier, because the equipment tends to be easy to install.”
The company does some retrofit work, but prefers new projects.
“Ground-up projects are the best, because everything is brand-new. You can be there when everything is going in,” Sanchez said.
G&M also specializes in interior work.
“It is very easy to get in and out,” she said.
The company secures the amount of business it does is because of its competitive advantages and the fact that the company does both high- and low-voltage work.
“This saves money for customers, because we can coordinate and do everything,” she said.
Another way the company makes it easier for customers is that Sanchez operates as a single point of contact for the projects she manages.
“Customers don’t have to deal with an estimator, who hands it over to a negotiator, who hands it over to a project manager, who hands it over to a superintendent, who hands it over to a foreman,” she said. “With us, customers have one point of contact, and that makes it very easy for them.”
A third competitive advantage is that the company provides honest estimates.
“We engage in fair negotiations and provide fair estimates,” she said. “I know exactly what needs to go into a project and what it will cost. If the customer is missing a cost from the beginning, I like to bring that to their attention beforehand, not afterwards.”
Sanchez has found that some other companies come in with a low number, and then increase their costs over time with a lot of change orders.
“This can be a challenge, because we have to compete against these low-bidders,” she said.
However, over the years, it has worked out to the company’s advantage, because G&M has built up a good reputation in giving honest estimates from the start, and long-term customers know that.
In terms of keys to success—to make sure that projects progress as they should, Sanchez makes it a point to make sure everyone on the job has what they need.
“I used to work in the field myself,” she said, “so I know how important it is to have everything you need,”
Communication is also key to success—a lot of communication. In fact, on a current project, things are going so well that the project is actually ahead of schedule.
“It is because of communication,” she said. “We stay in touch with everyone to keep things on schedule. We don’t just rely on telling people things. We keep track of everything, and we follow up. We don’t leave anyone or anything hanging.”
Sanchez personally knows the importance of communication. She is not only involved in projects that focus on low-voltage communication, but she has a degree from Northwestern University in communications.