Behind the Scenes

There’s a well-known joke about money. You might see it as a sign posted in a bar or restaurant:

“In God We Trust. Everybody else pays cash.”

The first part of that phrase, as we all know, is printed on every U.S. greenback and stamped on every nickel, dime, quarter and penny. It’s minted on those dollar and half-dollar coins people seldom use as well.

The reason? When it comes to money, trust is always at stake and most people are skeptical of all but the highest, most unimpeachable power.

When it comes to telecommunications and data installations, particularly for financial and banking customers, gaining customer confidence takes precedence. Bill Mackey, project manager with Woods Electrical Co. Inc. in Farmington, Conn., a Hartford suburb, has helped his company gain the confidence of Fleet, a large, mainly Northeastern bank, and Webster Bank, a significant New England regional player, as well as other financial customers. Woods, which got its start in 1975 and has around 40 employees, does myriad types of inside wiring work, but specializes in telecommunications and data installations and has been doing it for nearly 20 years.

Ongoing projects

Woods keeps two electricians busy at Fleet’s main Hartford office and does “quite a bit of work” at the four branch offices in the metropolitan area. For example, they’ll wire a branch conversion if Webster expands and also perform jobs at their Waterbury, Conn., headquarters.

“We have a presence at Fleet,” Mackey said. “With Webster, it’s more like, ‘Bill, we need this. We need a few [wire] drops here. Can you take care of this?’”

It’s that ongoing, comfortable relationship that keeps both parties and the electrical contractor in tune to their needs.

Woods handles upgrades, renovations and moving and changing equipment for Fleet and Webster, which means electricians often must blend into the landscape during business hours. Mackey said it is important for these clients that they work seamlessly in the background and do not interrupt the regular operations and customers at these facilities. The work varies, depending on the immediate needs of the customer and the changing banking environment.

“One of the things I’ve found with banking is that, any time you’re dealing with anybody’s money, customers get very wary,” Mackey said. “It’s a whole different environment. They’re watching out a little bit more. Again, the bank employees feel the same way. They’re going to be watching out for their customer’s money.”

By the same token, Mackey said employees have to be much more aware of their surroundings, too. They need to make sure they don’t shut down any systems and can work at the right place at the right time so they don’t interfere with ongoing banking.

“I did a lot of work for Webster Bank, and I got to know the people ... I knew their banks; I knew their locations. I knew what was expected when we did the work in there,” Mackey said. “When I became a project manager, the gentleman I replaced happened to have Fleet as his account. So I went from handling Webster in the field to handling Webster and Fleet as a project manager.”

The work itself is really no different than most other jobs Woods performs. As Mackey said, “An office is an office.” It’s assumed the electrician Mackey uses on a bank job will be forthright and honest; he or she, however, must possess a certain sobriety and maturity. And there’s still a security issue.

“Most of our guys who go in will need to go through some type of access-control badging procedure or other type of clearance system or background check,” Mackey said. “Some of our electricians have badges they can use for access into certain banks. They’re cleared through security.”

Except for work done on a teller line—or an occasional run-in with a pallet loaded with shrink-wrapped caches of cash—Woods’ electricians usually don’t work where money is kept and security clearances aren’t as big of an issue as they could be.

“They have a good relationship base with these customers and they’re not going to do anything to jeopardize that,” Mackey said. “You have to understand that much of this work is built on a relationship. They have to have an understanding of you. You have to have an understanding of them. The personnel you’re going to send there, they have to present themselves in a certain fashion. That’s always been the key. It’s not a construction site; it’s a service site.”

Some of this work is bid, but Woods does quite a bit of design-build, which again relates to the trust established between the contractor and customer.

Anticipatory actions

“Because we’ve been working with these customers for so long, we know what their needs are,” Mackey said. “Rather than have them come back and say, ‘Oh, can you put this in for us?’ We’ll go back to them and say, ‘Look, you have a printer here but you don’t have a data drop, you don’t have electrical, you’re going to need it here. Or, ‘Would you like to reconfigure this?’ And they can trust that we’re not going to try and hurt them financially in any way by suggesting unnecessary equipment or labor.”

Occasionally, issues do crop up, Mackey said, and that’s where communication is essential.

A lighting renovation for Fleet’s executive offices and cafeteria presented a challenge. The customer wished to keep the building’s integrity and didn’t want a drop ceiling. Renovations in an exposed area, in full daily view of top executives, have to look good, Mackey said. Woods’ electricians had to work within the cafeteria’s schedule, too.

“This was all finished plaster, very difficult to get into, and we had to renovate their whole lighting-control system. The fortunate thing is that we’ve had electricians who have worked in these buildings for years. Creating a presence is crucial, and it has to be a positive and upbeat one,” said Mackey.


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