Competitive Advantages Are Key

Since its humble beginnings in 1981, Metropolitan Electrical Construction in San Francisco has grown to a staff of almost 300 (250 field staff and 40 office employees) by ensuring that it can offer a number of competitive advantages to the marketplace.

Throughout the 1980s, the company focused almost exclusively on electrical projects. That changed in the next decade.

“In the early 1990s, management saw the way that the market was going and brought some people on board to start handling low-voltage projects,” said Steve Borghello, division manager, voice/data/wireless communications.

Initially, most of the low-voltage work was voice/data. Wireless came later.

“Low-voltage really started to take off, and it has been growing ever since,” he said.

The company has three divisions. The electrical division has about 140 field staff and 25 office employees, the voice/data division has 90–100 field staff, and the wireless division has 15–20 field staff. Voice/data and wireless, both managed by Borghello, share about 15 office staff members.

The voice/data division focuses on cabling infrastructure, CAD capabilities, CCTV cabling, data center design and installation, fiber and copper backbones, fiber optic cabling and fusion splicing, paging and sound-masking systems, security systems, and wireless local area networks (LAN). While this division works with clients in most industries, it tends to specialize in medical facilities, utilities and technology companies.

The wireless division focuses on grounding systems; microwave installations and path alignment; monopoles, monopines, monoelms and monopalms; telecom and fiber optic cabling/splicing; indoor and outdoor distributed antenna system (DAS) installations; and Wi-Fi installations. Its wireless clients include major carriers AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon.

For new business, the company’s business development manager follows up on opportunities.

“However, once we work with new clients for the first time, we tend to get a lot of repeat business from them,” Borghello said.

Some of the new projects also come from the product vendors the company works with.

“Vendor relations are an important key to our success,” he said. “We have good relationships with all of the product manufacturers, and these relationships allow us to get on bid lists for larger projects that they may be supporting.”

Beyond its size and array of services, Borghello cites three competitive advantages. The first is expertise.

“We have capabilities that a lot of other companies can’t offer, such as a full design/build department,” he said. “As a result, we can take projects from the very beginning, including the design phase, and handle them all the way to the end without having to involve other companies or contractors.”

While the company’s workforce develops and maintains a lot of its expertise from within, it also relies heavily on its vendors for ongoing training and certification.

On the voice/data side, employees have received certifications from a number of vendors, including AMP, B-Line, Belden, Berk-Tek/
Ortronics, Chatsworth/CPI, Commscope/Uniprise, Corning, Essex/Leviton, General Cable, Hubbell, Mohawk/Allen-Tel, Panduit and Systimax.

On the wireless side, certifications include Andrew Coaxial, Anritsu, BICSI, CommScope Cable, Com-train, Hilti Power Actuated Tools, JLG, RFS Cablewave, RF Awareness and RSI.

Internal and external cooperation is the company’s second major competitive advantage.

“Internally, our people work very well with each other,” Borghello said. “I have worked other places, but I have never been anywhere else where people work so hard to help each other out and to make sure that our projects are successful from beginning to end.”

Externally, the company works very hard to cooperate with general contractors.

“We do whatever we can to make their jobs easy, provide them with good service and keep the clients happy,” he said. “The fewer headaches that general contractors experience, the more likely they are to want to work with 
you again.”

Finally, the company works hard to stay abreast of the times and be responsive to market conditions. One example is how the company’s three divisions have evolved over time. In the early 1990s, the company branched into low-voltage. Then, in the mid-1990s—when cellphone popularity began growing—one of Metropolitan’s first clients was Pacific Bell.

“When they started building cell sites around the Bay Area, we got involved with them on these projects,” Borghello said. “The guys we had on these wireless projects specialized in building cell sites and performing antenna maintenance, so it was different than what the guys inside were doing with voice and data.”

As a result, to meet market demand, the company arranged for wireless to become a special project. Subsequently, it broke wireless away from basic low-voltage and created the two divisions that exist today. At the time, there was a manager for each of these divisions.

“However, with the growing popularity of technology for in-building wireless and indoor DAS networks for cell coverage, it seems as though the two divisions are combining back into a single division again,” he said. “As a result, the company made the decision to have me function as manager for both divisions. In addition, the guys in both divisions are now working together more and more.”

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