Contracting By Proxy

McClure Electric, San Francisco, has been in business since 1966, but it wasn’t until the mid-1990s that it got involved in low-voltage work.

“The company saw an increased demand for these services from our customers, so it wanted to begin to offer this kind of work,” said Michael Delfino, project manager for McClure Communications, a division of McClure Electric. 

For the first five years or so, the company performed the work under the banner of McClure Electric. However, in 2001, the company formally created the McClure Communications division. Today, low-voltage represents about 10–15 percent of McClure Electric’s total business, according to Delfino.

The main focus of the communications division is structured wiring, which includes data, voice and video infrastructure structured cabling. The division installs Cat 5e, 6, 6a (10 gig), and fiber optic cabling systems.

The division has no problem finding qualified workers. According to Delfino, McClure Communications has about 30 people in the field and 10–15 people in the office on a daily basis.

“We are a union contractor, and we are able to get guys out of the local hall,” Delfino said. “They are all qualified for this work. They have all gone through a three-year apprenticeship, taken a test and received state certification.”

With the most valuable resource in hand, every company needs to give its people work. However, McClure Communications actually doesn’t do much marketing. More often than not, work comes to the division in one of three different ways.

First, it gets a lot of work through McClure Electric. When McClure Electric takes on a job that also has a low-voltage component, McClure Communications tackles that part of the project.

Second, the company has good relationships with equipment manufacturers and vendors.

“They will often pass our name along to customers who need low-voltage work done, so we get leads that way,” Delfino said.

Third, and surprisingly, the division gets a lot of work from other electrical contractors that don’t offer low-voltage work.

“When these other contractors have electrical contracting jobs that also require low-voltage work, they often call us because they know that we do this kind of work,” Delfino said. 

Then, as long as things go well on the first project, these contractors usually continue to call McClure Communications for future jobs.

“In fact, there are two contractors who come to us on a regular basis with this kind of work,” Delfino said. 

Of course, there is a trust arrangement involved. The contractors know that McClure Electric will not try to secure the electrical work, which could risk compromising a mutually beneficial business arrangment.

“The owners know each other, and they have good relationships with each other,” he said.

Regardless of how McClure Communications secures new business, it almost always acquires repeat business. This is not only because of the quality of the work that it provides but also because the customers personally like McClure’s workers.

“In fact, when customers call us again for new work, some of them will actually ask for the specific employees by name who did work for them the time before,” he said. “They want them to come back and do the next job.”

About 90–95 percent of the division’s low-voltage work is commercial and institutional, including educational, hospitality, retail and healthcare institutions. The remaining 5–10 percent is residential.

“These are usually high-end condos or very large homes,” Delfino said. “One electrical contractor that we know does a fair amount of residential work on the electrical side, and this is how we got started doing the low-voltage work for condos and homes.”

McClure Communications doesn’t seek maintenance contracts.

“We do final test-out, and, of course, if there are problems during the warranty period, we will take care of those,” he said.

For Delfino, satisfaction comes from successful jobs done well. Fortunately, most jobs end up this way.

“We do cradle to grave,” he said. “I meet with the customer, put together the proposal bid, and then manage the project through completion. When it works out well and the customer is happy, that’s the great part. Everyone is happy—the customer, the company and the guys who worked on it.”

He recalls one project specifically.

“We did the electrical contracting work for the customer, which helped us get the low-­voltage work on the project, too,” Delfino said. “It was just one of those jobs that went well from beginning to end. It was an open-frame building, so we had to be creative in terms of where we put the cable so that it couldn’t be seen. We were able to work closely with the customer, which was nice. They had a large IT staff, which knew exactly what they wanted, and we were able to get answers to all of our questions.”

McClure Electric plans to expand the communications division slowly and carefully.

“We don’t want to grow too quickly, and we don’t want to grow too big,” he said. “We like where we are. We want to continue to grow, but we definitely don’t want to have 50 guys and 25 trucks because, with the size we are now, we can keep an eye on everything.”

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