Connecting Contractors and Customers

Illustration: a house made of icons featuring technology for the home like lights, security cameras, a fridge, etc.

“All politics is local,” said former Massachusetts congressman Tip O’Neill, who rose to the lofty position of Speaker of the House.

Decades ago, when O’Neill was credited with the expression, someone could have made a similar statement about electrical contracting with a comparable degree of certainty. ECs were mostly good, solid and local businessmen.

Indeed, any contractors who routinely ventured outside of their hometown were commonly referred to as “traveling contractors.”

While electrical contractors today might be less bashful about pursuing construction project opportunities beyond their home base, another enduring characterization academic and industry experts make of the industry is that electrical contracting, just like most of construction, is fragmented.

Notably, there are virtually no recallable instances in American business where fragmentation is considered to be a positive. Fragments come in small, medium and large sizes. But when business experts and consultants are talking about fragmentation in the construction field, they most likely mean small companies doing small jobs.

Since our regular beat is to cover service and maintenance, we have a natural prejudice on behalf of just that kind of work activity. From our standpoint, small is beautiful. That picture does not entirely have to change.

Technology has reshaped much of American commerce and is barreling down the highway toward the construction industry at a faster pace than most contractors can possibly gauge. This tech has created business-development prospects in remote markets for ECs while enabling them to respond to the service and maintenance needs of their established local customers.

Here’s how to pursue these bona fide opportunities—without totally disrupting anyone’s lifestyle.

Delivery

Internet of things technologies are on the verge of transforming the delivery of service and maintenance in the electrical industry, which is leading to connected service. Electrical service and maintenance contractors in the late 2020s will advance the diagnostics and remedies of customers’ needs in ways that are unimaginable in electrical contracting today.

This all means that electrical contractors will be able to continue to enjoy the comforts of hometown business, while reaping the benefits of network-enabled relationships with colleagues in other markets with whom they can collaborate, thanks to cutting-edge technologies.

Networking

NECA contractors who are committed to making service and maintenance a greater and growing share of their overall revenues are joining the quickly expanding NECA Service Network, which is dedicated to introducing an unprecedented level of professionalism to this aspect of construction.

Through the power and resources of a network, participating companies are in a unique position to gain from business- development opportunities, management education benefiting their service managers and staff members and customer-skills training to add to the tool box of every service electrician and technician.

Thus, the service and maintenance teams in each of these firms, through the innovative learning and information sharing they experience through the network, are better prepared than ever to satisfy customers’ needs.

All of the managers, staff and electricians in these companies have the day one advantage of the education and training and the fundamental knowledge demanded in today’s highly competitive business environment.

What now distances them from their competition is a new level of competency that they continually augment through the ongoing education and training afforded through the network.

But that is only the beginning.

Customers are naturally prone to elevate their expectations based on what they have become accustomed to.

In all, the one bit of business philosophy that is worth remembering can be summed up this way: Today, contractors are not just in competition with others in their industry—they are in competition with everybody.

Electrical service and maintenance winners in the 2020s will differentiate themselves by adopting the technologies required to lead their industry, collaborating with forward-thinking colleagues, and accomplishing all of this, very often, by not having to stray out of their favorite ZIP codes.

About the Author

Andrew McCoy

Service and Maintenance Contributor

Andrew McCoy is the Preston and Catharine White Fellow and Department Head of the Department of Building Construction in the Myers-Lawson School of Construction at Virginia Tech. Contact him at apmccoy@vt.edu.

About the Author

Fred Sargent

Service and Maintenance Contributor

Fred Sargent is an electrical industry consultant focusing on service expertise. He can be reached at fred@sargent.com.

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