How to Gain a Clear, Competitive Advantage: Coffee break with Linda Backo, Lutron Electronics

Linda Backo
Published On
Dec 15, 2021

Many electrical contractors believe that having a competitive advantage means always having the lowest bid.

However, business experts and academicians believe there’s more to it than pricing. They rate differentiation of products and services as the leading factor in most competitive situations.

In electrical service and maintenance, developing a specialty is a tried-and-true way of differentiating your company and gaining competitive advantage. Developing a niche in lighting controls offers a shining example of this principle.

We connected with Linda Backo, senior manager for training and services at Lutron Electronics, Coopersburg, Pa., who sat down with us for a virtual coffee break to talk about the role of training in establishing expertise in lighting controls.

We tell our readers that electrical contractors can create a competitive advantage by acquiring special skills such as expertise in lighting controls. We’ve come to you to reconfirm that proposition.

You’ve come to the right place! The Lutron Lighting Control Institute (LCI Online) is home to over 300 courses about lighting controls for a wide variety of audiences. Most of these courses are available immediately for self-paced, anytime learning. We believe that easy access to clear, targeted, accessible information is important. It fits squarely with our company’s first principle: “Take care of the customer.”

Candidly, many of our contractors may think that the learning requirements to position their companies to take on lighting controls projects might represent too steep of a hill to climb. Most of them are very busy right now. We’re sure that you are aware of the general workforce shortage they are facing.

Time is always a tremendous challenge. But here’s a catch-22: if a contractor can’t stay up to date on new products and technologies, they may miss out on future job opportunities and profits. We work hard to create courses that are easy to understand, can be completed all at once or in sections, and most importantly can be accessed on-demand. The feedback we’ve gotten is overwhelmingly positive. A contractor can even get a quick refresher right before they install a system, or as they are programming a new system.

Training is also key to attracting talent—and retaining talent. HR experts tell us that having a robust training program is a top strategy of leading companies hoping to attract and engage millennials.

Training has been rated as the number one factor that millennials consider when taking a job. As the industry works to engage younger electricians and contractors, training can help.

That makes a professional training program a powerful recruiting tool, especially when it includes on-demand offerings like ours.

There are going to be different training needs within any electrical contracting company. Electricians will require one kind, and foremen will require another. Certainly, the folks involved in management and support activities will require yet another kind.

We can cover them all. By the way, in an era in which surveys repeatedly point out that a large percentage of employees are not “engaged” in their work, continuous learning is important. It creates engaged employees. There’s something for everyone—for a new electrician or an experienced industry veteran, for example, there are courses that focus on lighting trends, such as tunable white LED fixtures, wireless controls and smart phone apps, to name a few.

So, it’s doable. Service-oriented contractors can indeed acquire a competitive advantage through continuing education in lighting controls—where an endless list of opportunities awaits them.

Lutron has long recognized the connection between innovation and education. Each year we invest heavily in research and design to ensure we are offering our customers state-of-the-art lighting and shading solutions. We also recognize how important it is to help our customers differentiate their services. Most of all, we still make sure that we never lose the personal touch. You can reach someone 24/7, on the phone or online, when you just need to talk to someone in person.

Right now, electrical contractors see a mountain of work in front of them. But every mountain has its other side—the contractors who fare best will be the ones who are prepared for the downward slope. Knowledge of specialties rewards contractors in a down-market or an up-market. Thank you for devoting your time to highlight one of those specialties and help us highlight a timeworn industry truth.
About the Author

Andrew P. McCoy and Fred Sargent

SARGENT is an electrical industry consultant focusing on service expertise. He can be reached at MCCOY is the Preston and Catharine White Fellow and department head of the Department of Building Construction in the Myers-Lawson...

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