Every discussion about why electrical contractors should enter the low-voltage segment of the business omits the most important consideration: The day is fast approaching when they will have no other choice but to do it.
For the future benefit of their company, electrical contractors will have to blend low-voltage systems into their business. Otherwise, they will keep losing out to competitors who do such work. Incidentally, those competitors may or may not be electrical contractors.
It’s time to abandon the idea of a split-down-the-middle industry composed of traditional electrical contracting on one side and low-voltage contracting on the other. It’s necessary to adopt a one-world approach to all things electrical across the board.
Electrical contractors with professional service and maintenance operations will profit the most among those who do.
For electrical contractors who would like to enter the low-voltage arena, there is the question of where to begin.
We suggest they look to advanced lighting, including systems based on power over ethernet (PoE) technology, as a point of entry. PoE lighting could offer one of the best starting points for ECs that have not yet made the leap into the low-voltage segment. Industry observers point out how PoE lighting has already taken hold at a phenomenal rate and promises to grow with even greater momentum.
Nonetheless, PoE lighting represents only one of the many possibilities for ECs ready to invade the low-voltage space. The Electri International research report, “The Electrical Contractor as the Integrator,” outlines the full range of opportunities. It is a rich source of information on all the options open to ECs embarking on such a course. Download it from electri.org.
Industry thought-leader Michael McLin, whose Maxim Consulting Group guided the Electri study, reminded us in a recent interview, “The integration market is projected to grow at 9.2% compound annualized growth rate, making it one of the fastest growing segments in the EC market.”
While many investigations of this subject have emphasized why electrical contractors should broaden the range of their capabilities along these lines, we would like to summarize how they might go about it with a three-step plan.
Step one: Select a team (as few as two people but not more than five or six) that will help develop a strategy to design your company’s first experiment in the low-voltage realm. The team’s goal is to position the company to probe the marketplace for opportunities. Unless you are confident of another approach to organizing the activities of this team, provide them with a copy of a great handbook written expressly for such endeavors, “Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days,” by Jake Knapp, et al. It will prove to be a useful guide to the team’s mission.
Step two: If you are confident in the results of your initial business experiment, devote the time and attention necessary to acquire the best software to support the new demands on your field services. Your service and maintenance organization will need a level of support that will exceed the capability of most ECs’ existing systems.
We spoke to Steve Chew, a principal at BuildOps, a California-based field-service software provider that has achieved a reputation for its ability to meet the operational needs of today’s business-to-business electrical service and maintenance contractors. Chew said most contractors are saddled with legacy software weighed down by outdated functionality. No matter how sincerely devoted they may be to serving their customers, no electrical contractor will be able to successfully provide truly professional-grade service and maintenance for integrated systems without the kind of software that Chew described.
Step three: Although sales comes first in the traditional tagline of sales-installation-and-service, here it is the third step. It is highly likely that the initial set of customers relying on your company’s new integrated capabilities will be those with which you already have long-standing relationships. In short order, you will need even more customers and new bookings to proactively build revenues. While there is no shortage of sources for sales and marketing training in the business world today, very few of them are geared to electrical contracting. Mark Jewell, president of Selling Energy, Burlingame, Calif., has created a program for ECs pursuing this three-step strategy. Check it out at www.sellingenergy.com.
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