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Parsons Technologies: A Case Study

Parsons Technologies, which provides low-voltage services, is a division of Parsons Electric LLC, Minneapolis. A little more than a decade ago, Parsons Electric did very little low-voltage work, and it delegated what low-voltage work it secured to subcontractors. However, over time, demand increased.

“Offering low-voltage services came about as a result of more and more of our electrical customers asking for more services than we were providing,” said Wendy Boosalis, vice president of Parsons Technologies. “We looked outside of our organization to identify what systems made sense and began with some very basic services, such as voice and data solutions, and then continued to build on that.”

Parsons Electric created a deliberate strategy to grow the low-voltage business. As a result, it branded the services as a separate division—Parsons Technologies, which offers voice and data solutions, fiber optic technologies, wireless network solutions, sound and paging systems, audiovisual systems, and security and surveillance systems.

Management and marketing
While Parsons Technologies has become phenomenally successful, it faced two initial challenges, and, in fact, meeting and overcoming these challenges have been key to the division’s continued success.

“It was a challenge culturally to understand that Parsons Technologies was a different business than electrical construction and that it needed to be managed and marketed differently,” she said.

“Since we are dealing with systems, we have much more direct owner contact and interaction than there is with electrical construction,” Boosalis said.

That is, owners want to be more involved in selecting the kinds of systems they want in different parts of their facilities. They also want to provide input on how their networks will be structured in order to support their growth and bandwidth into the future, based on their existing and planned technology needs.

“Overall, we have a higher visibility with ownership during construction. As a result, we manage our processes differently than we do when we are working with a general contractor,” she said.

Despite the fact that Parsons Technologies was able to get most of its business from existing customers who wanted to avail themselves of the additional low-voltage services that the company offered, as well as word-of-mouth referrals from satisfied customers, the division realized that it needed to create a unique marketing strategy.

“We are now completely branded as Parsons Technologies,” Boosalis said.

Parsons Electric publishes its own magazine, Electrical Connection, which contains information on Parsons Technologies. It is sent to all of the company’s industry associates, which includes customers, vendors and everyone else with whom the company is aligned. In addition, if Parsons Technologies is seeking opportunities with certain prospects, it will use the magazine as one of its marketing tools. The division also does some project-related advertising upon completion.

“If a printed program is created to commemorate a facility, we will often advertise in it,” she said.

Parsons Technologies also has its own website and Facebook page. In addition, the division markets its services nationwide.

“All of our branches offer low-voltage services,” she said. “As a result, we are definitely viewed as independent in some vertical markets.”

Other keys to success
How does Parsons Technologies ensure qualified personnel? That depends on the location.

“For example, Minneapolis-St. Paul has a very mature Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee for low-voltage systems, so all of our apprentices come through that program,” Boosalis said, adding that, because the division works on a lot of special systems that are highly technical, the technicians receive training from industry associations. Manufacturers also provide training. Technicians also maintain rigorous industry certifications through the industry associations.
Service is also a big portion of the division’s business, so it seeks maintenance contracts after it does installations. Together, they represent about 25 to 35 percent of the revenue.

As noted, Parsons Technologies has experienced phenomenal growth in the last decade. In fact, according to Boosalis, the division has been growing and increasing revenue even during the downturn in the economy that began in 2008.
“We have been constantly reinventing ourselves—doing things now that we didn’t do four years ago, such as security,” Boosalis said.

Parsons Technologies provides security systems services as a result of an acquisition. And that is another reason for the company’s growth: Besides growing internally, Parsons has done an excellent job in making strategic acquisitions in areas that it wants to be in.

“We are always looking for more ways that we can grow and always looking for good people who can bring expertise and customers to our organization. That is part of our culture,” she said.

ATKINSON has been a full-time business magazine writer since 1976. Contact him at w.atkinson@mchsi.com.

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