Three Characteristics of Best-In-Class Electrical Contractors
Construction is a demanding industry by nature, but the overall stress that contractors and subcontractors are under now is greater than ever before. There are more condensed schedules, stronger requirements for data and on-demand information, and the ever-growing pressure to come up with new ideas that will bring value to customers.
Roll all of that into a potential labor shortage for many areas of electrical construction and, well . . . there’s no time to waste when it comes to considering a few key steps to be a best-in-class contractor.
Step 1: Be progressive and open to change
Let’s face it, people are creatures of habit – and electrical contractors are no exception. The “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” mentality can erode any shred of innovation within a company because people simply feel comfortable with the status quo. It’s easy to see this is a mistake, but it’s not always easy to correct it.
One way that electrical contractors can break out of their comfort zone is to embrace technology. Tools are available that can help you get ahead of your needs and understand demands for a particular job. These are tools that allow you to be more proactive verses reactive. It’s critical to invest in planning to help transform your business.
Electrical contractors can turn this deficit into an asset. Simply being open to a new way of looking at the work can be just the differentiator you need to blow past other, more complacent competitors.
Step 2: Plan ahead
Many contractors still focus on the price of materials versus total installed costs – even though labor is their biggest expense, not materials.
As a distributor-partner, Van Meter works every day to improve the labor productivity of contractor partners. Collaborating on this goal is a priority for us on every project. And while many of the strategies we implement are unique to each contractor, there’s one key approach that we always work toward: keeping your electricians on the job site – not running around town looking for material. Multiple trips and back-and-forth do not improve labor productivity. But relying on your distributor partner to do things logistically and operationally that you haven’t done in the past does.
Planning ahead is the best practice here. Working with your field leaders to plan the next day’s work is critical to keeping them on the job site. Van Meter helps with this by utilizing the inventory at its Central Distribution Center to arrive accurately and on time to your jobsite.
The more proactive you can be (and we together), the more we can help improve your labor productivity. Again, it sounds simple. But it takes work and a willingness to do things differently (see Step 1 above).
Step 3: Create a culture of continuous improvement
Electrical contractors already face challenges with attracting and retaining a specialized workforce. There’s a higher demand than supply right now, and it doesn’t appear to be shifting anytime soon. Building a company that becomes “the place” where others want to work is exactly the position you need to be striving toward.
That means finding new ways to do old tasks – and doing them faster, better and safer than before. There are a lot of tools and approaches out there right now that didn’t exist 10 or 20 years ago, and yet some companies don’t want to hear about them. That mindset is not going to make you stand out, not to your employees (current or future) and certainly not to your customers.
So how do you build a culture of innovation and continuous improvement? How do you engrain the idea into your people so they are vested in your collective success? Start by stepping back and considering the possibilities. Educate yourself on trends, and be open to creating Standard Operating Procedures to embrace and utilize those new ways of doing things.
And finally: make an effort to collaborate with your distributor-partner to innovate and develop more efficient ways to support your business. There’s nothing hard about that.
EMPLOYEE-OWNER, CHIEF DEVELOPMENT OFFICER