Herculean efforts to respond to customers’ after-hours emergencies can
often result in being more praiseworthy than profitable. They might carry
a big price tag for the customer but
only a small profit for the contractor.
That can happen. On occasion, going
strictly by what an accountant might say
after examining the financial report on a
job of that kind, the profit may not seem
to justify the effort. But in our experience, the customer will usually not forget
who takes care of their business at midnight whenever the need arises.
Has anything in particular driven
your success in service work?
Superior Group is organized into busi-ness-unit teams to emphasize expertise
and enhance performance in the delivery
of a wide range of electrical capabilities
to our customers, who still enjoy the benefit of always knowing that they can look
to and rely upon a single point of contact
within our company. Our service and
small projects team focuses on all of the
aspects of electrical work that their name
implies. Having a team dedicated exclusively to service work has proven to be
highly important to our success in it.
Without divulging any secret recipes
for success that The Superior Group
may have developed, can you tell us
a little about capabilities that distinguish your service business from
It’s no secret. What we are really selling
is ourselves and our teams and the expertise to provide a higher value proposition
than our competitors. Through this
approach, we can maximize the total
customer experience that we offer to our
clients. In that way, we can retain their
business and gain referrals from them.
Relationship-based repeat business and
recurring revenues come from great customer experiences.
In this column, it is our constant man-
The Superior Group has often been
tra that capable electrical contractors
should continually strive to build up
the proportion of service work in
their overall sales mix. What further
advice to our readers would you add?
First, we totally agree that service work
constantly deserves that kind of empha-
sis. But above all, it’s important for every
electrical contractor to engage in busi-
ness development in a disciplined way to
constantly seek new avenues to leverage
their skills and relationships.
observed in the industry as being at
the forefront of new trends.
I began working for my father. It was the
early 1960s. We wired houses, churches,
office buildings—you name it. I learned
to do business the way business had been
done in our industry for 50 or more years
before that: working locally, bidding
competitively and developing relationships as the available jobs required.
Now, half or more of what we do today
involves installing and using technologies that did not exist then. The way
electrical contractors do business must
evolve alongside those technologies if
they hope to remain competitive and
build their companies.
Looking into the future for electrical
service work, what do you foresee?
It’s very possible that it will devolve into
If that characterizes the future of
a case of “haves” and “have-nots,” in
which those electrical contractors who
have chosen to focus on it—and invest in
it—will land at the upper end of charts
signifying their success at developing
their service organizations, and those
who merely bump along without paying
proper attention to it will find them-
selves stuck in the mud at the lower end.
To be a winner in the delivery of electri-
cal service work, an electrical contractor
in the future will have to go well beyond
merely promising 24/7 service. Total
success will require that electrical con-
tractor to be ready to deliver an array of
integrated solutions to respond to more
complex needs that customers present
electrical service work, what is The
Superior Group undertaking now to
prepare for it?
We see two broad areas requiring attention. First, we need to steadily increase
training for our field-service electricians. As opportunities grow, so must
the general capabilities of our people.
But, second, we must develop a cadre
of specialists in data, controls and systems. In those facets of the business,
technology continues to move ahead
at a breakneck pace. We have to stay
abreast of it. And while we are on the
subject of technology, there is another
kind that we must not overlook. It is the
technology that we utilize to administer
our business. We have to ensure that we
bring that sort of increasing capability
to our service delivery.
You appear to be very upbeat about
your own company and the industry
That’s entirely correct; I am. Because
electrical contracting provides so many
opportunities—like the strategic initiative that Superior Group has undertaken
in its offering of integrated solutions to
a wide variety of steady customers—it
opens up countless routes to success.
Of course, getting there still requires
plenty of hard work. Remember those
cooking products with directions on the
back of the package that say, “Just add
water”? If the makings of a successful
electrical contracting business came in
a box, the instructions on the reverse
side would say, “For best results, just
MCCOY is assistant professor in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies at Virginia Tech.
Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. SARGENT, a 40-year veteran of the electrical contracting
business based in Pittsburgh, can be reached at email@example.com.
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