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Electrical Contractor Midyear Roundup, Part II

Electrical Contractor Midyear Roundup, Part II

By Bridget McCrea

Electrical contractors and electricians discuss their most pressing challenges, give feedback on a recent NAED survey, and tell how distributors are helping them solve problems and win new business 

In the first part of this 2-part tED series, we looked at how three different electrical contractors were faring on the business front in 2016, highlighted a few of the challenges that they’ve been grappling with, and asked how well their distributors were doing at meeting their needs. In the second part of the article we’ll learn more about the latter and get the contractors’ feedback on the recent NAED survey, Reimagining Distributor and Manufacturer Relationships.

Strong Partnerships
If 91% of NAED members believe there is a need for manufacturers and distributors to re-imagine how they can better work together and more collaboratively—and if more distributors than manufacturers believe manufacturers are not prepared (i.e. mindset, culture, strategies) to partner with them—SECCO, Inc., of Camp Hill, Pa., hasn’t been negatively impacted by these issues. In fact, the company is quite pleased with the long-standing ties it has with area distributors.

“We’re pretty fortunate in that we have very strong relationships with at least three to four different electrical distributors,” says Bruce Seilhammer, electrical construction group manager. “One in particular is a local distributor (i.e., not a national chain) that does a fantastic job for us. Then we also have a few other, larger suppliers.” Seilhammer says his team members have developed strong ties across its entire supplier base despite the fact that a high percentage of those suppliers may lack strong, supportive ties with their own vendors.

“Our distributors know all of our guys who are out working the field and everyone who works in our office,” says Seilhammer. Those distributors send reps to visit SECCO in person on a regular basis and even participate in the contractor’s monthly team meetings. In fact, he says one distributor did exactly that just one week ago. “That really makes a big difference when it comes to getting the products, service, and support that we need to get our own jobs done,” says Seilhammer, who especially likes when distributors take the time to get to know SECCO’s finance/accounting team members.

“That’s a pretty big deal,” says Seilhammer. “For example, when you’re working on a project with specialized payments terms (requested by the customer, for example), you can make it work when your accounting team has close ties with the distributor’s accounting team.”

Where’s the Personal Touch?
In Part I of this article series, Dave Gilson, owner of Terabyte Technologies, Inc., in Aloha, Ore., discussed the challenges he was running into on the video surveillance front. He’s frustrated by a lack of support from his distributors and also unable to meet his own customers’ demands and expectations (namely on the cost front) for the equipment. “I can only stay on hold with a manufacturer or distributor before I have to drop off and get back to work,” Gilson says. “They’re losing business. I’m losing business. It’s just not a great situation to be in.”

Gilson says that while he doesn’t necessarily notice any tension between his distributors and their suppliers, he has noticed a diminished “personal touch” on the part of his vendors.

“I deal with a few major suppliers around here and they’ve definitely lost that touch,” Gilson points out. “They used to call me at least once or twice a year to check on us and see how things were going. That’s dropped off; I don’t even hear from them anymore.”

Going the Extra Mile
Justine Maglio-Wardell is generally pleased with the support and service that Maglio Electric, LLC, of Hampton, N.J., gets from its electrical distributors. And, she doesn’t see any noticeable “gaps” in the relationships that those distributors have with their own suppliers. Just recently, she says her father, Anthony Maglio, was trying to solve a technical issue for a customer. “He couldn’t visualize it, so the distributor sent him a link to a YouTube video to help,” says Maglio-Wardell. “That’s just one way they’re really going the extra mile to assist us, as a contractor, get those jobs.”

Maglio-Wardell says electrical distributors also go the extra mile in helping her family-run firm win bids. “With so many people out of work—be it union workers or those non-union workers who are now laid off—there’s a lot more competition in our region,” says Maglio-Wardell, whose firm bids on projects by putting out material lists to different suppliers and then shopping around for the best possible prices for the right terms. “Everyone is always looking for the lowest number, and not necessarily the best installer or the one that has the longevity in the marketplace.”

In some cases, Maglio Electric’s distributors will partner with their own suppliers to help the electrical contractor solve a complex customer problem on the job site. Just recently, for example, Maglio-Wardell says one of her electrical distributors asked a representative from Lutron to come out and meet her team on the job to help solve a problem. She says this type of teamwork goes a long way in helping Maglio Electric win and complete jobs. “On our end, we really don’t hear much about the issues that may exist in the distributor-supplier partnerships,” she says. “They may be dealing with that struggle internally, but if they are it doesn’t trickle down to us.”

McCrea is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at bridgetmc@earthlink.net or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net.

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