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What Keeps You Up at Night?: Contractors’ Edition

by Bridget McCrea

Two electrical
contractors discuss their top business challenges in today’s evolving
construction market.

When Dave Gilson looks around the local marketplace for new recruits to help manage his firm’s growing work pipeline, he’s not enthused by what he sees. As the owner of Tera-Byte Technologies, Inc., in Aloha, Ore., Gilson is not only hard-pressed to find licensed electricians who are in need of work right now, but he’s also concerned about the length of time it will take to get new, aspiring electricians licensed and out into the field. 

“Here in Oregon it takes two to four years to produce a licensed electrician, so when the ‘need’ faucet turns on, it takes a while for the available labor pool to catch up with that need,” says Gilson, whose business pipeline has been growing exponentially along with the recovering national construction market.  “Just trying to keep up with all of the requests right now is a real challenge.”

Telling current customers “no” when there are no licensed contractors and/or extra hands to handle projects has become somewhat of a gut-wrench for Gilson this year. And because many electrical-related projects are time sensitive in nature, Gilson doesn’t always have the luxury of being able to prioritize certain customers over others. “Some are more than willing to be ‘put on the list’ for attention at a later date, when schedules loosen up a bit,” says Gilson, “but others are more demanding and need things done immediately.”

For now, Gilson plans to keep his workforce at its current size instead of doing the one thing that many other contractors are being forced to do:  steal licensed electricians away from their competitors. “It basically just becomes a [game] of stealing back and forth,” says Gilson, “to keep enough electricians on the growing volume of jobs that we’re taking on.”
At Maglio Electric, LLC, in Hampton, N.J., Justine Maglio-Wardell, office manager, says one of her family-owned firm’s biggest challenges right now is how to effective ride out the ebbs and flows of seasonal business fluctuations. The Northeastern U.S. was hit hard by storms during last two winter seasons, for example, and the phenomenon has forced electrical contractors in those states to “tighten up” during the winter and then prep for an onslaught of business and demand as soon as spring rolls around. 

“One of our biggest goals is here to make sure that all of our employees –all of whom have families and/or responsibilities – stay on the job and busy,” says Maglio-Wardell. “Achieving that goal isn’t always easy when the work dwindles.” The good news is that Maglio Electric’s work pipeline started to pick up in early-April. “We’re definitely starting to see more activity, including one customer who needed help installing a brand-new hot tub and others who needed winter-storm type repairs and improvements.”

To help even out the business fluctuations and tap into new opportunities, Maglio-Wardell says her company is capitalizing on the “stay-cation” trend (people vacationing at their own homes after improving/upgrading them and making them more “fun” to live in). As part of that effort, the company has reworked some of the language on its website to speak to that audience, while also encouraging individuals to use their income tax refunds to upgrade and enhance their homes (new receptacles, USB outlets, lighting, etc.).

“We know that people who buy pre-owned homes don’t always get exactly what they want,” says Maglio-Wardell, who is bullish on the rest of 2015 in terms of workflow and new projects, “so part of our goal is to help them modify and upgrade in a way that helps them leverage the ‘stay-cation’ trend and really enjoy their properties.”

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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