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POWER TRAITS OF A REAL VENDOR PARTNER

"The way we look at it, when you work with a low voltage contractor, it's a team effort. We're doing it together. It's a true partnership." -BILL MAIO Jolen Electric and Communications Inc. Senior Project Manager/Head Estimator WHITEPAPER

Do you work with vendors or vendor partners? There is a difference. One gets hired, does the work and sends you the bill. The other accepts the work, completes it with exceptional quality and care, and always makes themselves available for questions and future modifications long after the job is done. At Advanced Wiring Solutions (AWS), we strive to be the vendor partner. The partnership mentality means we value long-term relationships and earn our customers' trust. The following is based on an interview with Bill Maio, Senior Project Manager and Head Estimator for Jolen Electric and Communications Inc., a New Lenox-based electrical and communications contractor. The 25-year-old company is known throughout Chicagoland as one of the top value engineering firms because of its "precision pricing" model and outstanding work performance.
Jolen has worked with AWS on a number of low voltage projects. According to Maio, the partnership is even more significant because his company is not just an electrical contractor, but a communications company as well. "We find working with AWS takes a lot of pressure off of us," said Maio. "We could do the work ourselves but choose not to and choose AWS because they will do it right. It's a true partnership. When it comes around to their experience and quality of work, it makes us all look better. I know the job will be done right when they do it."
So, read on for the five power traits that tip the scale from vendor to vendor partner. And while Maio shared his thoughts in reference to low voltage contractors, we think you'll find many of them are true in working relationships of all kinds.

Power Trait #1: Union Contractor
"For us, using a low voltage company means first asking the question: Are they a union contractor?" said Maio. This, he says, speaks volumes about the quality of their work. And while training may be different depending upon the local, this is a non-issue. "We're in local 134 and Advanced Wiring Solutions is too. Our training and apprentice program is a little different than other locals, but it doesn't matter," he said. "All the unions do a good job."

Power Trait #2: Experience
"I like looking at the projects completed. What did they include? How large are they? What's their experience in the different areas? How long were they in business and did they do a lot of projects across those years or just a few and how many hours do they have in the field with their technicians? A contractor in business five or 10 years is a lot different than someone only a year in the business. We look at all aspects: safety, low EMRs. If they have a lot of accidents – then I can't take them. All these are factors for choosing a low voltage contractor," said Maio.

Power Trait #3: Multiple Certifications
"Certain (product) vendors that you use can give you certifications," said Maio. "The more they hold, the more qualified they are and the more work they can tackle." He points out that there are a number of certifications many low voltage contractors have, but there are some certifications that are above and beyond for products like Panduit, Leviton, Hubbell and Ortronics. These manufacturers of devices offer certifications to contractors and that means they've been expertly trained. "The more manufacturer certifications, the easier it is to use them. You see a lot of that in voice/ data," said Maio. He says that Jolen likes working with local contractors like AWS because they do more than just one thing: fire alarm, cabling, TV, security systems, structured cabling, telephone, nurse call, intercom, audio/visual, and sound systems. "I don't have to sub out to five different contractors. It's much easier to meet schedules when you work with one person who can handle all that," Maio said.

Power Trait #4: Licensed-Ready
"It's critical that a vendor have licenses in multiple cities or village," said Maio. He pointed out that the larger the area a contractor services, the more likely they are to get Jolen's business.

Power Trait #5: Quality of Work for the Cost
"We've dealt with low voltage contractors that skip a lot of corners; the quality isn't there. With AWS, we're really impressed with their work. I don't have to worry about punch list problems or callbacks," said Maio. With other vendors, he cites unnecessary problems like faults on the line missed during testing, jacks that don't work, interference on the line or wiring, static on a TV system, false alarms on a nurse call system, or speaker static because it's not grounded. These things, he says, just don't happen with AWS. "If you do it right and test it, these things don't happen. We're the main contact so it comes back to you. The way we look at it is, when you work with a low voltage contractor, it's a team effort. We're doing it together. When you get people who just want to get in there and don't care, then you have problems. AWS does care about their work and they take it personally. We rely on each other," said Maio.
He adds that the pressure AWS takes off of his company is huge. "I know I can tell AWS to do something and they'll meet our schedule and that takes the pressure off of me and my foreman. We work on fast-driven, high pressure projects. When you have trust in somebody, you know it's going to be done. It's one less thing for the project manager or my foreman to think about. I can move on to other things I have to worry about. That's where quality and experience really count."

5 Best Project Management Checkpoints

Project management and football have a lot in common: the lack of project management is like trying to get to the end zone blindfolded. It can determine how well and how fast a project gets done. Here, we've canvassed the Advanced Wiring Solutions team for 5 great tips on project management success.

1. Organization.
A day in the construction business is hectic. Big projects are manageable, though, when they are broken down into tasks. In fact, identifying tasks is the most important way to ensure progress. Make a list at the start of the day and mark it off as each task gets done. When new issues come up, evaluate their importance and add them to your list. At the end of the day, assess why tasks were not completed and how you can better organize your people and time to getting them done the next day. Technology is a huge boost for organization of construction projects: cloud computing, efficient networks and mobile computing allow easy updating and sharing of big files. Offline, a good filing and labeling system helps.

2. Communication.
The worst problems arise with lack of communication. Managers, vendors, co-workers and customers all have to be on the same page. If any one of these contributors to a project is out of the loop, deadlines will not be met. Return emails and phone calls the same day when they come in before 4 p.m.

3. The Importance of Keeping Promises.
If you're not sure, don't promise it. Sometimes, our best intentions are unrealistic. Always commit to what you know is possible, then share it with each member on the project. This helps align your goals with theirs. A no-excuses work ethic will almost immediately define your project.

4. Question: Are You a Predictive or Reactive Manager?
If you wait for things to happen, you'll be far less prepared to handle them. Anticipate problems and have a plan. A big part of crisis management is simply knowing what might happen and having a backup plan to respond. Include your co-workers in brainstorming sessions to identify possible scenarios and solutions.

5. Commitment and Leadership.
At the end of the day, a successful project is a dynamic collaboration. There are a myriad of personalities involved, alliances, and various commitment levels. But, if you take the approach of "it's all of us or none of us," then your team will know that you stand by them. This is paramount to a project. No one wants to give their best effort unless they know they are being led by someone who believes in them and will stick up for them. Offer team members advice and encouragement throughout the life of the project, and you'll be surprised how much their commitment level will rise.
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