It always amazes me how soon we forget the pain of a power outage. I can understand how this happens when the outage is brief, taking down the system for only a short period of time. What I can't understand is how quickly we become complacent following an extended outage, such as one caused by a major blackout. After such an event, it certainly doesn't take long for us to fool ourselves back into believing that our power delivery systems are immune to failure. Sure, we might think seriously about taking preventive measures for a few months — actually looking into beefing up our power supply or installing a backup power system. But once we find out how much that's going to cost, we easily convince ourselves we don't really need to do anything right now. It's not going to happen to us, right?

Along the same lines, I've seen an almost identical thought process applied to power quality problems, as can be evidenced by so many comments I've heard from endless end-users. Here are just a few examples of their predictable remarks I keep hearing, but still find surprising:

  • “Sure, that burned-up drive shut the line down for a little while, but that kind of stuff happens from time to time. It's just a fact of running a business.”

  • “I know our data network is a little unreliable, and we seem to lose some files now and then, but whose system doesn't suffer from these problems?”

  • “I know there's a low level hum on my audiovisual system, but I've tried to pinpoint the problem and just can't seem to locate it. It's not worth paying someone to troubleshoot the system, so I'll just live with it.”

Such scenarios help explain why it's so hard to sell homeowners, property managers, and facility owners on the merits of investing in a power quality survey, or even better, the installation of power quality mitigation equipment. You'll probably have better luck trying to sell a long-term insurance policy to an 80-year-old man!

As staff writer Beck Finley discovered when interviewing a handful of power quality experts for this month's cover story on page 34, the business of power quality isn't for the faint of heart. It seems more customers than ever these days are working in reactionary mode. They're not about to spend money on some little black box to fix a problem they can't even see or don't really believe is there. In their infinite wisdom, they'd much rather sit back and repair the system whenever they have a full-blown crisis.

The way I see it is the only way you're going to make it in the power quality business segment is to start with a solid business plan, adapt to changing customer needs, and foster relationships with as many people as you can. More importantly, you better be willing to invest the time and commitment it's going to take to convince these customers that your services are necessary and your recommendations are worth spending money on. If not, I'm afraid you'll soon be looking for another line of work.