To say the last several years have been difficult for U.S. electrical contractors would be an understatement. Weak construction starts, a high industry unemployment rate, and no expectation of a recovery until at least late 2012 have many contractors shutting their doors faster than you can say “out of business.” Despite all the doom and gloom, one Texas-based electrical contractor, Hargis Electric, has managed to not only survive, but thrive in these uncertain economic times.
Located in Paris, Texas, approximately 100 miles northeast of Dallas, Hargis Electric was founded in 1985 by owner Bryan Hargis, a Paris native who studied construction technologies at East Texas State University.
“I worked for three different electrical contractors in the Paris area while I was in high school and college,” says Hargis. “The last one I worked for in the mid-1980s kept showing signs of a weakening business, so I decided to go into business for myself.”
For the past 27 years, Hargis has striven to establish a reputation as one of the premier contractors in Paris and its surrounding counties by concentrating on delivering top-notch customer service, providing an outstanding work environment for employees, and establishing strong community ties. When the economic recession hit in 2008, Hargis didn’t panic. Instead, he relied on his company’s core values to sustain growth and took an even more proactive approach to find additional revenue
“Our philosophy is that we go to the customers instead of waiting for them to come to us,” he explains. “In 2011, we partnered with our local electric utility, Oncor Electric, which has been offering substantial rebates for commercial businesses that retrofit their lighting systems with energy-efficient ballasts and lamps. We made hundreds of cold calls around the area to get the word out about the programs. As a result of this initiative, we finished more than 60 different projects that produced more than $250,000 in revenue.”
In addition to drumming up new business, Hargis realizes customer satisfaction generates referrals and keeps clients coming back. A three-year standard warranty (five years for service partners), live customer service representatives answering the phone, and on-time technicians are a few of the ways the electrical contractor sets itself apart from the competition.
Hargis Electric recently won its third consecutive
Nexstar Select Service Best of the Best Award -
the first company to ever do so.
“Taking the time to listen to customers’ wants and needs is very important, as is explaining the job/task detail in a way the customer can understand,” Hargis notes. “Furthermore, we always give the customer several options on ways to get the job done, and we always give them an up-front price in writing before starting a job.”
Professionalism and common courtesy go a long way toward customer satisfaction, according to Hargis. For example, all company technicians wear a uniform and are required to wear shoe covers to protect customers’ carpet and flooring. They also clean the work area thoroughly when finished with a job.
“And we always make what I refer to as a ‘happy call’ once the job is complete to ensure the customer is 100% satisfied with the work we performed and to thank them for their business,” he adds. “Because we’re located in a fairly small market, if we don’t take care of our customers, everyone will know about it.”
Happy employees are as equally important to Hargis Electric as happy customers, so the company has several incentive programs in place to meet this goal, including bonus pay for efficiency, a 401K program, health insurance, and the best trucks, equipment, and office systems possible. Additional inducements include spins on a prize wheel each month for reaching such milestones as sales winner, a perfect attendance record, the most company stickers put on customers’ electrical panels, and the most customer satisfaction reports submitted.
A strong marketing plan is another means Hargis Electrical employs to get its name out to the public. Not only does the contractor use traditional methods of advertising, such as television, radio, newspaper, direct mailers, and its website, but it also takes advantage of social media like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google+.
“We partner with a vendor that assigns us a different phone number for each marketing piece,” notes Hargis. “That way, we can track how many calls we receive on each piece and calculate our return on investment. This really helps us direct our money to the areas that benefit us most.”
Hargis also recommends becoming involved in the community as a way to help increase your company’s visibility, reputation, and potential customer base
“We are committed to various community organizations, such as the Salvation Army, YWCA, Relay for Life, and Project Graduation for local high school seniors,” he says. “We are also a maintenance volunteer and Gold Contributor for the Trail de Paris, a public amenity that promotes recreational, educational, and civic opportunities.”
All of Hargis Electric’s hard work has paid off. Not only did the company reach $1.8 million in revenue and make a 15% profit in 2009, but it also hit $1.5 million with a 12% profit in 2010 and expects a profit increase to 15.5% for 2011. Moreover, the contractor recently received its third consecutive Nexstar Select Service Best of the Best Award — the first company to ever do so. To be considered for the award, members must score in the top percentage of three categories: customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, and fiscal stability.
“I think it’s important to be connected with an organization like Nexstar because they are very knowledgeable about the business end of things,” he points out. “Contractors know the technical aspects of the business, but they tend to have shortcomings when it comes to the numbers side.”
Despite its continually increasing revenue and profitability, Hargis harbors no plans to slow down or enjoy the status quo.
“We are looking into branching out into another trade within the next year,” he says.