Share the Love
Great custom integrators build their businesses and
reputations by tailoring their work methods and on-the-job
behaviors to each client’s desires. Such service-orientation
and attention to detail goes beyond relationships with clients;
it must be replicated and tweaked in relationships with builders as
well. We talked to four CI experts about how they work fluidly in
the world of home builders, and profit by those associations.
Summit Technology Group • Santa Rosa, Calif.
CEO and President Larry Dashiell comes at this topic from a variety of perspectives. “Part of my background is as a third-generation electrical contractor,” he says. “I’ve worked with electricians and builders all my life. We don’t do any production work. We’re a design-build electrical contracting firm. We do mostly all estate homes and we have a commercial division, too.”
Dashiell got into the CI business because “my builders were looking for a subcontractor that wasn’t a prima donna. Lots of guys come in with a ‘better’ attitude versus the blue-collar good-old-boy builder network attitude. Some integrators, if they’re larger, have quite a bit of systems in place to finish their jobs. But sometimes some of the smaller ones don’t have all those systems in place, so they come across as thinking they’re almost smarter and better than the builder. I hear it a lot—that integrators hate working for builders because they’re ‘always messed up.’ My theory for integrators is to try to put that attitude in their back pocket, if that’s how they really feel, to keep it to themselves if they truly want to work with a builder.
“The best way to approach builders,” advises Dashiell, “is as partners, that you’re there to help them. Builders get brought in to do a lot of these systems kicking and screaming. The MEPs (mechanical/electrical/plumbing) are the three major trades on a house. As electronic systems contractors, we want to be the fourth trade. But contractors would rather not have to deal with one more subcontractor—more contracts to be written, more checks to write. So the integrator has to come in and really show the builder that they’ll make it easy for them and allow them to make money without hurting their schedule. Builders are all about schedule and, a lot of times, watching the dollars for their clients. Going in as a partner to make the project smoother and integrate as a team will make you and everyone else look better.”