Posted on Jul 08, 2008
John M Grau
On a recent NECA trip, I headed downstairs to the hotel bar at the end of the meeting to see who might be there. I ran into a NECA-member contractor and sat down to have a drink with him.
Our conversation drifted onto the subject of his business and some challenges he was facing. His workers’ comp modification rate had gone up, and he was having difficulty convincing his electricians of the need to control workers comp costs. He took over the business from his father about ten years ago and was now questioning that decision. Was it worth the risk? His two sons (one just out of college and the other with two years to go) had decided they didn’t want to work in the business. They heard about all the problems over the kitchen table at night and decided there are better ways to make a living.
With some variations, I’ve had this conversation before. It’s a pretty typical scenario for many NECA contractors. By and large, they are small, family-owned businesses with all the problems and opportunities inherit to that type of business.
I realized in this conversation that disappointment with family loomed large. There is the sons’ lack of interest in the business, of course, but there’s also the lack of cooperation from the workforce. Small businesses consider their long-term employees like part of the family. It’s hard for them to understand why family members won’t pull together for the good of everyone in the business.
During our conversation, another NECA contractor came by and joined in. He was nearing retirement from his family’s third-generation business. He had gone through a bunch of the same experiences and offered both sympathy and advice to my original bar mate.
I mentioned to them both that this was one of the real advantages of belonging to an association, like NECA. Where else can you find someone who truly understands the challenges you face on a daily basis? Where else will you find competitors willing to share their knowledge and experience with you?
NECA members become part of an extended family. Sometimes there’s the weird cousin or the good-for-nothing son-in-law, but overall it’s a caring and supportive family. Successful NECA members have learned how to use these relationships to their advantage. In fact, many have told me it is the secret to their success.