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The Right Questions to Ask Before Hiring an Electrical Contractor

Hiring an electrical contractor to execute a project for your business is not a trivial, routine task.  No matter what size project your business faces, there really is no room for mistakes when working with facility electrical systems.

After all, even the simplest projects involve working with systems that your business depends on every day and simply cannot live without.  While you may look for ways to raise productivity and maximize savings as part of your normal approach to business, the act of choosing an electrical contractor is not the time to cut corners.

So even if your cousin knows a guy, or an old roommate used to work for an electrician a few years ago you really need to slow down and think about who you hire to do critical electrical work at your place of business.

But how do you find the right electrical contractor? Are you searching far and wide for a contractor whose business card says, “We guarantee we will NOT burn your building down”?

Or, more likely, are you looking at lists of available contractors and simply wondering who you can trust?

The challenge for you is that most commercial electricians probably look a lot alike.  Spend enough time searching and you might start to think most electrical contractors are basically the same, offering more or less the same services in approximately the same manner.

Not all commercial electricians are created equal. Even if at a surface glance they all look alike.
Source: iStock

However, here is the hard truth: not all electrical contractors are created equal.  You need a quick and easy way to pre-qualify the available commercial electricians you’re thinking about hiring to execute a project for you at your place of business.

Now for the good news!  Finding the right commercial electrician for your business begins with asking five simple questions. Before you pick up the phone to contact a commercial electrician about your next job, take a look at what you really need to know about the company you are thinking about hiring. Be sure to ask the following questions:

Are you licensed?

This might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be shocked by how many businesses get burned by non-licensed commercial electricians. Ask about the state in which they’re licensed, as well. The fact that a contractor can maintain a license tells you a couple of important things.

One, it means they’ve passed a bare-minimum competency test. That might not sound like much, but do you really want to work with someone who hasn’t passed that test?

Two, it tells you they’re diligent about keeping up with standards. Many states keep public databases of electrical licenses, so search those out, too. Remember: no license, no job.

Critical Point: Many states keep public databases of electrical licenses so be sure to check out the electrical contractor’s license before hiring them. For example, here is the link to the Texas Public Databse. You may find a familiar face if you search around.

Are you insured?

Like we said above, the work your commercial electrician is doing could literally burn down your building if things go wrong. Your electrical contractor simply must be insured. There’s no negotiating on this point.

Ask for documentation that proves they’re covered, and make sure the documentation is current and that their coverage is actually in force. Just like with Question #1: a “no” from them should mean a “no” from you.

Critical Point: Your electrical contractor simply must be insured. There’s no negotiating on this point.

How will you perform this job?

Tools, teams, trucks. Those are the three “T”s you need to know when it comes to how your contractor will carry out the work you need. Do they have the best tools? 

Are their teams well-trained, knowledgeable, and responsible? Do they have the trucks and equipment necessary to get your work done in a timely fashion?  If not, they will likely have to sub-contract these items.  This means higher costs and longer project timelines for you.

While you’re at it, ask who holds the master license in their shop. Also, ask who will actually be doing the work: apprentices or journeymen? 

This is a great chance to inquire about payment, as well. Do they require the entire job to be paid for upfront? 50/50? Ask and find out.

Critical Point: Directly inquire if the contractor has the tools, teams, and trucks required to do the job.  Don’t be afraid to ask specifically about who will do the work and about how your job will be managed.

When will you perform this job?

A good electrical contractor should be able to answer this question simply by replying, “Whenever works best for you!” If you only need repair work done in one corner of the building, you’d rather not shut down the whole operation if you don’t have to.

So make sure the electrical contractor is prepared–and able–to work on your schedule. Ask about their ability to work nights and weekends, and make sure you can trust they’ll show up when they say they’ll show up.

Critical Point: Verify that the electrical contractor is ready and willing to perform the work at a time that supports your normal business operations.

Do you have references?

According to the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), there are over 70,000 electrical contractors at work in the United States today.

Of those, only the top 75 or so have annual revenues of $50 million or more.  The large majority of electrical contractors at work today are running relatively small operations.

There is nothing wrong with that, and the ideal contractor for your next job might be a small business that represents a perfect fit for you.  But regardless of whether the contractor is large or small, they need to be able to provide a list of references and past projects.

The Electrical Contractor you choose should have a list of satisfied references. Lackthereof could be a red flag.
Source: iStock

When selecting an electrical contractor, always ask for references and past projects. But more than just a list of names, ask them about which jobs went really well, and which jobs didn’t. Then ask why.

Really get to know their past work, because that will tell you about their quality, and their capabilities. After all, if you’re in a 50,000 square foot building, you probably don’t want to hire an electrician – even one with a winning personality on the phone – who only has experience working on residential jobs. So don’t be afraid to ask for references!

Critical Point: Ask for references and a list of completed projects similar to your project.

Of Course, The Best Question…

…is the one you never have to ask.  At FSG, we anticipate your questions and make sure the answers are always easy to find.  Every year, FSG ranks among the nation’s Top 20 electrical contractors and we make that list because we focus on delivering quality, ability, capability, and flexibility.

We keep our licensing and insurance information public at all times, meaning you don’t have to search for it. We have master electricians overseeing teams of journeymen and apprentices. Your schedule will become our schedule, and our list of past projects is extensive and varied.

We’ll always tell you everything you need to know right up front so you don’t have to waste time pulling answers. After all, you’re not in the electrical business, you’re in your business. 

FSG’s business is delivering lasting value to our customers on every job. If all you have is a question about an electrical, lighting, or technology solution for your business, contact us today.

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