Switched On

GB Electrical Contractors

GB Electrical Contractors is a Newcastle based electrical contracting company whose main area of work across all business units is centralised around the ability to provide essential emergency repairs and services. “This has always been the strength of our company,” says director Darren Andrews, “and underpins our core philosophy.”

GB Electrical started 20 years ago as a joint venture between three electricians, but over a period of time they were each able to expand their own areas of expertise. Today, the company provides services to residential, commercial, government and institutional customers ranging from small to large repairs and installations. Commercial electrical works include the maintenance, repair and reporting for statutory compliance for emergency lighting, test tagging, RCD testing, switchboard thermal imaging and generator maintenance.

The company provides reactive service works and preventive maintenance plans to ensure optimal performance of equipment, with prompt service by experienced technicians and value for money pricing.

Darren explains that, “After several years we took steps to develop the company into a business with individual business units.” From a modest starting point, the company today employs around 80 people. “We began by just trying to provide ourselves with jobs but now we are providing employment to a large workforce.”

So how is the business environment around the Newcastle region? “At present, most people in our industry seem to be doing it tough but we are doing all right,” says Darren. “Many other contractors especially on the industrial side are finding things quite difficult.” The mining and resources boom has faded away and that is causing problems, while manufacturing is also down from the highs seen before the GFC. “But we do a lot of commercial work, having to steer a little away from the industrial sector, and we are able to keep busy – although we can never be quite sure what is around the next corner. We are always out there trying to push for new business because we want to maintain our momentum.”

Diversification has brought a certain cushioning for the business from the vagaries of individual business environments, so GB Electrical can to some extent switch (if you’ll pardon the pun) between sectors and concentrate on what is most active. At present, a lot of the company’s work stems from the clubs and institutions in the area, many of which have retained their own momentum despite the downturn in the local economy. “We are probably busier than ever right at this time and hopefully we can keep that going,” Darren shares. In this sector, GB Electrical services all types of commercial catering equipment in both electric and gas, to extend its offer further.

Much of the firm’s work is on long-term contact, such as with local councils or universities and other educational establishments, nursing homes and private hospitals (the company installs and maintains a wide range of health and hygiene equipment such as sanitisers, disinfectors and dental equipment, servicing brands such as Malmet, Ace, Rhima, Sanitech and Miele). Such clients have generally seen the light, as it were, and recognised the value of preventive maintenance in the electrical sphere as in other aspects of building maintenance instead of the traditional method of waiting until the lights go out before calling in the electricians. “There is definitely a lot more openness about preventive maintenance,” an opening up of attitude that is also assisted by the raft of statutory elements that have to be in place in areas open to the public. A lot of corporate clients are well prepared to accept preventive maintenance and regular contracts, he adds, and a large part of GB Electrical’s advantage is being able to do a lot of different things within that contract – effectively a one-stop operation for the client.

However, there are still quite a few private companies who have not come round to this way of thinking yet and are just seeing dollar signs without thinking longer term. “These are the people we really have to work with and get them to accept the value.” The company is adept at showing how this approach really pays off after just a few maintenance cycles, not to mention the extra convenience of not having to arrange for call-outs and emergency or out-of-hours works. According to Darren, although GB certainly offers 24/7 support and speedy call-out response at any time or location, in practice there are usually only a couple of such emergencies per week – not least because of the preventive aspect of the work which means things simply don’t go wrong.

GB Electrical also has a division that looks after all the structural elements around a building, such as gates, automatic doors and shutters, although it does not at this stage specialise in remote building maintenance. “We are not yet really focussed on that although it probably will come at some stage,” says Darren. “A lot of big companies are supplying the equipment and there is a lot of investment in it, so I think the technology will filter down to everyone eventually.” In the company’s region of operation, though, many businesses are hesitant to spend on that sort of technology in such an uncertain economy.

Not dependent on the construction industry, GB Electrical is happy to undertake work in it, such as supply and maintenance of lifts and electrical construction work; but a resurgence of the construction sector would help the company, says Darren, in that it might take some of the competitive pressure off from contractors who do specialise in that sector.”

He explains that there is no simple formula for the company’s success and leadership, but that it mainly comes down to the staff – “having the right guys, constantly trying to keep them motivated and focussed and listening to their input. I think it is very important to keep the workforce happy – you need everyone to be happy to come to work, because when they are out on the job, they are the face of the company.” As the business expands, Darren and his fellow directors rely more and more on their staff to maintain not only the client’s premises but the client’s relationship with GB Electrical.

As in so many other situations, staff members are the best advertisement for the business. “So they have to have all the best information and be kept informed.” There is an element of self-interest too, for the company rarely loses staff to competitors – indeed, probably more electricians would like to work at GB, while of those that do seek new pastures, Darren says most eventually ask if they can come back. The grass is far from always greener elsewhere.

Investment in new equipment is made as and when required. Staff have a combination of iPads, iPhones and portable computers; however, Darren acknowledges that the innate technology of the job does not change very fast. “Nevertheless, we are always trying to look for new things to grow any individual area of our business,” he says. “Increasing efficiency, with gradually more refined systems and procedures, is the order of the day, rather than wholesale change. We have spent a lot of time and effort over the last few years making sure our systems are as good as they can be, but there is always room to improve and we have even uncovered a few things this year that we can improve on.”

GB Electrical is aiming for ISO9001 accreditation this year; this will further enhance the company’s offering for government and corporate clients and Darren recognises that even before it makes more money for the company, it will tighten up the way it does its business. With a strong reputation in its field and a breadth of expertise, GB Electrical is sure to continue meeting with success for years to come.

For more information about GB Electrical Contractors, please visit http://gbelectrical.com.au/

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