The Electric & Gas Industries Association (EGIA) has seen many changes in its 85-year history. Today, the nonprofit organization, which is dedicated to advancing energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions, has about 6,000 individual contractor members and an additional 18,000 members affiliated with its manufacturer and distributor partners.
“Our mission today is to provide contractors with the knowledge, skills, products, services, tools, and training they need to build high-growth, profitable businesses that serve to drive more high-efficiency, renewable energy products into the marketplace, said Bruce Matulich, CEO and executive director of EGIA. “One of our core missions is that we want to see more energy-efficiency and renewable energy solutions installed nationally. So, we’re working with the contractors that install products, manufacturers that produce them, and the distributors that distribute those products.
“When you think about the trade associations or industry organizations, most of them take a vertical look at the market,” he continued. “Some, like the Insulation Contractors Association of America [ICAA], are looking at a specific vertical market and are heavily involved in policy and regulation, standard setting, and things like that. We’re a horizontal organization that cuts across all of those vertical markets that’s much more focused on where the rubber meets the road. We don’t do as much lobbying, and we don’t get into the standard setting. We really focus on providing contractors with the tools they need to successfully grow their businesses from top to bottom. If you think about all the things a contracting business needs to have in place to be successful, we’re focused on providing tools, training, systems, and processes that help them do that.”
EGIA also works closely with utility companies and the government on their energy-efficiency and renewable energy programs and manages one of the largest energy-efficiency financing programs in the country. In fact, EGIA has facilitated the financing of more than 200,000 residential and business projects valued in excess of $2.5 billion and administered over $750 million in rebate payments.
And, just last year, EGIA launched two new programs designed to help contracting businesses succeed.
LEVELING THE PLAYING FIELD
EGIA launched a fully responsive, user-friendly website that now serves as the platform for one of the organization’s newest member benefits — the EGIA Contractor Marketplace. Leveraging group-buying power drawn from EGIA’s membership network of more than 25,000 installation contractors, regional distributors, and product manufacturers, the EGIA Contractor Marketplace enhances its member experience by offering deeply discounted prices on tools, equipment, third-party business services, and more.
“We’ve vetted those kinds of suppliers in the marketplace and selected what we believed to be the best-in-class providers of those services,” Matulich said. “The largest contractors out there have the resources and the abilities to do a lot of that themselves. They can negotiate pretty good deals for themselves because of their own individual buying power. The mid-size and smaller contractors don’t have that kind of buying power. So, what we’ve done is leveraged the national buying power of EGIA to essentially create this buying group. We wanted to provide our contractors and EGIA members with access to the best resources in the industry at the lowest possible cost.
“Our goal with the Contractor Marketplace is to provide best-in-class solutions in all the major areas that are essential for the success of a business and negotiate better deals, better terms, and better conditions with those venders and pass all of those benefits on directly to the contractors,” Matulich continued. “Unlike some other buying groups in the marketplace, we’re not structuring them to make money for ourselves.”
As a complement to its Contractor Marketplace program, EGIA also launched its Contractor University educational program in December 2016. EGIA Contractor University provides a fresh approach to the way ongoing education is being provided to contractors nationwide through large national conferences, regional classroom-style educational workshops, and a variety of convenient online educational resources.
“In some ways, it’s the same strategy [as the Contractor Marketplace],” Matulich said. “We’re trying to put together a set of curricula that essentially covers every aspect of a contractor’s business, from customer service to technician training to sales and marketing and so on. We went out and worked with the very top subject experts and trainers in the industry and brought them together as what we call our faculty. EGIA Contractor University is a combination of classroom training, online training, webinars, live events, and other learning resources that contractors can draw upon.”
Contractor University gives contractors a one-stop location for all of the training they need, Matulich added. Additionally, EGIA matches its members’ investments through Contractor University, dollar for dollar. For every dollar committed to a contractor’s personal University Savings Account, EGIA doubles it.
“We wanted to create a platform with quality content that was easily accessible and affordable,” said Drew Cameron, president of HVAC Sellutions and EGIA board member. “Contractor University pays for itself through a membership. You pay $499 per month to join EGIA, and we match every dollar of that in training credits, so we’ll deposit $1,000 per month into your University Savings Account. You have $6,000 in training credits given to you because you’re paying $6,000 a year in your membership, accruing $12,000 total in credits per year. You can attend or send your employees to attend any training event anywhere in the U.S., and every other training dollar you spend beyond your membership dollars is also matched. If you think about it, your training is free for all of your people. When you pay for the membership, we give it all back to you — you just have to use it.”
Cameron said EGIA’s goal behind Contractor University was to put something together contractors couldn’t get anywhere else.
“There are many existing best-practice groups, and they’ve done a good job over the years,” he explained. “But, we felt that kind of platform had already been done, and we felt an expensive membership platform was not what contractors wanted, needed, or truly could afford. We elected to put together a platform that was more economical to the masses, because EGIA isn’t looking to make money off the platform.”
Cameron noted that the training topics scheduled for this spring and fall consist of what contractors want or need out of the gate.
“We felt these topics were core competencies, such as budgeting and forecasting, business planning, sales training, marketing, branding, and more. Right now, we have a basic platform for the university or the foundation, if you will. We are working on building the entire curriculum because we want a true university approach. We will develop upper-level classes that will cover things like advanced selling, advanced communications, and more. We will be taking a look at the overall approach to running a business and doing deeper dives into specific areas. Our members will get a true university level education on how to run every aspect of their businesses.”
Gary Elekes, founder and CEO of EPC Equity, was approached by EGIA last year.
“They were looking to expand their training offering, and I liked their vision and where they were going. We aligned philosophically. They acquired my training asset out of the gate, and right now, I’m working with them on developing the training programs. There are two tenants to it: physical site training and web-based training.
“There are gaps in our trade,” Elekes continued. “We’re a technical- and mechanical-based industry. These training aspects are built around running whole businesses not just part of a business. A lot of contractors come up through the technical side of the trade and don’t have the opportunity to be exposed to the customer experience, call-center training, how to set pricing, financial planning, and all of those different factors. The gap there is very large. We estimate about 80 percent of the trade needs this type of training work.”
According to Elekes, training sessions are for everybody but are broken down specifically for business managers, middle management, service managers, customer service representatives, call center operators, dispatchers, technician trainers, and more.
“Pretty much every practice is broken out and has a training system attached to it,” he said. “These sessions span multiple verticals, too. Customer service training isn’t specific for HVAC, electrical, or pest control service. These are core areas that are consistent for everybody in the service industry. We also have special areas unique to a vertical or a position, like HVAC technician sales training.
“Essentially, a rising tide lifts all boats,” he said. “We can change the industry for the better and create a much better product for the consuming public and also for the trade itself. There are lots of different contractor organizations inside our space and lots of good reasons to join multiple organizations. I think EGIA becomes a complement inside of the trade to many other organizations. Nobody has the market cornered on the best ideas. Every single contractor benefits by becoming a member of any organization.”
For more information on EGIA’s Contractor Marketplace and Contractor University, visit www.egia.org.
Publication date: 5/22/2017