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Test your money-making skills

While many electrical contractors enjoy their work, few would deny that they are also in it for the money! EPA asked Julian Grant of Megger to suggest some ways of generating income.

Test your money-making skills

Julian Grant suggests PAT testing. Yes, I’m sure you’ll be thinking you’ve heard it all before, but just remember this – there are 4.5 million businesses in the UK with a need for PAT testing services.

Contractors often assume that most of these businesses will have already had their appliances tested. However, the real truth is that the majority of businesses – especially the smaller ones – have NEVER had them tested. In other words, there is a huge and potentially lucrative market just waiting to be tapped. But, how do you get into it?

First, check that you are qualified. The HSE says that PAT testing must be performed by a competent person. There are plenty of training courses available, but they are not mandatory. If you are a qualified electrical contractor, then there is little doubt that you are more than competent to test and inspect appliances.

Next, get yourself a PAT tester. Choose one that offers a full range of functions but that is also easy and quick to use. In automatic mode, it should be able to test Class 1 and Class 2 appliances at the touch of a button, with pass/fail indication against user-definable limits. It should also offer a manual testing option for special applications. Continuous operation is another good feature, since you won’t want to stop work while your tester cools down.

Now you need to find some customers. The hot tip here is not to try to carpet bomb the whole market. Choose a sector or, maybe even better, a geographical area and concentrate on that. Remember that any location where an employee or member of the public might encounter an appliance that is not their own is a potential target.

Get some names – the Internet is a good source – and put the names into a spreadsheet so that you can record your marketing activities. Then send out mailshots and, of course, follow them up. And, if you need a hand with all of this remember that Megger can offer its ‘Business in a Box’ which includes a PAT tester and a guide to identifying customers and selling to them.

The guide includes details of who needs assets testing and why they need them testing, information about where to find and how to approach potential clients, guidelines on what to charge, pre-designed advertisements and brochures, pre-written letters to send to customers and pre-written press releases for use in generating interest. In fact, the ‘Business in a Box’ has everything that contractors need to achieve success in PAT testing.

Contractors who would like to find out more about the ‘Business in a Box’ are invited to attend one of Megger’s Money Talks! Events that are focused on ways in which contractors can improve their income, these events are being held throughout the UK.

Data wiring opportunities
Whether PAT testing appeals to you or not, there is a second option for making money – installing and testing data wiring, also called structured cabling. BT is spending £1.5 billion to bring fibre broadband to 10 million homes and businesses by the end of 2012, with four million expected to be connected by the end of 2010. Wiring within the buildings will be mostly copper, so why shouldn’t you be installing it?

Many contractors believe that installing data cabling is too complicated; that it is too expensive to get trained; and that testers cost too much. None of this is true. A typical training course costs around £700, and the actual installation work is straightforward, provided certain fundamental rules are observed. It is ’ true, however, that the tester costs significantly more than its average 17th Edition equivalent.

Nevertheless, competitively priced testers are now available (costing around £2,000 less than their predecessors). The best of these are easy to use, with everything driven from a single menu, whether it’s testing, reviewing results or setting up. Typically, just a couple of button pushes is all that is required from switching on to performing a test.

The latest instruments also feature rugged construction, and have eliminated the expensive and fragile multiway connectors between the instrument body and the test adaptor module, which used to be a frequent cause of problems and failures. In short, the new testers are a very attractive investment and, because they open up a whole new area for business, they will quickly pay for themselves.

PAT testing and data cabling installation are both excellent ways of generating income and there is no valid reason for not getting involved.

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