Small Electrical Contractors Struggle to Compete with Big Companies


As a small electrical contractor trying to grow my business, I face an uphill battle against the big electrical companies with deep pockets and national brand recognition. Running a lean operation on tight margins is difficult when competing against corporations with thousands of employees and lucrative government contracts. However, by focusing on quality work, flexibility, and cultivating a personal connection with customers, small contractors can find a niche in the electrical market. In this article, I will discuss the specific challenges for small electrical contractors and strategies to effectively compete.

Challenges Facing Small Electrical Contractors

Limited Resources

Unlike large contractors with millions in revenue, small electrical contractors have constrained budgets for marketing, hiring staff, training employees, buying equipment, and expanding operations. With only a few technicians and old trucks and tools, I cannot take on huge commercial jobs. I also lack the working capital to wait 30-90 days for payment from slow-paying clients. The limited resources for small contractors make competing with bigger companies extremely difficult.

Higher Overhead Costs

Big electrical contractors benefit from economies of scale and spread fixed costs over thousands of projects. In contrast, my small business has proportionally higher administrative, insurance, licensing, and vehicle expenses per job. I cannot obtain the bulk discounts on materials and equipment given to massive national contractors. The higher overhead costs for small operators shrink already tight profit margins.

Poor Brand Recognition

Large, established electrical companies advertise on TV and radio to build familiarity and trust in their brand. As a small contractor, potential customers are unlikely to know about my business unless they find me online or see my van around town. When bidding on jobs, the poor brand recognition for small contractors makes it harder to compete with the big brand names, even if the quality of work is equivalent.

Barriers to Large Projects

Many commercial construction and infrastructure projects require contractors to meet minimum annual revenue, staffing levels, and bonding capacity. As a small electrical business, I often cannot pursue promising opportunities because I do not meet the job qualifications and financial criteria. The barriers to large projects lock small contractors out of lucrative work.

Strategies for Small Contractors to Compete

Specialize in a Niche

Rather than trying to be everything for everyone, smart small contractors specialize in a niche where they can excel. For example, I market my business for residential service calls and small rewiring jobs. I built expertise in remodeling electrical and lighting for older homes in my community. Focusing on a niche allows me to compete based on specialized skills rather than size.

Provide Superior Responsiveness

Small electrical contractors emphasize responsiveness as a key advantage over large bureaucratic firms. I strive to return calls within an hour and schedule electricians for same-day or next-day service whenever possible. My customers appreciate the quick responsiveness compared to waiting days or weeks with big companies.

Cultivate Relationships

I make an effort to build personal relationships with customers and get referrals through word-of-mouth. Large corporations often treat customers like numbers. I visit job sites frequently to check on progress and answer questions. My customers get to know me and my top technicians well. The personal relationship and localized reputation helps a small contractor compete.

Perform Premium Work

While large contractors train electricians quickly to complete jobs at scale, I invest significant time into training my technicians to perform truly professional-grade electrical work. We take the time to fix problems correctly, clean the job site meticulously, and follow up with customers. The superior quality and workmanship justify my slightly higher rates compared to volume operators.

Offer Flexibility

One clear advantage I promote to customers involves flexibility. As a small business, I can easily adjust my schedule and services to accommodate urgent repairs, unique requests, and changes during a job. The flexibility and customization I provide frequently wins projects from customers frustrated with the rigid approaches of big contractors.


Competing as a small electrical contractor against the dominant national companies with vastly greater resources presents daunting challenges. However, by focusing on what I do best rather than trying to compete across the whole market, cultivating loyal customers, providing responsive and personalized service, performing premium work, and remaining flexible, I can successfully grow my small business in this competitive environment. Specializing rather than generalizing is the key strategy that enables small contractors to thrive in the shadow of big companies. The personalized relationship between a customer and the owner of a small electrical business creates a powerful competitive edge.