My Energy Job: The Importance of Relationship Building

There are a lot of aspects of my job that really rewarding. Saving the planet one kWh at a time, helping businesses survive the brutal economic climate, my awesome co-workers, exposure to all sorts of neat business operations and new technologies… and the list goes on. But one of my favorite parts of the job is developing amazing relationships with people.

Today was one of those days where strong relationship building came into play over and over. I did a customer site visit in the morning where I met a really enthusiastic electrician-turned-facility-manager. While talking to him about his plans for energy efficiency upgrades at the facility, his face just lit up with excitement. New high bay lighting, over 100 different occupancy sensors, and some variable frequency drives for supply pumps – nothing too fancy, but they will all result in major energy savings in the coming months. He shared information about how their water pumping system works and their existing controls. I shared a story I’d heard about how a chicken nugget factory once located a burglar because their occupancy sensors triggered the lights to turn on as the burglar sought a hiding place… leading the police right to the offender. He told me about his long-time lighting sales rep being really helpful in the planning stages and I thanked him for his thoroughness and accuracy with his paperwork that most customers struggle with. It was a great customer meeting and I think we both built a great rapport for continued work in the future.

Once I got back to the office, the phone was ringing off the hook. I have a lot of really great projects up in the air at the moment – ready to come to fruition and the contractors were calling all day for advice, verification of energy savings calculations, and insight on how to fill out paperwork. When I first started doing this stuff, contractors drove me crazy with their incessant requests for information we cannot give them and their inability to understand we cannot break the rules so they can close a sale. But now… now I’m really starting the love them. Some of them ask me how my knee is feeling since I had a disasterous spill on the ice a few weeks back that had me using a stand-in for inspections for a while. I ask some of them if they saw the big game the night before. Some of them confide in me about their great vacation experiences, their kids, and their frustrations with our paperwork process. My favorite is when they call me to just to tell me about a cool new product they found at a trade show in anticipation that it will be “huge in this market!”

The ability to work well and connect on a human level with customers and contractors, in my opinion, is one of my biggest assets. I share in their excitement about the projects, technologies, internal achievements whether it be landing a big contract or saving their company a ton of money. I empathize with their struggles and frustrations over the red tape and hoops they jump through to get or facilitate their customers to get free money. They trust me to be their sounding board and lead them in the right direction. And I always, ALWAYS, make them feel as if they are the only person I’m working with and that I will always have the time to talk them through something.

I drive really hard to develop these relationships and it’s evident in my work, I think. Maybe being a social butterfly and uber-involved in team sports as a kid helped me with these relationship building skills… or maybe I just need more friends? Either way, days like today are just another reminder how freakin’ awesome my job is and how much I love doing what I do.

How important is relationship building in your job? Do you really enjoy and cherish the relationships you develop on the job or is it just another part of the job description?

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