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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm new here and am finding lots of great information. Thanks.
From reading the posts it seems that many here share our business philosophy. We're a small residential service company and are fortunate to be growing.

When I started working with the company it was just my husband and 1 helper. Now we are up to 4 electricians (including DH), me and 1 admin gal in the office. (My background is marketing & sales). He started the company in 1988 so we are well established with a great reputation.

I am trying to build infrastructure and systems for our company have many questions and hope some of you will share your experiences.

We're at an awkward stage. Not so tiny that we can "wing it" and not big enough to have systems in place and economies of scale. Our revenue has been growing rapidly the last 2 years but so has our overhead. We're at that stage where we're working harder and making a more money, but not enough more for the extra work and overhead. Cash flow is improving but it's still a bit too "hand to mouth". If we could operate more efficiently we could do a lot better. The biggest bottle neck is that too much still has to be done by my husband personally. Poor guy is pretty overloaded these days (me too).

1) Do you use a system or software package to manage the flow of work from incoming call through billing etc. We use Quickbooks for estimates, invoices, accounting etc. but I think we need something more.

2) ? For those of you who started out wearing your tools and grew... Our biggest issue is finding someone who can replace my husband in the field. If he doesn't interact with the customers, we would only get a fraction of the jobs. He's a top notch electrician with over 35 years of experience and that's why we have a great reputation. He inspires confidence in the customer and we work hard to deliver... but then how do you maintain the quality when you have others do the work? He's more than willing to delegate but we find that if he's not in the field the jobs take 3 times as long and are not done well. If he doesn't go to the estimates, we don't get the work. He needs to talk to the customers on the phone and do estimates, not do the service calls and work in the field. If he does a service call there is a good chance it will turn into a bigger job. If we send a technician rarely. If he's on a job, then he's not answering calls and questions or writing up estimates and we are losing opportunities (IMO). That may be a training issue. How do you find guys who are top quality electricians and who can sell too?

3) Finding good electricians is our biggest challenge. We get TONS of applications but finding electricians who are really qualified for residential service work is really difficult. (and can pass drug and background screening etc) We care about the work being done neatly, correctly and efficiently. Commercial and construction electricians are abundant but neat personable residential guys who can do good diagnostic and service work are in short supply. (so is common sense)

The goal is for him to do the estimates and sales and stop wearing tools, but if he's not out there, the quality of work really suffers, even with the best techs we've found. We pay well & give bonuses & incentives. Other EC friends who are bigger tell us we just have to be ok with mediocre work if we want to have employees doing it. We can't swallow that. We charge top dollar and our customers deserve the top notch service they are paying for.

Any advice from those who have grown through this stage?

Thanks!
 

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Welcome to the forum. When I started it was me and only me for many years. My wife joined in the field for a few years till we had children. I had workers on and off for a few years then went back to doing it by myself again.

Now I have 2 employees and my job is mostly getting the jobs and supervision when needed. The quality does definitely suffer when I am not there but I have a head person that knows what I want so it has been pretty good. The call backs will eat you up. Sometimes the guys are rushing to get home or getting to the next when and in haste forget things. My philosophy is to slow down, esp. at the end and check everything over before leaving the job-- it does not always translate into English for some reason....:laughing:
 

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Poor brave you! You pay so well I'm sure but want the work done super fast to.. Heard this story a million times. And your hubby does the bestest, fastest work in the whole wide world. Well if he truly is the absolute bees knees you are going to have to "settle" for average electricians.
 

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3) Finding good electricians is our biggest challenge. We get TONS of applications but finding electricians who are really qualified for residential service work is really difficult. (and can pass drug and background screening etc) We care about the work being done neatly, correctly and efficiently. Commercial and construction electricians are abundant but neat personable residential guys who can do good diagnostic and service work are in short supply. (so is common sense)

Any advice from those who have grown through this stage?

Thanks!
Two things here'

One perfectionist (if your husband is one) always suffer under growth and many stay small because they are never happy with employees.

Two, in a tough market like we are in now you should be looking for better men, there are good electricians out there, you need to offer top pay, good benefits, vacations, holidays, bonuses and weed out the slackers.

As someone on this site once said, you pay peanuts you get monkeys.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Call backs....ugh. My husband almost never gets call backs, but the guys.... so many. It is really frustrating- and costly. We are so busy right now and have a bunch of great jobs lined up. I'm super stressed with trying to keep everything organized.

We just started doing some government funded work too and we are drowing in paperwork. Desperately looking for ways to keep track of everything and manage the workload while maintaining quality. We need another electrician or 2 and another truck.

This is a challenging stage. If we were bigger, we'd have staff and systems in place. It seems like it's feast or famine. When we are busy, the tasks that ensure the next jobs get pushed back (calls, proposals, smaller service calls). If we don't keep on top of the selling end we end up with a dead week. It's not good.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Two things here'

One perfectionist (if your husband is one) always suffer under growth and many stay small because they are never happy with employees. .
You are right on the perfectionist part. It is definitely our biggest roadblock.

Two, in a tough market like we are in now you should be looking for better men, there are good electricians out there, you need to offer top pay, good benefits, vacations, holidays, bonuses and weed out the slackers.

As someone on this site once said, you pay peanuts you get monkeys.
True too about good electricians- we know they must be out there. As for top pay, we do pay more than our similar competition, but can't afford what the big commercial companies pay ($40/hr). I agree with the benefits, vacations and holidays etc.. that is a goal but we're not there yet. We'd like to offer health insurance but can't quite yet.

I don't think we pay peanuts but we've gotten burned a bunch of times hiring expensive guys who sounded great but weren't. We've got some PW wage work that pays less for residential than our guys are getting now (they get $30/hr + bonuses and incentives). The resi. PW is only $22/hr.


Now we start them lower- $20/hr If an electrician is 1/2 way decent he gets a $5/hr raise within 2 weeks without asking for it. If they do a good job on a week long job they get a $400 bonus. A good electrician is at $30 within a month. That is more than most around here pay.
If we could afford health insurance and other benefits we would. It is definitely a goal. After 6 months we do pay for holidays and some vacation.

How do people get past the perfectionist issue?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Poor brave you! You pay so well I'm sure but want the work done super fast to.. Heard this story a million times. And your hubby does the bestest, fastest work in the whole wide world. Well if he truly is the absolute bees knees you are going to have to "settle" for average electricians.
You are probably right, but I don't know what you mean by "poor brave me". We pay as much as we can. We don't expect people to hustle as much as he does, very few employees ever will. We'll settle for neat, correct and reasonably fast. We've got 3 good guys now, but we had to go through 25 to get them.
 

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You are right on the perfectionist part. It is definitely our biggest roadblock.



True too about good electricians- we know they must be out there. As for top pay, we do pay more than our similar competition, but can't afford what the big commercial companies pay ($40/hr). I agree with the benefits, vacations and holidays etc.. that is a goal but we're not there yet. We'd like to offer health insurance but can't quite yet.

I don't think we pay peanuts but we've gotten burned a bunch of times hiring expensive guys who sounded great but weren't. We've got some PW wage work that pays less for residential than our guys are getting now (they get $30/hr + bonuses and incentives). The resi. PW is only $22/hr.


Now we start them lower- $20/hr If an electrician is 1/2 way decent he gets a $5/hr raise within 2 weeks without asking for it. If they do a good job on a week long job they get a $400 bonus. A good electrician is at $30 within a month. That is more than most around here pay.
If we could afford health insurance and other benefits we would. It is definitely a goal. After 6 months we do pay for holidays and some vacation.

How do people get past the perfectionist issue?

Let me know when you find out because I'm wondering that for a long time.

Have you thought of working with another EC?

That's just an idea.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Let me know when you find out because I'm wondering that for a long time.

Have you thought of working with another EC?

That's just an idea.
That is a great idea. Been bouncing the idea around but am vague about how to make it work. If we could match up with someone who is strong where we are weak and vice versa that would be a great solution, but business partnerships are tough sometimes.
 

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That is a great idea. Been bouncing the idea around but am vague about how to make it work. If we could match up with someone who is strong where we are weak and vice versa that would be a great solution, but business partnerships are tough sometimes.
I was talking to an old friend last night that's been EC'ing for over a decade. He told me he was really hurting for work. I am swamped so I told him I'd be sending some of the work load his way. We need to work together, not against each other. :thumbsup:
 

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I was talking to an old friend last night that's been EC'ing for over a decade. He told me he was really hurting for work. I am swamped so I told him I'd be sending some of the work load his way. We need to work together, not against each other. :thumbsup:



That is nice. It is better than an unskilled jack of all trades getting the work. Do you do mostly residential? It seems most smaller shops are stuck with that.
 

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Of course I don't consider it being "stuck" doing residential service. I would consider myself "stuck" if I could only do new residential work or tighten set-screw EMT connectors all week.
 

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Of course I don't consider it being "stuck" doing residential service. I would consider myself "stuck" if I could only do new residential work or tighten set-screw EMT connectors all week.
'


There is a lot more to commercial work than tightening set screws on EMT connectors, sweetie. I love what I do and make a good living doing it. When the day is done, I am free to do other things. My weekends are for fun, I'm not worried about a business to run.
 

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'


There is a lot more to commercial work than tightening set screws on EMT connectors, sweetie. I love what I do and make a good living doing it. When the day is done, I am free to do other things. My weekends are for fun, I'm not worried about a business to run.
You're right, the set screws need to be tightened on the couplings too. :whistling2:


Do you know how to mount hand dryers? :laughing:
 

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Call backs....ugh. My husband almost never gets call backs, but the guys.... so many. It is really frustrating- and costly. We are so busy right now and have a bunch of great jobs lined up. I'm super stressed with trying to keep everything organized.

We just started doing some government funded work too and we are drowing in paperwork. Desperately looking for ways to keep track of everything and manage the workload while maintaining quality. We need another electrician or 2 and another truck.

This is a challenging stage. If we were bigger, we'd have staff and systems in place. It seems like it's feast or famine. When we are busy, the tasks that ensure the next jobs get pushed back (calls, proposals, smaller service calls). If we don't keep on top of the selling end we end up with a dead week. It's not good.
sounds like your husband is the greatest electrician ever. can i have his autograph please
 

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That is nice. It is better than an unskilled jack of all trades getting the work. Do you do mostly residential? It seems most smaller shops are stuck with that.
I'll take being stuck doing residential work all day long running my own show than being stuck in a dust a$$ space on the 40th floor of some high rise.

Don't act like your some big shot because you do commercial work nobody cares.:no: We have all been there done that. Your the one being rude talking down to a Licensed Electrician what do you have..... a card in your pocket? alot of us have one of those too. Big :censored:in deal sister.
 

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That is nice. It is better than an unskilled jack of all trades getting the work. Do you do mostly residential? It seems most smaller shops are stuck with that.
it takes a lot of skill to be a residential electrician. every house is different, every job is different and it take a lot of know how to do some of the stuff they want. i think residential is ALOT harder than commercial.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
electricalperson;475436 said:
it takes a lot of skill to be a residential electrician. every house is different, every job is different and it take a lot of know how to do some of the stuff they want. i think residential is ALOT harder than commercial.
We find that the type of residential work we do is fairly specialzed and not everyone likes it. We specialize in old houses and don't do any new construction and only light commercial. It takes a different set of skills to figure out problems behind walls, especially when there has been other electrical work (sometimes crazy hack work- hey the light works, it must be ok). It also requires thinking outside the box to find ways to get things done without unneccesarily chopping holes in people houses. People don't hire us to cut holes in their walls, they hire us because we DON'T chop holes in their walls. Every house is different and you have to deal with the customers even though some can be challenging. Lots of guys prefer new construction or commercial because they can see what they are doing and they don't like crawling under houses and in attics or dealing with little out ladies and grumpy old men and know-more-than you do handyman homeowners whos wifes uncles brother knows electrical. Sounds like it is starting point for lots of people. For us it has been a good niche and we're doing ok when lots of our competitors are struggling. Many electricians do this type of work only when they have to, not because they want to.

I was talking to an old friend last night that's been EC'ing for over a decade. He told me he was really hurting for work. I am swamped so I told him I'd be sending some of the work load his way. We need to work together, not against each other. :thumbsup:
Totally agree with this. One of our best guys left last year to start his own company. We send him work all the time. Sometimes small jobs we can't get to and sometimes people who think we're too expensive. If we're not going to get the work anyway, might as well send it to a friend who we know is good and has less overhead. It's good karma.



sounds like your husband is the greatest electrician ever. can i have his autograph please
Sure, send me your address and I'll mail you a signed copy of a stinky work shirt. Sounds like you must be pretty terrific yourself. :notworthy:
Why don't you send me one of yours too....But wash it first.:blink:
 
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