An economic downturn in the province of Alberta left electrician Neill Ervick working as a part-time "yes" man for a large electrical outfitter in Calgary. Rather than wait out the economy, Neill was confident in both his skills and service level to venture out on his own to become a success story in the midst of a recession. Check out how Neill's business, Tri-Wave Contracting, came to life.
K - What was life like before Tri-Wave Contracting?
NE - Before I decided to take the plunge, it was day after day of corporate politics;
"Can I do this, boss?"
I was tired of always answering to the big boss, watching them get rich while taking the clients for a ride to get there! We have a great home life, no real concerns, just typical day to day worries like everyone else. But it was time for a change.
My career started off as an apprentice with a large electrical contractor in Calgary and I moved up the ladder to become a Service Foreman. But the policies and culture surrounding the office and leadership team soon became very dark. I felt the majority of my coworkers didn’t really seem to care about the clients.
Workdays were typically ten hours long (but only eight hours of pay). And when the economic downturn happened here in Alberta I was only working part-time. Based on that event, I managed to get enough work on my own to the point where it was too much to juggle both. It made the decision to cut ties that much easier!
K - Was the downturn what made you strike out and start your own business?
NE - That, plus I felt that at the end of the day, the boss is not always right. I am a very motivated person, and in the end I want what is best for my clients.
From the day I started working I always wanted to run my own business and be my own boss. I wanted to be the guy making the important decisions myself. I also thrive on being busy and having a constant workload.
Plus, I want to be in control of my own future. The economic downturn helped give me that push to start my own business, and now I get to do everything mentioned above - be my own boss, make key decisions, and control my future.
K - It sounds pretty rewarding for you, Neill. Are these things that help fuel your passion and drive?
NE - I absolutely love seeing and hearing how happy clients are at the end of a job. They could be grumpiest person in the world, but when that "switch" is flipped on, they always end up smiling. I love bringing their electrical systems to life!
My passion is earning trust in clients and keeping it. There is a massive rush that comes from the words "thank you for all your help." I hear these words from every client on every job and it makes me strive to be better still. It’s a great pleasure to teach and help homeowners and fellow business owners make their buildings work for them!
That’s what drives me and keeps me going. I have always been a morning person, from the first day at work to back when I was a young boy going fishing with my dad! Waking up with the sun has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. But making clients happy has definitely added a lot of joy to those early mornings.
K - Speaking of early mornings, what’s your typical “morning routine”?
NE - Coffee, always coffee, usually two cups before I leave the house! I do enjoy watching the news, or sometimes it’s an hour of paperwork depending on the day’s plans. But coffee is the key!
After leaving the house it’s all hands on deck to get the work done, no matter what the task!
K - Tasks - that's a nice segue to my next question; what’s the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome as a small business owner?
NE - Cash flow! I’d imagine this is a large issue for most small business owners. Relying on credit is a tough road to go down, but it makes all the difference when starting out. I have yet to completely overcome this, but the future is bright!
Wiring or rewiring older homes and even commercial properties can always be a challenging task too. However, I have found that my knowledge of framing and general construction has helped me out in these circumstances - and those kind of challenges make the job that much more fulfilling!
Competition in this market is definitely an obstacle too. There are many guys out there offering less expensive rates, but those rates typically come from a business that doesn't carry the proper credentials to even be in this trade in the first place. I stand behind the quality of my work and have the credentials to back it up, so my rates reflect that. I am definitely keeping numbers as tight as I can when submitting a quote, but we can’t win them all!
K - What was your biggest challenge when it came to your books?
NE - Keeping it all in order and up to date. I’m not an accountant, and I’m fairly new at running my own small business so it doesn’t come as naturally to me as it would with others. But I’m a quick learner, and this has forced me to learn quickly!
Kashoo has definitely made this task more bearable for the small business owner like me. The software is easy to navigate and puts it all into perspective for me.
K – Is this the reason you chose Kashoo?
NE - It was recommended to me by a good friend of my wife's. She has been using it to keep her husband's books and said it was super-easy. I figured, what the heck, can't be any harder than Simply Accounting (which is not simple at all)!
What I really like is that I can manage numerous jobs with Kashoo’s Project Accounting. It helps with what I mentioned earlier – keeping things in order – but also allows me to have more visibility on jobs, like expenses that go towards a specific job or using the Income Statement to compare Projects over a given time period.
K - With all this going on, how do you maintain a balance between work and life away from work?
NE - No work on weekends! I allow anywhere from one to two hours per day for paperwork, and never answer the phone to unknown numbers outside of work hours. Potential clients will wait for quality.
The kids are older now, so that has helped as they don't require as much attention. Our family tries to get out camping as much as possible and have just recently taken our scuba diving certification. We plan to vacation somewhere warm next winter.
As for summer, gardening is the main activity around the house - I have always found it to be very soothing!
K - Last question Neill, what does the next year hold for Tri-Wave Contracting?
NE - I am hoping to double my revenue and potentially employ one person.
As I said earlier, I’d love to rely less on credit, but I know I’m heading in the right direction and that will come in time.
Adding someone to my team would be nice too, not just to help out, but to teach someone how to do things properly and to take pride in their work.
We'd like to thank Neill for taking the time for this interview and wish him nothing but future success. You can learn more about Neill's business, Tri-Wave Contracting, by visiting his website or Facebook Page.
Do you have a story to tell? If you’d like to share your story and have your business featured on Kashoo.com, drop us a line @KashooOnline, click on the little "smiling" chat icon in the bottom right of this window, or call us at 1-888-520-5274 and we’d be happy to chat.