12 tips for starting a successful electrical contracting business

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Starting an electrical contracting business is challenging, even for experienced electricians. We asked two Canadian sparkies, Simon Noone and Ben Morin, to share their tips—both went out on their own after working for other contractors. Noone started his company, Tried and True Electric, six years ago in Wallacetown, Ontario. Morin launched Amped Electric, which operates in Brandon, Manitoba, in 2015.

5 tips for getting the business going

  • Consider whether you want to go solo or work with a business partner. Although many electrical contractors run companies on their own, “a partner gives you freedom and flexibility to take a vacation or time off if your family needs you.” says Noone. A good partner, he says, can share the load and help you build a stronger business.
  • Make sure a partner’s values are aligned with your own. Before signing any legal agreements or writing a business plan, Noone and his business partner talked to each other at length. They both wanted to be sure they understood—and shared—each other’s work ethic, quality standards, and vision for the business’s future.
  • Know your limits and get the business help you need. “I trained as an electrician, not as a bookkeeper or accountant,” says Morin. Working in the trades, he says, means you should understand when to call in an expert rather than trying to do everything yourself.
  • Develop business systems, whether for dealing with paperwork and record-keeping, for prompt quoting and invoicing, or for handling customer inquiries. Staying organized and working efficiently is necessary for business success, both electricians agree.
  • Be financially prepared for a rough start. Noone and his partner set aside enough money to cover at least the first year’s expenses. “Between buying a vehicle, paying for materials, and payroll—we hired an apprentice right away—money was going out faster that it was coming in. It wasn’t until the 11th month when we could pay ourselves.” But that moment, he adds, reassured him the business was going to succeed.

3 tips for maintaining positive customer and supplier relations

  • Build long-term relationships with suppliers. Noone says he depends on suppliers to have high-quality materials in stock, to price materials fairly and consistently so he can quote accurately, and to stand behind what they sell—now and in the future. “We deal with Schneider Electric almost exclusively for panels now, and we really depend on Homeline arc fault breakers. Some other arc fault breakers experience a lot of nuisance tripping, which can cost an electrician a lot in call backs just to replace one small part.”
  • Address customer issues quickly. Most customers, says Morin, will be reasonable when they know what’s going on. “Even when there were supply chain issues during the pandemic, for example, Schneider addressed our questions in a timely manner, which meant we could keep our customers informed—and happy.”
  • Document every change order. When customers ask for extras, “put it in writing and get clients to sign off on it,” says Noone. Homeowners don’t know when a seemingly simple request adds a lot of expense. If you haven’t documented changes, he says, be prepared to face objections when you invoice. “No one likes surprises, and every client absolutely has the right to question what’s on an invoice,” he adds, “so you need backup to help them understand your charges.”

4 tips for managing stress

  • Practise the tough stuff. “Chasing after payments and dealing with confrontational clients—those are things I don’t enjoy,” Noone says. “But over time I’ve learned how to do it.” As well, organized business systems, complete documentation, and clear communications make it easier to deal with many issues.
  • Learn to unplug. Morin says it took a while, but he learned to leave the stress of running a business at the office. “Now, when I get home, I sometimes imagine a coat rack inside the door. I take my work hat off, and I put my family guy hat on.”
  • Don’t forget that you do have a backup plan. For electricians in many job markets, Morin says, there’s enough demand that “it’s relatively easy to go back and work for someone else.” That safety net can make taking the leap and starting an electrical contracting business a little easier.
  • Remember your why. For both Noone and Morin, when business is especially challenging, they see family as a motivation for working hard at building a business and a support system when they need it. Noone says his employees and their families also motivate him. “We want our employees to feel like they’re building a company with us. As we grow, we want them to grow too.” Both electricians recommend taking stock of the business’s developments. “I like looking back at where I started,” says Morin. “The time went so fast, but seeing the business and the projects we do come to fruition puts a smile on my face.”

At Schneider Electric, we are committed to making your professional life easier by providing you with tools and resources designed to save time, increase efficiency, and grow your business.

That’s why we’ve created the mySchneider Electrician Program. A personalized experience offering a whole portfolio of solutions and business advantages designed to make your work more efficient, support your business needs and open the door to new business opportunities, such as starting an electrical contracting business. All completely free, accessible from your mobile device via app or browser.

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About the author

Author Profile

Jeff Sproule, Ontario Channel Sales Senior Manager

Jeff Sproule is the Ontario Channel Sales Senior Manager for Schneider Electric Canada.  With over 25 years of experience in the industry and 17 years at Schneider Electric, Jeff has spent the last 9 years leading various Commercial and Channel Sales teams in Ontario to provide best in class product offers to Electricians and Electrical Contractors.

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