In this series of interviews, called Industry Insiders, we talk with business owners from various industries to get some insight into their respective fields. Mary Stapleton is an electrician and the owner of Ms. Sparky Electric in Encinitas, California.
What would you say is the biggest challenge in your industry?
I would say the biggest challenge I face as the owner of an electrical services company is finding the right people for my team. We want people who can do the work to the standards we have set for our company, but also those who are a good fit with the company culture we’ve established.
It never feels good to have to let someone go who isn’t working out, but for the sake of my business, sometimes it is necessary. I feel very fortunate right now with the personnel I have. Besides the four talented electricians I currently have on my staff, I just hired a very competent and motivated administrative person.
How has being a woman-owned business been an advantage? Are there any instances where it has been a disadvantage?
I was surprised early on about just how much being a woman-owned business would be an advantage in my industry! People seem really happy to support a woman-owned business. We’ve been told numerous times by our customers, especially other women and seniors, that they feel less intimidated dealing with a woman for their electrical work.
We really play up the woman-owned aspect with our branding. Our logo is a nod to Rosie the Riveter and we use that branding on all of our trucks. People see them around town and remember us.
I can’t think of even one negative thing about being a women-owned business!
How can a small business like yours compete with larger, more well-known electrical services companies?
We are able to compete with the larger electrical contractors by providing a superior product at a slightly lower price. Having a memorable brand also helps—our work trucks are hard to miss. Referrals and great reviews also keep the work flowing, and don’t cost us a dime out of our marketing budget.
What is one thing you wish your customers would understand about running an electrical services company?
I wish our service customers could understand that it’s not always possible to be exactly on time, unless they are the first customer of the day. Sometimes our electricians get tied up at a job, and they can’t just leave that customer with unfinished work to move on to the next one. We do schedule with a window of time, but occasionally it is still an issue. We completely understand that no one likes to wait around—especially if they took time off work to be there for the appointment—but we only have one service van, and sometimes there’s just nothing we can do. We always make sure to call our customers with updates, which helps alleviate some of the frustration.
What do you think are the keys to success in your industry?
I think there are several keys to success in the electrical services industry. First and foremost, as I mentioned before, hire great people and don’t be afraid to let go of the ones who aren’t working out. Show up, clean up, and communicate with your customers. Stand behind your work! If there is a problem down the road with a job, go back and fix it. Create an easily identifiable brand that people will remember and ask your customers to leave positive reviews on sites like Yelp, NextDoor, and on social media.