Eric Fitzgerald is the President of Blue Collar Electric. Together with his business partner, Tyler Loney, Eric has built a successful business from the ground up, in as little as 2.5 years. While Blue Collar Electric’s successes grow, Eric has also been busy with mentorship and leadership roles, helping entrepreneurs and small business owners get on their feet. We sat down with Eric to ask him some questions about where his success stems from, and how others can follow in his path.
Q: What made you take the leap into starting your own business?
A: I wanted to be my own boss. I thrive in environments where I don’t have restrictions, and I wanted to set my own terms and do things the best way I could, not just the way someone told me to do them. I knew that I was a hard worker and completely driven by results, so the leap didn’t feel quite as far as it would seem now, looking back.
Q: How did you begin building your business?
A: Tyler and I met on a jobsite over 10 years ago, and we formed a close friendship. A few years ago, we both looked around and said, “you know what, we can do this.” So we did. Our first plan for a business name was “Ty Fitz Electric,” but we rethought that one pretty quickly and decided that we wanted something more corporate-sounding, because we knew that we really wanted to build the business up and take it to a corporate level. Our original goals were to become the biggest electrical company in Alberta, with over 350 employees, but now we’ve had a little more experience, and we can see value in keeping it smaller than that, especially because we’re so focused on quality. So we’re aiming closer to 25 employees in the span of the next 5-10 years.
Q: How did you and Tyler split the business management duties?
A: I’m at the back end of the business and Tyler is at the front end. My responsibilities are sales, business development, client relations, and estimating. I’m answering phone calls and coordinating projects before they start. Tyler is our lead project manager on an operations level. He’s in charge of the employees and operations, quality control, and coordinating the service department. The division works well, and I think it suits our personalities and skills.
Q: Just how successful have you been? What has your growth looked like in the past two and a half years?
A: Well, the first year was pretty good. But the second year we quadrupled our revenue, and now we’re looking at doubling that again this year, so we’re feeling pretty good about the growth. If you’re looking at people, we started out just the two of us, and now we have 11 employees working for us.
Q: What are the qualities that have made you successful?
A: Never giving up. I’m not someone who backs down from a challenge. I will do whatever it takes to make it work, and make my clients happy. I’ve had to make a few sacrifices, but it’s been completely worth it. It’s all about attitude. Tyler and I are very focused on building a company culture where integrity is a given. We want people who are like-minded working with us, and we put people in our management team who are going to be mentors for our other employees.
Q: What are the most important tools in your business development toolbox?
A: Networking, networking, networking. I can’t stress it enough. It’s all about the people you know, the people you meet, and taking advantage of every opportunity to get out there and get seen. I think the difference between me and a lot of other guys out there is that I’m never about the instant gratification, or making money on the spot. I don’t meet someone and automatically expect something from them. I’m going around planting seeds, and eventually, some seeds will sprout. If you’re looking for something that happens right away, you’re not going to do well with owning your own business. But if you can be patient, and try to help other people, I believe it will come back to you 10 times over down the road.
Q: What would you tell someone who is just starting out or setting up a new business?
A: Work harder than everyone else you know. And present yourself well. The Blue Collar Electric guys always show up in uniform, so the clients’ first impression is that they are looking at a professional, and they are going to receive quality work. Do what you tell your clients you’re going to do, and do it even better. Blue Collar Electric is built on honesty and integrity. Our clients appreciate that, and I believe it’s why we’ve been so successful in our growth. The small things are the things that matter, like stopping to grab a coffee for the person you’re meeting with before you get there, or going the extra mile for a client with small services thrown in for free. We do little things like that a lot, and it makes a huge difference. People clearly notice when you go the extra mile, and it’s appreciated. That appreciation is reciprocated, and it is passed on in later business interactions.
Eric would love to hear how you’ve built a successful business, or answer any questions you might have. If you’d like to get in touch to ask a burning business question, give him a call at 780-239-2728.
By Danielle Mohr: Fine Point Writing & Editing (finepointwriting.ca)