John Anderson, Ellendale Electric
When John Anderson got out of the Army in 1972, he landed a job with an electrical company owned by his best friend’s father. “It wasn’t that I was interested in electrical work,” he says today. “It was really just a fluke.”
But what a fluke. In 1979, Anderson founded Ellendale Electric, a company that now boasts 90 employees. And he’s come to love the craft. “After you start doing anything, it gets into your blood,” he says. And the rewards can be vivid. “There’s that drive-by [effect]: seeing a structure where, 20 years earlier, you installed the wiring.”
Q: What factors have contributed to your success as an electrician?
A: People skills have more to do with success than electrical skills. Dealing with customers and employees. You can be a successful electrical contractor and know very little about [electrical work] if you have the right people surrounding you, which I was lucky enough to do. It’s really about respecting our customers and their property.
Q: What is one of the most expensive or most challenging issues you’ve faced?
A: We’re in all the hospitals, emergency rooms. We’ve had to rewire an emergency room while keeping it functional. And every big job has deadlines. We might be doing 300 or 400 units of apartments. We once did 800 apartment units at once (usually they’re done in phases).
Q: How does a homeowner avoid major electrical repairs?
A: You want to start with a reputable company. There are no moving parts with electrical. If a job is put in correctly, you can tear into the walls 15 years later and the wire will be in the same shape as when it was installed. There are no motors or fan belts breaking. It just sits there. So if it’s put in properly, you shouldn’t have any major repairs. Now, if people buy new appliances and plug them into circuits already overloaded, or use extension cords, that’s another story.
Q: What should consumers look for when choosing an electrician?
A: It starts with word of mouth, talking with friends [who have had work done]. And people gravitate toward price. It’s not only doing good work; you have to have competitive pricing. Most people are squeezing a dollar now. But we’ll say “yes” to everything. We’ll decorate your house at Christmas.
Q: What’s the most valuable tool for an electrician?
A: A tool that’s needed for one job may not be needed for another. If you’re doing commercial work, it might be one tool, then another for residential. There’s not a tool that makes or breaks what we do as a company. If there were, I’d have a bunch of those particular tools!