When customers kept switching to big brand companies, Steve Barlow recognised he needed to change how they ran their local electrical business, backed by the powerhouse of The Dwyer Group’s Mr Electric.
Throughout school and university, Steve Barlow had one goal in mind: to study law and business, go to Law School, and qualify as a business lawyer. But when he finished uni, Steve realised something inside him had changed, and no longer wanted to attend law school.
“I came home after to contemplate my next step,” Steve says, “when my dad candidly said, ‘why don’t you come and work in the business with me?’ He had a local electrical company.
So I started by working a couple of days a week – just in the office covering wages and some of the basic admin. After a couple of years, I started to get bored, and needed a new challenge.”
A local family business against the big brands
It was around this time when Steve and his dad, Stan, were approached by Mr Electric. “They asked if we would consider bringing our business under their banner, with one of their franchise opportunities. They had actually approached us a few months before, but I had only just started working in the company, so didn’t feel like I really had a handle on how the business ran. When they spoke with us the second time, it seemed like the right time and definitely the right move for us.”
The local electrical company Stan and his business partner had originally started, had often found themselves being undercut by the larger brands who customers knew and recognised. “My father liked the idea of working with a big brand like Mr Electric, which his previous business partner hadn’t been interested in. But as a small local electrical company, we had been losing clients to some of the larger, more-recognisable companies. We felt Mr Electric, and The Dwyer Group presented us with a very real opportunity to compete with the big names, and drive our business forward.”
No previous experience
Having had his heart and mind set on business law, Steve has no experience of electrical engineering, whatsoever. “My dad’s business partner was a qualified electrician, so until recently, we’d always had an electrician, on the board of Directors. But due to ill-health, he has left and I bought him out of the company, though he is still on-hand to offer technical help and support. So now neither my father, nor I have an electrical background. It isn’t really a set-back for us though, we have a great team who are as dedicated to what we offer our clients, as we are: excellent, quality service.”
Steve says he has gained some basic knowledge, having been in the industry for a while,
“I now understand what the guys are talking about, and can do the technical reports. Long-term though, it’s not like I can pick up a screwdriver and do the job myself, and it’s not something I would envisage me ever doing, to be honest.”
Multi-franchise business building
Having access to The Dwyer Group’s Mr Electric model for the success of their business, and the on-going support they receive whenever they need it, Steve has already expanded their business with plans to offer a full range of services to customers. “We currently have two Dwyer Group brands within our business.” he says. “Aire Serv and Mr Electric. These two really complement each other within our business, as they have different busy periods falling within the summer and winter, respectively. So, in the winter, when there is less demand for air-con servicing, the Aire Serv guys support our electricians. We have plans to develop the cross-over skills of our electricians, allowing them to support the Aire Serv team during their busy season.”
Having five brands within it, The Dwyer Group offers business-minded entrepreneurs an opportunity to create strong local business. “I like being part of the Dwyer Group,” Steve says. “We have some great future plans to develop our multi-franchise business further, by investing in more of The Dwyer Group brands.”
Working with the family
Working with his father, Steve has found to be both a challenge, and an inspiration. “Working with dad is interesting.” Steve admits. “We are very different. He is loud and proud, being your typical salesman, whereas I am calmer, quieter, which is why I wanted to go into law in the first place! I’m not really into networking, whereas dad excels with it – so in this respect we complement each other really well. I did try to encourage my son to become an electrician, but he is determined to go into sport!”
All about choice
Having a sports-mad son, allows Steve to pursue his own sporting passion – watching from the side-lines. “I like having the choice, in how my days or week is planned. The Dwyer Group systems have given me the ability to streamline the business my way, and to work the hours I want to work. This gives me the freedom to take my son to his matches, and watch him compete – which is great for us to be able to spend time together, before he gets too old to want his dad hanging around!”