DESCRIBE YOUR BUSINESS: I run an electrical contracting business that this month celebrates its 36th year. I'm very proud of that. We specialize in service work for commercial and residential customers. We also do new commercial jobs, i.e., banks, restaurants, backup generators, etc. We never did venture down the new home construction path, though. For many years we focused only on commercial jobs, but about 15 years ago we began offering residential service, which my son, R.D., who's my right-hand man, oversees.

EDUCATION: I am a Class A contractor and have my masters license. Most of my education has come from past job experience and a lot of on-the-job training. I've always tried to keep up on the latest technologies including schooling on estimating and other contractor-related courses. I guess you could say I graduated from the School of Hard Knocks.

FAMILY: I've been married to my wife, Carol, for 46 years. We have a daughter, Connie, and a son, R.D. I also have triplet granddaughters who are 13 and one grandson who is 8. I have a great family including my son-in-law and daughter-in-law. We're all very close.

CAREER HISTORY: My first job in the electrical field was for Hancock Electric in Fredericksburg at the age of 17. I also had a couple of jobs for which I traveled up north, before commuting was the thing to do, and down south to Richmond. Before starting my own business, I worked at the U.S. Naval Weapons Laboratory.

FIRST JOB: Working for Hancock Electric.

WORST JOB: I can't say I've ever had a bad job.


HOW DID YOU END UP OWNING YOUR OWN BUSINESS? I came home one day and told my wife that I had quit my job and was going to start my own business. We had two small kids at the time, so it was a bit scary, and it's not something I would recommend to a newcomer. With my wife handling the bookkeeping end of things, we took off into the unknown and have tried not to look back.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB NOW? Working with my son, R.D. on various projects. He's been a part of this business since he could hold a screwdriver.

WHAT MOTIVATES YOU? Continuing to learn new technology.

WHAT IS THE KEY TO RUNNING A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS? Success can be measured in many ways. I've always been one to stand back and observe what's going on around me, and I would have to say that you never let your success go to your head. Always make sure you have a cushion to fall back on when business gets slow, and I've seen it get slow many, many times.

WHAT'S THE BEST THING ABOUT THE BUSINESS CLIMATE HERE? There's always new businesses coming to the area that need electrical work or residential customers who, like the women in my family, like renovating their houses. You know--new kitchens, bathrooms, etc.

WHAT'S THE WORST? Having to compete.

WHO IS THE MOST INSPIRATIONAL BUSINESS LEADER YOU KNOW? WHY? Mr. Hiter Carr and Mr. Jerry Leonard. Both of these men were contractors. They taught me to be thorough. Mr. Carr was good about keeping me on my toes. Mr. Leonard was, too, but he was also willing to share with me his knowledge regarding finances, investing, etc.

WHAT DO YOU DO FOR FUN? I like spending time with my family and being active in my church.

WHAT'S THE BEST BUSINESS LESSON YOU'VE LEARNED? Always be honest, fair and thorough. You'll never get anywhere if you're not honest. I always strive to give our customers a "turnkey" job.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE OTHERS TRYING TO START A BUSINESS? I would pass on the best business lesson I've learned: Always be honest.

WHAT ARE YOUR CAREER GOALS? Even though I'm at retirement age--at least that's what the Medicare Card tells me--I'm not sure I'm completely ready to retire. I think I'd like to continue to dabble in the business for a few more years.


--As told to Pamela Gould

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