HOW TO BECOME AN ELECTRICIAN
Welcome to the GrayHawk DJC podcast. In today’s podcast, we talk with Henry Lucero, owner of Arrow Electric Service, to get his story on how he became an electrician and how he started his company. We hope you enjoy the podcast.
David: Hey Henry, how’s it going?
Henry: Good, good.
David: That’s awesome. Thank you for coming.
Henry: You’re welcome.
David: So, let’s start this off. How about you tell us about yourself, where you come from, what you like to do and then we’ll kick it off like that okay?
Henry: Sure. Well, I was born in a small farming town called Fabens, Texas. It’s about 50 miles east of El Paso. I was raised by my grandparents and went to high school there as well. My grandfather was like, they say, a jack-of-all-trades. He was pretty much a master of almost everything that he did and he was really good with fixing anything. So I picked that up from my grandfather, you know, working with my hands and being able to fix things. And that’s how I grew up. Then, when I was walking home from school one day, I passed by a Navy recruiting office. So I just went into the Navy’s recruiting station and I walked out of there like really with my mind made up of joining the Navy. And as I was walking out of the Navy’s office, walking towards my house, I passed the Air Force recruiting office and there’s an Air Force guy out there and he goes “Come here”. So I went in and they showed me the videos of the Air Force and after I saw that, my mind was made up and I decided to join the Air Force.
David: So, had you always wanted to join the military?
Henry: I wanted to be a pilot. I always wanted to be a pilot. I was always intrigued by airplanes and flight and that’s why I think I wanted to join the Air force. But when I went into the recruiting office, they noticed I wore glasses. You need 20/20 vision to fly. So I couldn’t fly. So I took what they call an ASVAB Test and I scored high in mechanical and electrical. I chose the electrical field. So when I did go to the Air Force, I became an aircraft electrician. When you join, they send all the people to basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, okay. And then from there, I went to Chanute Air Force Base in Illinois.
Henry: There’s a tech school there and it was six months of hell. It’s a really difficult school with actual planes there that you troubleshoot and fix. The really difficult part is the studying and you know electrical, it’s complex.
David: Wow. So did you think of stopping there?
Henry: Well, you know, I was into like my third block about to go to my fourth block and I remember going to chow hall one evening and I saw this girl out there and I asked her what block four was like. She said it was all this math. And I’m like “Oh god, I’m terrible at math”. I was scared. She tells me it’s not that bad but that it was intense. Anyway, I got through it and I didn’t think I was gonna make it but I got through it.
David: Okay, so you’re done with the technical school, right? So where did they send afterwards?
Henry: After that, I got sent to Travis Air Force Base in northern California. About 40 miles inland from San Francisco.
David: Anywhere international, something interesting?
Henry: No, I got stuck there and that’s one of the reasons I got out because I didn’t get to go anywhere else.
David: Oh okay. Did you want to see the world?
Henry: I put in for New Zealand, I put in for Hawaii, I put in for Japan, and I didn’t get any of them.
David: Oh really? Okay, so how long were you in the military for then?
Henry: Four years.
David: Okay, so you’re out now. How old are you at this time?
Henry: About 21, and I already had one child. My firstborn my daughter, Desiree.
David: So, what are you thinking about doing with your life at this point, like do you have any options?
Henry: When I got out, I was in California. We were doing really well. My wife had a job with the city, like a government job, and I could have, I should have stayed there. But we decided to go back home. So we did go back home to El Paso and there were no jobs. It was bad. So I worked menial jobs. I worked at Tune-up Masters. I worked at an electrical supply warehouse. I tried to get into the electrical field and they would tell me I didn’t have the experience. I’m like electrical is electrical. It’s the same on a train, a plane, a boat, a bus. It’s all the same. But they wouldn’t give me a chance. But finally, like in 1985, I landed a job at a company called Rockwell International. I got on their maintenance team and I started out as an electrician there.
David: So, you just applied?
Henry: I just applied, yeah.
David: They just called you and said come on in?
Henry: They called me for an interview and I went in and then I got hired.
David: So just luck then or actually skill.
David: Okay, so how long were you there?
Henry: I was there for about eight years.
David: At Rockwell?
Henry: Yeah, eight years.
David: How was that? Did you enjoy it?
Henry: It was great. I mean, you know, the pay was good and…but there were layoffs. It was a government contract. They were building parts for the B1 Bomber for the Air Force and for the Army. There were layoffs every year. So finally, after eight years, I got laid off.
David: So, you got a family, you’re laid off, and then what are you thinking now at this point?
Henry: I started looking around and I got into another company. I started working at Home Depot for a while in the meantime and, believe it or not, I was at Home Depot back then when they first started, they were paying really well. I was making like $11.80 an hour.
David: What year was this?
Henry: Like 85’, 86’.
David: Not bad.
Henry: But I wanted to get back in the electrical field. I worked at Home Depot in the electrical department and I didn’t like it because it just wasn’t for me.
Henry: So, I was looking around and I found a headhunter for Panasonic that recruited people for their robotics or their automation department. I got in touch with him and finally he gave me a call and they hired me.
David: You’re a good interviewer, aren’t you?
David: That’s good.
Henry: I think so.
David: So, you’re at Panasonic now and then what are you doing there?
Henry: Field Service Engineering.
Henry: Further automation. The robotics that put the electronic components on circuit boards. We would also go all over all the country.
David: How long were you at Panasonic?
Henry: I was there for two years.
David: So, what happened after two years?
Henry: I went to another company. I went to Phillips.
David: You saw something better?
Henry: Same thing. It was the same type of business, robotics automation.
David: Okay. So at this point are you liking what you’re doing?
Henry: Yeah. It was very challenging, very challenging work.
David: Okay, so how long are you at Phillips?
Henry: I think I was there for about a year and a half. Then another thing happened. So I went back to Panasonic.
David: How did you get back to Panasonic?
Henry: They needed more people and I met one of the regional managers from the Dallas area and they decided to hire me. They also said you have to move to Dallas.
Henry: So, I came out to Dallas.
David: But the pay is better?
Henry: The pay was better, yeah.
David: So, you’re in a new city with a new job. How’s that going?
Henry: It was going great. I was working for, Joe. He was a manager of our area here in Dallas, Texas and he wanted to put me in charge of the “Mexican” area, the Mexican region. So I did and I would fly down to Reynosa down by Mcallen, Texas and there was like nine service engineers under me.
Henry: And so I was doing that, servicing the Mexico area and Texas as well.
David: So, when you say “Mexican” region, it’s the area near the border.
Henry: Right. They had, you know, back then they were producing massive amounts of televisions and electronic components, electronic products, and appliances in Mexico. So they had a lot of our machines there and we would service them.
Henry: We would install the lines of robotics. We would troubleshoot them. We’d repair them. Fix them, you know.
David: So that’s pretty good.
Henry: Yeah, it was really good.
David: Okay, but you’re based in Dallas and you have to go down to the Rio Grande, right?
Henry: Right, yeah. That would last forever, you know. If it come up that they needed a job done in Indiana or something and I was available, they would send me there too.
David: Wow. So how long were you gone for during the week?
Henry: I would leave every Monday and come back every Friday. I was on a plane every Monday and on the plane every Friday.
David: Oh wow. How, I mean, how is that?
Henry: It gets old. You get to a point where you don’t want to fly. It gets old and then you don’t see your family very often during the week. You only see them on the weekends.
David: So, what happened after that?
Henry: So, believe it or not, back then, that was about…what was that the 90’s? Like in the 90’s, late 90’s, I want to say a lot of the stuff started leaving Mexico and going to China and overseas and so they didn’t have a need for us. So they had laid offs. Almost everyone in Texas got laid off and our regional supervisor even my regional manager got laid off. They laid off 17 of us in Texas. They left one in the McAllen area and the regional manager, they moved him to Illinois.
Henry: He kept his job but all of us, they laid us off. So we all got laid off and I had just bought my house. I bought my house and we got the keys on a Friday and I got laid off on that Monday.
David: Oh wow. Oh my god. So talk about your roller coaster ride. So you got a new house, you got a mortgage, a family to take care of, and you thought you had this great job. And then suddenly, you don’t.
David: So, what are you thinking now?
Henry: Well thankfully, my wife was employed. So I had my truck and I had all my tools, so I said “Man I’m gonna just do handyman work. So I started doing handyman work. I made some business cards and I started giving them out to real estate ladies and people and started doing handyman work. Anything from carpentry to electrical plumbing. I didn’t do too much of the electrical because I knew that you needed to get all your licensing first. So I started doing a lot of handyman work and it was good. I mean it kept me above water and I was paying the bills and I started working to get my electrical contractor’s license.
David: So when you say you handed out cards to real estate people, you just knocked on their door, called them?
Henry: I would call people up.
David: You didn’t know these people, right?
Henry: Not really.
David: So it’s just complete cold calls.
Henry: Right, yeah.
David: You’re just going through the phone book.
David: Just calling.
Henry: Well, this the one lady, she’s the one that sold us our house. So I told her, “Hey I do handyman work”. She goes “Great, I need a handyman for some of our rentals and stuff”. So I started there and then I’d go to like Century 21, their offices, and give out my cards.
David: Just show up out of the blue?
David: How did they receive you?
Henry: Usually good. They welcomed contractors. They had a certain day, every month, that they’d have a meeting or like an open forum and they’d welcome, you know, contractors that come in and, you know, talk about their services – roofers, plumbers, electricians.
David: So, in the beginning, most of your time is spent just giving out cards to people so they can call you later.
Henry: I guess.
David: They didn’t check your background or anything or do they? Is there a vetting service?
Henry: Not really. Not for a handyman.
David: Okay. But you’re getting steady calls, right?
Henry: I was doing good.
David: Okay. So how did you evolve? What did you do after that?
Henry: I wanted to stay in electrical.
Henry: So I kept on. I worked on getting my contractor’s license. So I finally got my contractor’s license and then I went and I opened up a DBA under Arrow Electric.
Henry: And I went, you know, legit all the way Arrow Electric.
David: So how difficult is it to get that contractor’s license? Like, what do you have to go through?
Henry: You have to get your journeyman’s, your masters, and your electoral contractor’s license and then you can run a business.
David: So are these classes you have to take?
Henry: We have to just pass a test. You have to have so many hours of electrical experience.
Henry: In the field to take the test and pass it.
David: So if you don’t, what do you do?
Henry: You just have to get a job somewhere. You have to work under another contractor that has those licenses. That’s it. You can’t open or have your own company.
David: Okay. So you had all your hours and everything, right?
David: So it’s just taking the test, right? Okay and how’s the test?
Henry: It’s difficult. It’s really hard.
David: Do you just show up somewhere?
Henry: You register, you show up and they give you a certain place, a venue, where they have it. Now it’s all computerized. Before it was an open code book
Henry: And it’s like about an eight hour test.
David: Oh wow.
Henry: Yeah wow. So it’s a little bit shorter now. It’s about six hours but it’s pretty grueling.
David: Okay. So you get your license. You open Arrow Electric Service?
David: What are you doing after? How’s business? You’re officially a company, right?
Henry: So I started out just myself and I’m just, you know, giving out business cards like before and getting work and then I was advertising. I believe Craigslist. And I was advertising on that Thrifty Nickel stuff like that back then. That was about 2007. And I was getting calls. I was getting business. A lot of the Craigslist stuff wasn’t that good. If you get you know Craigslist, you know people know it’s not the greatest but I was getting business.
David: So you’re just posting, right?
Henry: Yeah. I would put ads. I’d make like an ad and stick it or paste it to Craigslist and then I was getting business off of that.
Henry: It was pretty good at first and then I just started using different things. I think I bought some spots in the Yellow Pages back then. That was good. It was working. So yeah, I used that and I was staying pretty busy.
David: So how much time did you devote to the actual electrical work versus getting your name out there?
Henry: I was well just being myself. I was doing all the work myself, electric work. So I mean I did, I guess, I would just in the evenings. I would go home on the computer and just make ads and put them on Craigslist. Give out a lot of business cards but that was about it.
David: So you’re a one-man shop then right? You’re doing everything?
Henry: Yeah marketing, in the office working, the marketing, the advertising, and the actual work.
David: Wow. So how much time do you think you’re putting in every day with all this stuff?
Henry: I was probably putting in, I would say a good 12 hours a day.
David: Okay. Including the advertising and the office stuff?
Henry: Yep. Maybe 12 maybe 15, 16 hours a day.
David: Okay. And business is good, right?
Henry: It was good. It was steady. It was steady, yeah.
David: So how did you grow? What happened? Did anything change for you?
Henry: I started getting busier and busier. My son would help me on and off. He was still in high school and I hired a helper. I believe I went through several helpers here and there and then they would go off on their own way. But, I kept growing the company, little by little, and then like around 2000, I believe it was, I hired two extra guys and business was taking off pretty good. And we were getting more and more business and I utilized them to the fullest of their ability.
David: So these are your first employees, right?
Henry: Yeah. These two, yeah.
David: So how’s that like, managing people now?
Henry: Well, I was used to it from Panasonic. I had nine people under me. So it wasn’t, that wasn’t too difficult. But, I was using them as contract labor. I was 1099-ing them. It’s real difficult to have employees and all the benefits and I wasn’t there yet. So yeah, I had these two guys for a few years and then they went on their own.
David: So they were kind of training under you?
Henry: When they started, they were both journeyman electricians.
Henry: So they had experience. They’re pretty well trained. They were really good electricians.
David: Did they start their own companies too?
Henry: I think one of them did. One of them did.
David: So you lose them, right? Did you have to rehire now or are you?…
Henry: No, I didn’t rehire them.
David: Okay. So it’s just you again.
Henry: It’s just me again by myself.
David: But business is still pretty good?
Henry: I guess. It was good. It was pretty good and then my son had gone to work somewhere else and then he came back and started working for me again. I think it was right around 2016, I believe.
David: Okay, so it’s now two people again.
Henry: It’s me and my son again all right.
David: But you’re still getting good business. And where’s that business coming you think right now? Is it just word of mouth?
Henry: Well, I had hired some SEO companies out of California. I had used Google Guarantee recently. I went out of California I used several years back and business was good. I got into Yelp and that was really good at first.
Henry: And then it sort of dwindled out. So I used Yelp and Google and you know, I was advertising wherever I could.
David: So when you say you used Yelp, were you putting ads on Yelp?
Henry: I just hired them and I was paying them and they were doing, you know, I guess, I forget how, what you call it, you might be familiar with that.
David: So you just hired them to place ads for you.
David: And that was driving traffic?
David: You’re getting business. What do you think happened that kind of dried that up with Yelp?
Henry: I’m not sure. You’re familiar with them.
Henry: So we had like 33 good reviews on there. They had a certain way of ranking them, or whatever. But then they brought it down to 10. It sort of upset me. I’m like, well, I have 33 great reviews out there. Why aren’t you showing them? Well, it’s because we don’t want to show. I said but they’re all five-star reviews. So I just ended up leaving because they weren’t showing all of my good reviews on there and I thought that was sort of detrimental to the business.
David: Right. So after 2016 is it still you and your son?
Henry: Yeah. It was good. I mean there’s times, you know, it’s just like there’s a lot of competition in the electrical businesses. There’s just tons of electricians out here. So it’s up and down. It’s up and down sometimes. In the summertime you get busy, sometimes you don’t because people go on vacation. It just depends. Sometimes right around the holidays Thanksgiving and Christmas you get super busy and sometimes you don’t. It’s just the nature of the beast, I guess.
David: Right. So do you have any interesting stories to tell about any jobs you had?
Henry: Not that I can think of right now. They are pretty straightforward or you just show up, you do your job. You know, pretty much the difficult jobs are people that have a big house and they want to do a remodel. With the remodel, you never know what you’re gonna get because you could open up a wall and it could be a nest of a nightmare of electrical and so those are challenging.
David: What do you see usually when you have to do something like that as far as like, what’s challenging for you?
Henry: Well, a lot of times, people will buy an older home, okay. And they’re going to remodel it, right. So you’ll give them a price. You’ll say, well, it’s going to be this amount of money. I’ve also learned to put in my estimates on that remodel first. You never know what you’re going to find once you start getting into it. So the price and material and labor could increase. There are a lot of people that have homes that have been worked on by dozens of different people. And so you start getting into it and you find out this is a mess. It’s a disaster. So you have to rewire and redo a lot of stuff.
David: Do you have any special jobs that you did that kind of pop in your head?
Henry: There’s just a lot, like, remodels, especially real old homes and the customer is expecting you to know. We have to, you know, if you’re going to do a remodel, you have to bring everything up to code. And a lot of people take electricity for granted. You know, out of sight out of mind. There’s people, they’ll spend, $70,000 to remodel a kitchen. They want aesthetics. They care about their granite countertops, their appliances, the paint…the way the house looks. They neglect it, and you tell them, you need to rewire this kitchen. It’s gonna cost you $3,000. They’re like, “What”, are you crazy”? Hey, you know if you want the house, if you want everything to operate properly, you know the electrical is the heartbeat of the house. Without that, you don’t have a house. So a lot of people just don’t really appreciate or take into consideration how important electricity is. It’s got to be done right. If you don’t do the job right and do it up to code, then you’re not doing them a service. And a lot of people don’t care. They don’t want to spend the money on the electrical to fix it right.
David: Oh wow.
Henry: So a lot of people hire their uncles or their friends or whatever and let them do it a lot of times. We come into homes and you see the work. You can, I can look at some electrical and I can tell you right away if an electrician did it or an amateur did it. You can tell just by the way they bend the wire, the way they install the switches and the outlets, and the way they do the panel. And that is a big no-no because a lot of times these people don’t know what they’re doing. It just creates a fire hazard.
David: Wow. So isn’t all this handled by the contractor that does the remodeling and they would like hire you as a subcontractor to help with all that or is it something that the homeowner has to do and call an electrician afterwards?
Henry: It depends. If it’s a general contractor and they sub it and they hire us to go, I mean, we have to go in there and do an assessment and see what needs to be done right and then we would usually give them the quote. And then they work with the homeowner. If it’s a homeowner we get, we go directly to them and tell them look here’s what needs to be done.
David: So if it’s the homeowner, does that mean that you have to maybe take out some of the actual work that the contractor did to make it more aesthetically pleasing because you might have to get back into the wall or look at things that should be done at the same time that they’re remodeling?
Henry: It should be, yeah. That’s why we try to work with the contractor. If they’re going to open up a wall, we tell them, after you’re done with your section, let us go in there and re-examine stuff and make sure everything is right. So that there’s nothing…so that everything is up to code.
David: But do they let you go in before they put the wall back up so you can have access to the wiring in the back?
Henry: So sometimes they do. A lot of times it just depends on what we’re doing.
David: So there’s not a lot of coordination there.
Henry: Sometimes no. And the homeowner ends up paying for everything. Well, you know, one comes to mind. We did a kitchen remodel where the general contractor hired us to do the kitchen remodel and I think he was in a bind. I think the other electrician left him. And we’ve run into that a lot. I’m talking about what you’re asking about things that come to mind. So a lot of times, I guess maybe they don’t get paid or maybe the other electrician didn’t have a license or didn’t pull the permit and so the contractor is in a bind. They fire them or the guys quit because maybe he didn’t pay him for that week. And so, this guy came to us and he needed this remodel done. It was a big home. It was a lot of work. So we went in there and he did not demo a sheetrock wall. We should have had him demo it to open it completely up. We did it ourselves. We opened it up and we did all the work. And then come towards the end of the job, where we’re ready to come in and trim out, my son goes back in there and says “Hey this guy already hired somebody else to come and trim it out”. And I was livid. I was mad because when we start a job that’s our baby, right? In other words, if we goof it up, we pulled a permit on that job. If we pull the permit on the job, it’s on us to complete it. So if this guy had one of his helpers or one of his painters or one of his carpenters that says “I don’t know how to put in the outlets” and does it and something happens, and the house burns down, and the kitchen catches fire, it’s on us. But he ended up paying, luckily. He had paid us in advance. But then he says I don’t need you guys anymore. I finished it up but you’re still liable for the work right at that point. I went to the city and told them what happened. Not because we didn’t finish, but because we didn’t get to finish the job. He let us go.
David: And does this happen a lot?
Henry: It does. That’s the first time that happened to us.
David: So when you confronted him, what did he say? Like what caused the change?
Henry: I don’t know. He was in a hurry to get it done. We went that following Monday to finish. He was in over his head. He seemed apologetic or…no, not really, no. He just didn’t care. He just wanted to move on. When we saw the job, it was a lot. He didn’t even have electrical plans. He just said, “I want this here, here, here, here, and here”. And we went on the sheetrock wall and we marked everything. And I had specifically told him when we were leaving on a weekend…I think we were going out of town to a funeral or something, and I told them, “Look, we’re going out of town next week so please let us know if everything is correct”. And that Friday came and he never did. And, you know, he didn’t tell us “Hey you needed to add this outlet or the circuit”. And so he came back at us later and told us. That’s when I said, “I told you before we left to let us know“. And we would have taken care of it. But he didn’t and I think, like I said, I think he was in over his head.
David: Right. That’s kind of perplexing if he paid you. He paid you but he didn’t let you finish the work.
Henry: Right. But he didn’t pay us to finish the work.
David: Oh, I see. So he paid you to a certain amount?
Henry: Yeah. He paid us in advance. So luckily we were covered. We came out a little bit over.
Henry: If he wouldn’t have given us that advance and then let us go, we would have been out like $5,000.
David: Right. So it’s your personal sense of duty that got you upset because you want to finish the job well.
Henry: Yeah. If we’re the electricians on site and we start the job, we have to finish it. Because they’re going to inspect it. They want to make sure it’s done right.
David: Well, luckily, the city was fine with you leaving because you were forced to, right?
David: So you weren’t liable for anything?
David: So, has this ever happened again?
Henry: No, it hasn’t.
David: So any issues with any homeowners?
Henry: Not really.
David: So what’s your typical day like then as an electrician? Like when you wake up, what do you do? Do you get phone calls or do you go out on some appointments that are already scheduled? And then do you interact with a customer? How’s that like? How’s your normal routine?
Henry: Well normally, you just get up and I usually have a schedule for that day, that week. I just check my emails and then usually it’s phone calls. I get phone calls now that we’re with you.
David: Oh, thank you.
Henry: We’re getting phone calls.
David: Shameless plug there.
Henry: We get phone calls and we answer phone calls. A lot of people have questions. I used to not try to give too much information. But I found that if I do give people information and it helps them out, we get good reviews. Plus, they’re more apt to call us. Because I used to think that, you know, in the past, I’m not going to tell them anything because they’ll go do it themselves. But you know, we’re steady right now. We’re busy. So I have helped some customers out over the phone and I solved their problems and they gave me a great review and they’re happy and they’ll use us in the future. So a typical day is just service calls. That’s mainly what our company is – service calls and we do a lot of remodeling.
Henry: When it’s available we’ll do remodeling.
David: Oh really?
Henry: Yes. We do, but like I said, with remodeling, it’s one of those things where you never know what you’re gonna get. It’s like a can. You open it up and you don’t know what’s going to be in there. We’ve been into some really old homes and it’s just a nightmare of what people have done over the years. You know different people have gone in there and done different things and so those are the ones that are challenging. I had to put it on my estimates that if we encounter those type of problems, the price can go up because we don’t know what we’re getting into. But a lot of people understand that this needs to be done. Also, it’s hard to work for a lot of general contractors because, in the trade, you got to be careful with them because a lot of them are not honest.
David: Tell us some stories.
Henry: I mean, there’s a lot of contractors out there, most home contractors and most home builders. This is one reasons I don’t work for home builders.
Henry: Home builders will use the cheapest plumber, the cheapest electrician, the cheapest of everything.
Henry: They make all the money. They don’t want to pay out. They want the cheapest and the fastest of everything. You see some of these multi-million dollar homes out here. In my book, they’re not worth that because a lot of the work is shoddy. I’ve been to a lot of customers’ houses, brand new homes that has a lot of bad things going on. So we see that all the time. A lot of contractors, you got to be careful. There are some modest ones out there but the majority of contractors out there are not honest. They’re out for themselves. They want to pay you the least amount that they can pay and get away with it.
David: So when you say that, do you think it’s the business that kind of forces them to be that way because they’re trying to get as much, you know, income and business coming in or is it just that industry kind of attract those types of people?
Henry: I don’t know if it’s greed, wanting to get to the top, or just wanting to build as many homes as they can. I don’t know. I’m not sure but there’s a contractor out here, one that does all the wiring for all the new homes and they have to wire a home and these are big homes in one day. They’re there even if they have to stay there until midnight or 24 hours. You have to finish it in one day.
David: Why is that time period there?
Henry: I don’t know. Because he does thousands and thousands of homes. He does the majority of all the homes here in the Metroplex and from what I understand, his profit margin isn’t that big but he does so many that I heard from one guy, he has an estate out in East Texas. He’s a very wealthy person.
David: Doesn’t he have to meet a certain code though?
Henry: They do have to meet a code but he’ll put five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten electricians on a house just to wire it up in one day. And see, when you wire up, when you speed wire a house, when you’re in a rush like that, it doesn’t always come out 100 percent good or accurate. So they don’t take the due diligence to double check and make sure a lot of times. They don’t.
Henry: We’ve been into brand new homes, where you open up the main panel and a lot of the wiring is just loose. It has never, was never tightened because they’re in such a rush.
David: So do you think the builders know this?
Henry: Sure they do.
Henry: A lot of the new homes aren’t. If you don’t do your homework and know who the builder is and the quality of their work, you don’t know what you’re going to get.
David: And where would someone find that out, though?
Henry: You’d have to research the home builders. Like, when I got my house built, I did some research. Lennar homes, they’re pretty decent and when they were building my home, I went out there and I was looking at the construction of the carpentry and at the framing. I saw it and it was pretty decent, pretty good work. Now as far as electrical, I don’t know because I wasn’t there. David Weekly is supposed to be another really good, okay home builder. But you just have to do your research and find out who has bad reviews.
David: So if a contractor approaches you and says, you know, we’d like to hire you to do some stuff, do you usually turn those jobs down?
Henry: I don’t do new construction because I don’t have the proof, number one. And number two, I don’t like going to work for these people because they want to pay us half of what we were supposed to make on a job like that. Like the other day, I got called. I’ve gotten calls from other contractors. Small contractors that do remodeling and I’ll work with them if I meet them and see who they are and stuff – if they seem legitimate. If they seem like they’re doing good quality work, I’ll work with them.
David: Henry, how long have you’ve been an electrician?
Henry: Now for probably about 25 years.
David: 25 years?…wow. Okay, you know you’re a pretty savvy businessman if you’ve been in this for that long. What are your core beliefs and thoughts about running a company and doing your electrical services?
Henry: Well, I’m pretty much of a perfectionist, you know. I guess I get that from the Air Force. I like to be organized. I like everything in my vehicle, even at home, to be organized. I hate when I try to look for something and I can’t find it. So I believe in having my vehicles, my service vehicles well organized, well stocked. And I believe in doing a job right the first time and doing it by code to the book, you know. A lot of times I’ll find that I do something and it doesn’t look just right and I’ll redo it just because I like things done right. So I think it’s important, especially with electricity. It’s important to get your work done properly because if it’s not done right, and you miss something, it could potentially start a fire and it could be the end of your business.
David: How do you set expectations with customers when you meet them for the first time? Like what they can get from you?
Henry: I guess, well, usually like when I get phone calls from customers, I try to pre-qualify them. I ask a lot of questions. So first of all, I’ll ask like what broke down or when did it happen? If I think maybe there’s a broken wire or something somewhere, I’ll ask if anybody has been in your attic walking around up there? Have you had any other repairs done? So I try to ask as many questions as I can to find out to diagnose the problem.
David: Are people usually forthcoming?
Henry: Yeah, usually. Except when it’s on text. It’s tough to go back and forth. But right when I have them on the phone, I ask as many questions I can to try to narrow down the problem. And then when I go and I do meet them in person, I give them an estimate. I try to tell them that we’re a legitimate company, of course. They ask me if I am licensed. Of course, we are. I also tell them that we pay attention to detail and we do quality work and we can help them. We can fix your problem.
David: Are there any gigs you’ve come across where it’s really difficult for you to fix the problem?
Henry: There’s been a couple of here and there where you get stumped. Where you can’t find a broken wire and sometimes it’s in a wall or in a ceiling. There’s been a few times where we’ve been stumped.
David: Are those difficult conversations to have with the customer or do you have to do extra?
Henry: Sometimes you have to do extra work and that’s to get it resolved. Extra costs and stuff, yeah, a little bit. But those are things that just come with the business.
David: So if someone’s thinking of watching this video and they’re thinking about becoming an electrician, what kind of advice can you give them?
Henry: Well first of all, you have to not be afraid of electricity.
Henry: A lot of people are deathly afraid of it. You have to not be afraid of electricity and you have to study electricity. If that’s something that you want to do. But it is a lot of studying. People don’t understand how complex it is. There’s a lot of differences between electricity in a car and electricity in your home. So I would say if that’s what you want to do, a lot of people can join a local apprenticeship school. They can get started that way or they can join an electric company and work under their supervision to get their apprentice license and then the journeyman. After that, they can move on from there. But they to have a like for electricity. They have to like it, have to enjoy it, and have to enjoy working with it. That’s what I like. I don’t like sitting in a building 24/7. I like being out and about. I can’t sit in one place too long. So that’s what I like about the electrical trade. You’re always going to different places, different homes, different businesses to do work and you’re out and about meeting different people. And I like that.
David: So once they get the training, what’s their next step?
Henry: If someone were to get into this field, the next step to starting a company is they just have to make the decision to do it. If you want to open your own business, you would have to work for an electric company to get your journeyman’s. I believe it’s 8,000 hours.
Henry: And then if you wanted to go the next step and get your contractor’s license, then you’d have to have another 12,000 hours and then you could open your own company.
David: Oh wow. Okay, so I didn’t know about the 12,000 hours under the supervision of an electrical contractor. So when you finished everything, what was that feeling like to be on your own for the first time?
Henry: It was great.
David: Did you feel any sense of trepidation because you’re taking all this risk? Now everything’s on you or were you just like “I’m gonna do this”?
Henry: It was a big sense of accomplishment getting that license and being able to go out on your own and do work for people and fix their problems.
David: So on the business side, what kind of advice do you give to people on the business of running the company, not being an electrician but actually running a company properly?
Henry: Watch every penny. Watch your money. Don’t spend money on things you don’t need. People go out and buy brand new vans, brand new trucks, and then they don’t get the business. Start out small. Like I even tell my own kids, start out little. Start out with a smallest amount that you know won’t hurt you. Don’t go and buy a $50,000 truck. Go get yourself a $4,000 truck and as long as it looks decent start with that. Don’t go buy the most expensive tools you know if you don’t need them. Just start out and then once you get going and once you’re making a profit and doing good, then you can go out and get the fancier stuff because you know even electrical equipment and tools are expensive.
Henry: And some test equipment is super expensive. But you can get by with mediocre test equipment just to start.
David: Do you think there’s anything that they should watch out for? You know like bad SEO companies, for example, or some other pitfalls that you might have run across?
Henry: Yeah, just like I had mentioned before. Just be careful of contractors that you work for.
Henry: And be careful. Like to try to do everything COD.
David: What does that mean?
Henry: Cash On Delivery. Whereas a lot of…there’s a lot of companies out there that we were working for because at first we were desperate for business. Third-party companies that pay you in 30 days. Some of them 60 days and that’s a long time to wait for your money. If you’re a small company, it’s hard.
David: Are you able to negotiate that a lot of times?
Henry: If they are net 30. The most we’ve done is net 45, okay. We’re doing net 45 for ADT. But that’s a long time to wait for your money. So try not to get into that. It’s best if you just do everything COD if you’re small, if you’re starting out.
David: I see. You’ve been in this for a while, where do you see yourself in the future?
Henry: Probably not doing as much work but running the company.
Henry: Trying to grow it. I’d like to grow it a little bit more and not be so much hands-on but do more of just the running the company and the dispatching and the office work.
David: Do you want to expand your territory?
Henry: I guess. Maybe hire a couple of more people, maybe a couple more trucks, three or four more trucks. And then expand the territory a little bit, not a whole lot. I don’t want to get too big because it’s just the bigger the company, the more the headache.
David: So you don’t want to become like one of these larger companies that have offices all over the country?
Henry: Not really. Because your attention to detail goes down the drain.
Henry: You can’t…like when you keep your company small, you can focus on doing quality work and that’s what drives our company – quality workmanship. I’ve always stressed that quality workmanship, attention to detail.
David: I see. And so you’re an electrician now. What else are you into, like hobbies?
Henry: I like boating and I like fishing.
Henry: But something that I really enjoy and I’m really passionate about is, and it’s very intriguing, very interesting, is metal detecting.
David: So what is that?
Henry: It’s just metal detectors.
Henry: And you just look for old coins or buried treasure, buried metals in the ground. I’m also a member of the Ring Finders. It’s a worldwide organization. This guy, Chris Turner, started it in Canada. And so, there’s several hundred people all around the world. If you lose your ring, your wedding ring, or any ring or jewelry, we’re all on the web and all over the world and if you Google “I lost my ring in Fort Worth”, we would pop up and you can call us. And we can negotiate a time to go out there and look for your lost valuables.
David: So how do you do that if you don’t really know the specifics of where they lost their ring?
Henry: Usually, that’s what we rely on. We rely on the customer to know pretty much like 75 percent of where they lost it.
Henry: So a lot of times, it’s in a backyard and they know more or less where they lost it. We have recovered rings. A lady lost a ring out on the freeway. She was throwing her gum out the window and her ring flew off and we went out there and searched and searched and searched.
David: How do you stop the traffic when you’re doing it?
Henry: It was on the side of the freeway.
Henry: It was by a grassy area and it was just empty. There was nothing out there and we searched that area. We went through that back and forth. We even had to go back and throw out another piece of gum to see where it would land.
David: So you drove in a car and…
Henry: Yeah, we replicated what she would have done. She drove by and she tried to replicate it. And so we went and looked and we couldn’t locate it.
David: So it’s literally a bunch of guys with metal detectors and you found the ring?
Henry: We, on that instance, we didn’t.
David: Oh okay. So what’s your success rate?
Henry: Well, I’ve done, I think about 16 recoveries and about 30 searches. And it’s just all free of charge just because we work on a reward basis.
Henry: So we usually charge a travel fee to get out there. And we negotiate that first and then they give us a reward of what they think it is worth to have their valuable returned.
David: So what about this do you enjoy?
Henry: Yeah. When you go metal detecting, I started back in the late 80’s. I bought me a metal detector and I was just out on my great grandfather’s property and I found an old Franc from France. It’s just when you find it, you’re like, “Wow”. It’s cool and then come to find out that my uncle was in France in World War II.
David: Oh wow.
Henry: I’m pretty sure that’s where it came from. They probably gave it to the kids and they lost it out there. It’s just when you find an old coin. It’s just cool. I mean, especially if you find gold. There’s a lot of buried treasure out there.
David: What else have you found then?
Henry: Mainly a lot of coins. A few old coins. Once I found a ring. But I don’t get out as much as I’d like to.
David: So is it the act of searching that you like?
Henry: It’s the payoff I like. Especially if it’s really old. You know the best places to search are Civil War battlefields. Old home sites, really old home sets from the 1800’s.
David: Does it creep you out when you’re walking around those old home sites?
Henry: No. Some people have found gold coins from the 1800’s and that’s a find.
David: So when you find something, is that considered yours?
Henry: Yeah. It’s yours unless it’s on somebody’s property. And usually, you can negotiate. Like the finder usually keeps 70% or 75% of the finds. Some people don’t care if you’re just collecting coins as a hobby unless they know that there’s something valuable. But there’s people that have buried, you know, a lot of money in their yards and they will hire us to go out and search for it.
David: So in the DFW area, where are some good spots or where have you been?
Henry: In the DFW area, mainly just, with ring finders, to people’s homes. I’ve been to the parks just to go out and practice with my metal detectors. I got a good story for you if you want to hear it?
David: Go ahead.
Henry: So I got a call. It was about four or five years ago. Are you familiar with Corsicana Street Bakery?
Henry: They’re in Corsicana, Texas. They are world famous for their fruitcakes. And I didn’t know anything about it. So I started researching them. They’re a multi-million dollar company because they sell those fruitcakes worldwide. They sell a lot in Europe. I didn’t know that. So the owner had his comptroller, the guy that handled all the money in that business, arrested and put in prison for embezzling the company of like 14 million dollars.
Henry: They made so much money, that he never really paid attention to it. But he hired this new comptroller or a new lady in accounting or something. She tells the owner you’re missing a lot of money. So he started looking into it and it found out that the guy was buying silver bars, gold bars, Rolex watches, mink furs, expensive cars, and all kinds of stuff with the stolen money. So he hired us to go to the house, the guy was already in prison and his wife was under indictment, in Corsicana. We went and we thought he might have buried some of the stuff. They wanted to recoup some of the losses so we went and we searched at his home for two days. I found some old coins but we didn’t find what he was looking for. But several weeks later, they found a bag of Rolexes in Lake Travis in Austin because the he had thrown it in there.
David: How did they find that?
Henry: I don’t know if he hired somebody or somebody just found it. So, we got paid pretty good for doing that search. He had another property in New Mexico and Santa Fe where that guy had also been and he asked us “What do you charge to go out there and search”? I gave him a price and we never heard back from him but we did do the search in Corsicana and we never found anything.
David: So do you plan on continuing this?
Henry: Yeah. If I had endless amounts of money, I’d just go all over. I would just get in my truck and just drive and find all the abandoned old home sites and search.
David: So is this another service you provide from Arrow Electric Service.
Henry: Yeah. I have another offshoot business called Arrow Search and Recovery.
Henry: And so, yeah. There’s a lot of people that have buried treasure on their property. There’s millions of people that especially back in the old days, they didn’t trust the banks. So they buried their money and then they passed away. And it’s still there for some metal detectors to come and find. Did you hear about that couple in California that were walking their dogs on their property and they saw a can sticking out of the ground? There were gold coins in the can from the San Francisco mint from the 1850’s, 1860’s.
David: So won’t the government claim that?
Henry: I think they got a portion of it. They made several million dollars out of it.
David: So on your days off, if you’re not doing anything, do you just literally take your detector and start looking for things?
David: Anybody tell you to get off the land?
Henry: No, not really. I usually go to abandoned home sites, as long as there isn’t a no trespassing sign.
David: Do you feel any type of danger while you’re doing this on an empty lot where no one’s around?
Henry: One time I was up at Lake Grapevine. I was out there metal detecting and there were these two guys, and it was early in the morning, and it was empty. There was nobody out there and these two guys drive up and they got out and they started walking towards me. I thought I was going to get robbed. They asked me “What are you finding”? I said, “Why are you asking?” So I just kept walking towards my truck and they left. But yeah, it’s good if you go with a buddy because you never know. You’re down there digging, you got your headphones on and somebody comes and you will never know it.
David: Well that’s really interesting.
Henry: The real good finds are in Europe. I don’t know if you’ve heard but there was a Saxon horde find in England that was worth several millions, maybe a billion dollars. And it’s all gold pieces and jewelry that belonged to kings back then. I guess some of the knights were royalty and they had their swords and their knives and their helmets decorated with gold and emeralds and this guy found it. He researched it and he told a local farmer, “I have a feeling that it’s here”. The farmer says, “No this land has been in our family for hundreds of years and there’s nothing here”. But it was there and the guy found it. The treasure had been plowed over and over and a lot of it was destroyed. But they found it. They found another one recently in England and that was worth something in the billions. Just a king’s ransom horde of gold. It’s amazing that you look at some of the pictures and they actually had craftsmanship where they would make these pieces of gold. There’s one that’s got an emerald stone and it’s just a gold chain for breast decoration.
Henry: Like a plate but it’s beautiful. They had that craftsmanship back then. A lot of people also find Roman coins that are worth a lot of money. People have found German helmets, German tanks buried in 20 feet of earth.
Henry: I mean, it’s endless. So you got to go somewhere with a lot of history. Especially in Europe. There’s a lot down in South America too with the Incas and the Mayas. They have found pots of gold. There are people that go down there and they hire these native people to go help them dig. They take big metal detectors, expensive ones, and they they’ve unearthed pots of gold.
David: Have you done anything like that yourself here?
Arrow Electric Service – 201 W Hurst Blvd, Hurst, TX 76053, (817) 538-8959
For more information on Henry and Arrow Electric Service, go to: https://arrowelectricservice.net/