A business path built by a hardworking MBE.

Yeah, I lost count. I hate counting because it shows how old I am, so I stopped haha.

 

This was Karl Griffith’s answer, President at Zena Electric Inc, when asked if it had been 35 years or more since he first started in the electrical field.

 

I’m José Plessman, Creative Writer & Marketing Director at CMC Network and I’m honored to tell Karl’s origin story. I spent a few hours with Karl, listening and learning. This article is the result of the fantastic conversation I had with him. 

 

Turns out, he was graced with a gift many of us wished we had before choosing our career paths: 

 

He knew at the first moment.

 

It began in shop class, at the end of junior high while making science projects with electrical tools. “That’s when my curiosity got beat, man. I was like: ‘Oh, I like this.’”. At the end of ninth grade, when choosing his direction for high school, his top choice was the electric trade.  

 

Fast forward a few years, at the end of his junior year, he took part in a school pseudo apprenticeship program that matched students with local contractors.

 

The following year, just before graduation, his former boss called the school asking for the kids that had worked with him, offering them all jobs. “The thing is my mother had given me as a graduation present a trip to Barbados. 

 

I told her: ‘forget the trip’. I figured I can always go on a vacation once I’ve got money in my pocket.”

 

His career began.

 

Once Karl began he never looked back. One of the most transformative experiences happened at the last company he worked for.

 

He passed the Master Electrician exam. “My former boss told me that once I get my license, I should continue to work for him because I was the ‘heir apparent’… 

 

‘You’re the guy. I’m not going to do this for the rest of my life.’”

 

He agreed and instead of going out on his own, he continued working. Almost ten years later, one Friday afternoon his ankle started hurting. By Sunday he went to the emergency room. Next day he called the office saying he couldn’t come to work and needed to take two days off. 

 

On Wednesday he called to give an update and the Office Manager responded: “Well, funny, I was gonna call you.” He instantly said: “Oh, really? To tell me that you don’t have any work for me?” and she asked: “How did you know?”.

 

He opened up his own business.

 

For him, this “breakup” was – for the most part – the motivation that led him to create something of his own. Now, his lessons as a business owner revolve around taking the best practices he learned as an electrician and translating them into lessons for the office.

 

It’s the transition often stated as “start working ON your business instead of IN your business.” Dedicating time and attention to significant matters; estimating and invoicing, while building a financial mindset and toolkit.

 

 

Karl joined CMC Network last year. Since then he’s been connected to Professionals that have helped him get his back off organized, streamlined and ready to scale. 

 

He’s prepping his company for larger and larger projects with a team that can support his growth. 

 

As Karl stated in his interview – and below, knowing what you’ve included (or not), in your labor number will make or break your company. Do you know yours?

 

Key lessons he’s learned from

 

Karl mentioned three pivotal ideas that informed his perspective on business:

 

  1. Anytime you go into a partnership with anyone, due diligence is vital.
  2. When you bid on a project, your numbers have to be solid,
  3. Client/Customer referrals are the lifeblood of business.

 

“The way you treat and respect your customers is key”, Karl said. “Word of mouth and someone recommending you will always be the strongest form of marketing.” 

 

From the start, he focused on working on public projects with the MTA and he went to one pre-bid walkthrough. He was the only electrician there. Everyone else were General Contractors and Karl spent almost all the time handing business cards and chatting with his ideal client. 

 

“Obviously they were going to get estimates from other Electrical contractors, but they were going to look at mine a little closer because I was familiar with what had to be done. Whereas other contractors were bidding just by looking at the blueprints.”

 

On one of the projects Karl was doing, he built a relationship with the Construction Manager, and when the PM left that company to work with another, “one of the first things he did was introduce me to the owners and said: ‘This is Karl, he’s the owner of Zena Electric. He’s a great electrician and stands by his word, you guys should give him a crack.’”

 

Just that recommendation, opened a ton of doors for Karl and Zena Electric Inc.

Karl is full of stories. Hear about his experiences in his own words in our podcast Constructing a Business.

 

Click below and listen to the episode!

Available on Spotify and Anchor.

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