Synergistic Duo Providing Quality Workmanship
By Rajitha Sivakumaran
The business world has seen a number of corporate marriages rise and fall – synergy in couples does not necessarily imply success as business partners. Some have claimed a ‘happily ever after’ status; others have parted ways.
Fashion designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana separated after more than two decades of romantic and entrepreneurial collaboration. When Burt’s Bees’ co-founders Burt Shavitz and Roxanna Quimby separated, the company became the archetypal child of divorce.
Even amongst those who achieved success in matrimony and business, rough seas have led to rickety sailing. In the case of Clayton and Sue Scott of Kamloops-based CSC Electric Ltd., devotion to the trade and dogged determination have allowed them to ride the waves, securing both personal and professional success.
When Clayton Scott began his electrical contracting company in 2001, the seas were rough simply because beginnings in the business world tend to be challenging. It also didn’t help that Clayton was navigating through the vast world of commerce virtually on his own. Even though Sue Scott worked outside the company at this time, she has been watching the growth of the company since its inception. “In the beginning, Clayton was trying to do everything by himself,” she said.
This triggered a new step in the company’s growth strategy – a consolidation phase that united the Scott duo in business. Four years after the birth of the company, Sue left her full-time job to work alongside her husband in an administrative capacity.
“We were a couple, so we wanted to make sure that we could work together and in 2005, we made a commitment for six months to try and work together,” Sue said.
The partnership worked because the couple took certain measures to ensure success. Consulting a business coach was one such step. Eventually, Sue learned to navigate through the multiple layers of operating a business and the couple were able to stay in their own corners as distinct but integrated members of the company.
“We took a bit of a risk and it worked out very, very well and from there on we have had the ability to grow,” Sue said. Up to 2006, the company was home-based, but the initial five years facilitated enough growth to allow for expansion into a commercial space.
A decade later, the partnership has produced an award-winning company, offering dependable electrical services to residential, commercial and industrial clientele.
“One of the biggest things that this company was built on was quality workmanship and safety. Safety is number one. It doesn’t matter how big or how small the job is. Safety is our number one thing,” Clayton said, adding that the company has had an impeccable safety record – 250,000 hours without incident.
As a proud First Nation company, CSC was awarded the BC Aboriginal Business of the Year title in 2011 and was recognized as the First Nations Business of the Year by the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce. Last year, the company was recognized by the Industry Training Authority for providing apprenticeship opportunities in the mining industry.
The company is also personally involved in a number of community events, from sponsoring race car teams to supporting the Howling Coyote Education Fund, army cadets, the Kamloops hockey team and Pow Wow. CSC is also proud to support small businesses.
“A small amount of money gives them a bigger boost, they benefit more. You can give $500 to a small group and it helps them hugely. You give $500 to a big national group and it doesn’t really have the same effect. We find that it helps the community more by doing that,” Clayton said.
A gradual growth
The most profound part of being a company’s founder is the ability to track the enterprise’s growth over time, and both Clayton and Sue can attest to their company’s humble beginnings and gradual growth with pride.
At first, work consisted mostly of residential projects and was only occasionally flavoured with a bit of commercial essence. This eventually paved the way for more commercial clientele and then a heightened involvement in the mining industry in 2009. By 2011, CSC was exclusively working in mining, something the couple admits in retrospect to be a mistake.
About a year and a half ago, things started to plummet when commodity prices fell and the mining industry spiralled downwards. CSC was caught off-guard when the number of mining projects decreased and work became both scarce and highly competitive.
“It’s tight out there. A lot of the bigger companies are bidding on smaller jobs. It’s challenging,” Clayton said. Before the downturn, large general contractors typically would not bid on anything under $10 million. CSC, being a medium-sized company, didn’t have to compete with these industry giants, but times have become so tough that everyone is competing for even the smallest of jobs.
“What’s happened is that the market share has gotten smaller and because of the commodity pricing, they [large general contractors] are forced out of that industry,” Sue said.
Consequently, everyone is diversifying, but the brunt of the burden falls on smaller enterprises. Larger companies have the resources to allow for a smaller profit margin, which means that they can price better. But sometimes, reputation can stretch farther than resources; it is one of the things that is helping CSC persist.
“Because it’s become so competitive, these general contractors want people that they can rely on. Margins do not allow for a lot of error or time restrictions or delays. All of that is really costly. If you can prove yourself to be reliable and do quality workmanship, they want you to keep coming,” Sue said.
The company’s future success and continued growth is also dependent on diversification and accordingly, the Scotts have adapted the company’s business model to reincorporate the residential and commercial departments that had once played an essential role in CSC’s growth.
“The first time we went into mining, we let our commercial work go. We just stopped doing it. That’s something I’m not going to do again. I’m always going to have that commercial aspect going,” Clayton said.
Additionally, the company has invested in commercial property, which is leased out to generate revenue. Smart executive decisions like these have allowed for continued growth regardless of bumps on the road, allowing the initial two-man staff base to reach a peak of 60 workers.
From his position in the industry, Clayton is quite adept at spotting shortages in skilled labour and has confirmed that there is presently no shortage of electricians. For those interested in pursuing this line of work, the couple puts an emphasis on schooling, particularly a strong background in physics and algebra. Despite working with engineers, Clayton constantly does calculations and uses algebra every day.
CSC continues to offer apprenticeships for youth. “We’ve got to keep growing these guys because one day they’re going to be running everything,” Clayton said, adding that women play a significant role in the trade now.
But being proficient at the trade isn’t enough for commercial success. “To be successful in business in this trade, you can’t just know the trade, you have to know business. Hiring people who know what you don’t know is very key as well,” Sue said.
This is one of the reasons the Scotts’ partnership has worked extremely well; their skill sets are different and complementary – one is a proficient tradesman, the other is a business wizard.