By Mick Dickinson
founder at BuzzedUp
Many local electricians may be putting customers at risk because they are under-qualified or don’t have enough experience, according to Danny Hancock of Optus Electrical.
A highly qualified electrician with a strong order book, Danny learned his trade the hard way.
Leaving home at 18, Danny did some casual labouring work, and then took off travelling. He worked his way round Australia and south east Asia. Back in England two years later, a sports injury meant labouring on building sites was out of the question, and office-based sales roles were just not working out.
“A friend of mine was re-training as an electrician. I realised it was a trade where good money could be made. I was young and I wanted a proper career, so I started to get the qualifications and did a bit of agency work.”
Along the way Danny experienced the darker side of working in gangs on large projects.
“Some people try to bully you when you are just starting out. I’d be getting up at 5am, cycling six miles to the gaffer’s house to pick him up, then driving an hour and half to the work site. I’d graft all day, and then face another long trip home. Plus I had to go to college two nights week to get my certificates! I wasn’t yet fully qualified, and I didn’t know any better, and it nearly killed me.”
Once trained, Danny did sub-contracting on some of Bristol’s big commercial developments. Major projects included the installation of huge consumer units (fuse boards to you and me) in landmark properties like Harvey Nichols (Cabot Circus), corporate HQs in Aztec West, and the financial buildings in Temple Quay.
“After a while I realised I had become very capable. I am trained and qualified to do anything with electrics from the moment power comes into a building, from the main distribution centre right down to a socket and a light fitting.”
Danny decided the next step was to run his own business, but only after he’d served time as an apprentice and done forty-plus house re-wires, and while working for someone else who had the ultimate responsibility for safety and quality of the work.
“I served a three-year apprenticeship to become an Electrician (N.V.Q level 3 in electrical Installation), which proved that I have experience in all types of installation.
“AfterÂ a couple more years I passedÂ my C&G 2391 – Inspection and Testing (which is tough: only 30% of people pass it). This meant that I was awarded Approved Electrician status. In short, as qualified as you can be as an electrician!
“When I started my business I applied as a Domestic Installer first, which everyone has to do. After 12 months you can apply to upgrade to become an Approved Contractor. This is only possible if you have an Approved Electrician representing your company.
“Most local electricians are ‘Part P’ or ‘domestic installers’. They’ve been taught how to deal with the most common domestic electrical issues. In reality, you could be paying someone who’s just done a four-week course to re-wire your house. They may have no practical experience at all. Most people would worry about that.”
Danny has built up a good reputation for Optus Electrical, based on tidy work and fair pricing.
“I didn’t get everything right on Day One. I had to learn how to deal directly with customers, set the right expectations, and how to communicate clearly.
“You live and learn. Pricing of jobs is a classic thing many start-ups get wrong, I know I did. Under-pricing to win work is just not worth it, and it’s bad for the industry.”
Danny got no formal advice on how to start and run his business, but he did ask businesspeople he admired for their tips. The top five are:
- Don’t get into debt. Don’t buy a fleet of new vans just because the lending is available;
- Build slowly;
- Don’t bid for the biggest contracts immediately;
- Don’t try and do it all yourself. Use accounting and marketing specialists as and when you need them;
- Train your staff.
Danny is planning carefully for the future. “I have a couple of guys working for me, one who I am training. In the long run I would like to manage a small team and not work on the tools myself. 90% of my work is from referrals, and I want to keep it that way.”
Danny studied at Brunel and Filton colleges.
Learn about careers in electrical installation on the City of Bristol College website http://www.cityofbristol.ac.uk/school-leavers/apprenticeships-/electrical-installation.html
Other electrical training course are available at Bristol Technical Training http://www.bristoltechnicaltraining.co.uk/