Starting out in any small business can be daunting, but with a good work ethic and some basic business smarts, there are real opportunities for a successful independent small business.
If there was ever an industry in which there is always room for one more player, it is the trades industry.
People need house to live in, plumbing and power to make it liveable and any other number of services to improve their home, business and lifestyle ambitions.
Enter Kyle Morton. At the ripe old age of 26, Kyle started his own electrical and security firm, The GKT Group, in Newcastle, NSW, Australia. We interviewed Kyle to get a glimpse of what it took to set up and maintain a successful small business in today’s competitive trade industry.
Kyle started in the electrical Industry as an apprentice in 2003. Since he was due to finish his HSC that year, Kyle started applying for apprenticeships.
A week before his last HSC exam Kyle was lucky enough to gain an Electrical Apprenticeship with Novolec Electrical Services. Kyle started the day after his last exam.
After completing his apprenticeship, Kyle was looking for further challenges. This allowed him to gain experience in other facets of the Electrical industry as he moved between domestic, commercial and Industrial Electrical contractors.
With this experience Kyle reached his goal of joining the Underground Mining Industry in 2011.
During his time underground Kyle was exposed to the cyclic nature of the mining industry and realised that he needed a safety net. As he made a move to weekend shift, he was then able to start his own business while still being employed full time.
When the mine he was employed at closed in 2014 he decided to make The GKT Group a full time venture.
A Plan For Growth
“I didn’t expand into the security industry until 2009,” says Kyle. “I originally gained a Security Guard licence to work for a family member who needed extra Labour.”
With his background as an Electrician, Security systems and CCTV seemed to him like a natural progression.
When Kyle started the business he were lucky enough to gain a security guarding contract at a local mine site. He employed 5 Casual Guards and himself as an electrician.
This allowed the business to have cash flow from the beginning. For the first 12 months Kyle concentrated on building relationships with Local builders and the hospitality Industry to shift the emphasis to Electrical Services.
“Within the first 12 months, we employed a 3rd year Electrical apprentice and were able to get a second vehicle on the road. We advertised in many ways to gain our original clientele to help growth.”
In the second year of servicing the area he began a relationship with a local shop fitting company. This is the type of work that GKT Group targets as they are rewarding for both reputation and cash flow. They have completed over 10 fit outs to date with this one company alone.
“We have also created growth in the business by targeting the hospitality industry in the local area. Over the last 12 months in Newcastle we have seen a huge increase in the amount of small bars and restaurants opening.”
By providing a reliable and cost effective service as electricians they have formed many valuable relationships in this industry.
Keys to Success
The success of Kyle’s GKT Group is reasonably simple.
“My main focus originally was getting the best system in place for our service work to cut down on non-invoiced tasks,” says Kyle. “We use a product called Servicem8, which allows the business to cut its overheads, as every electrician or security installer can complete their own quoting and invoicing on site.”
In theory, these technicians are all equipped to complete the basic administration and accounting tasks that are encountered daily.
When I first started out my dad told me that, “the people that work with you and for you are your biggest investment”. The business wouldn’t be successful if we didn’t have the team that we do.
Secondly, and even more important are the people that the GKT Group employ.
“We are lucky enough to have a small, hardworking, experienced and committed team. By gaining employees that don’t need direct supervision and can communicate with clients easily has driven the success of the business.”
The general cycle of the Newcastle economy has been at times challenging. Kyle says that they have had quiet weeks with very little work, and weeks where he needed five more electricians.
“As we are predominately service electricians, the flow of work can be hard to predict. This puts pressure on cash flow and our time management systems.”
“We generally overcome this by having maintenance contracts that give us a predetermined amount of tasks per week.”
As Newcastle is a big small town, it is sometimes hard to create relationships with local suppliers and builders to become their preferred electricians. the GKT Group have made themselves known in the area and have worked hard over a short time to create a good reputation to gain these contacts.
Unlike other Electricians in the area, they strive to be transparent by advertising their fees and hourly rates. This has made them more approachable and boosted trust with their local clientele.
Kyle believes this has given them a definite advantage as a new business in a competitive area like Newcastle.
“The advice I would give to someone looking to start their own Electrical or Security Company is to gain as many contacts before you leave your current employment,” says Kyle.
“Either look to sub contract to an established business or try and gain an ongoing contract to assist with cash flow from the beginning. You also need to be honest with your clients and treat them all as equal, as word of mouth is the best advertisement to grow your business.”