Nate Tyler - Net Electric

nate tyler speaking at pdc workshop #1 in 2015

nate tyler speaking at pdc workshop #1 in 2015

What kind of business do you run? What is your role?

I am President & CEO of NET Electric, Inc. an electrical and solar design-build company. NET Electric, Inc. offers new construction, remodel, tenant improvements and solar design-build services. Our focus is geared toward residential and commercial projects. We serve Federal, State and Local government agencies, as well as the private sector. As the President and CEO, my role has covered a widespread area of the spectrum including but not limited to, sales, client interface, procurement, general management, project management, and employee safety.  

Net Electric, Inc. has also established strong roots in the Bay Area by providing training and employment opportunities to local underserved citizens in the green technology field.  We have contracted with Richmond Build, a pre-apprenticeship program located in the City of Richmond, CA. in which we trained students for many projects, resulting in employment in the field. We are currently in the process of becoming a Union Contractor to provide better employment opportunities for all our current and future employees.

Where are you headed as a Small Contracting Business?

The direction for NET Electric, Inc., started in April of 2000, with residential construction and service calls. From there, the company branched into medium, and then larger projects -- including high end custom homes, light commercial developments, and industrial. NET Electric, Inc. has developed strategies and systems that allowed us to complete projects on time and budget. By hiring qualified employees with an extensive construction background, we are able to focus on the quality aspect, providing much revered results. From there we emerged into the public works arena, where we found our niche; in energy efficiency and green technology. We pursued jobs too small for big companies, and jobs too big for small companies, which contributed to our customer base growing exponentially.

Why did you choose to be involved with the PDC?

I got involved with the PDC program to further my own personal education, and to pass on my experience in the construction industry, specifically in the public works arena. Now I can help others in growth of their businesses, by sharing experiences and mentoring with the goals of directing them into greater success with less financial hardship and pitfalls. By making myself accessible to others by volunteering my services, both from within, and outside the program with the outcome of fostering a lasting relationship. 

What challenges have you faced and what motivated you to solve them?

When NET Electric, Inc., was first founded, there were no resources to find information on contracts, no instructions for how to navigate public works, financial information, insurance and bonding. I had to learn things the hard way – sometimes with success, and other times not. The motivation to expand the business and learn more about how to provide the services my clients needed was a driving factor behind learning to understand and capitalize in the energy market.

How has the PDC helped you face these challenges?

The Consortium has helped myself and NET Electric, Inc. connect with premier general contractors, helping bridge the gap between the sub-contractors and prime contractors with face-to-face; meet-and-greets rather than phone calls, emails, or faxes. These workshops have provided a smoother entry into the world of large vs. small contracting, creating opportunity for that personal connection.

What have you learned since the start of the workshops about your small business due to your participation in the PDC?

I have learned that personal connection in the industry is invaluable. Through participation in the PDC, I can meet individuals on a personal level and develop relationships that translate more easily into more business down the line. Now I can call and talk to a business contact that I am acquainted with, who will know my name and remember my handshake, rather than cold calling.

What would you say to businesses facing similar challenges, and what role has the PDC played?

The advantages of the PDC are numerous: stay on top of new technology in your industry and the people and business that share it, constantly redevelop your thought’s, refresh some things you may have forgotten, and establish new contacts with individuals within Caltrans and other viable agencies.

Final thoughts?

Education is key in this industry; use your references, network, make contacts, and use those contacts! The PDC workshops are helpful, necessary and needed for small businesses -- without these events, many large contractors might not unlearn pre-conceived notions of small business, and it can encourage them and yourself to form lasting and productive business relationships.

I recommend being persistent, innovative, and open to alternatives. Stay focused and stay driven -- some doors will open for you; others need a push. 

Karen Wonnenberg - Rupert Construction Supply

What kind of business do you run? What is your role?

I started Rupert Construction Supply in 2002 – providing material supplies to contractors building bridge, highway and other civil engineering transportation projects. Rupert Construction Supply is a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise (WBE), and a Small Business Enterprise (SBE). My role has evolved to cover everything from business development and project management, to sales and customer relations.

Where are you headed as a Small Contracting Business?

Rupert Construction Supply has been concentrated on bridges for much of the business, but I wanted to find a stronger niche, taking bridge concepts and finding more business in highway and rail, and water/wastewater treatment projects.

I have considered having less involvement in daily operations to focus more on business development and other segments of the industry now that Rupert is established as a strong company and has employees. My new focus is to empower our staff to take on more day-to-day responsibilities to make that transition possible.

Why did you choose to be involved with the PDC?

The PDC was an opportunity to collaborate, get help and offer help with other people and businesses in the industry. Networking and finding that others in the industry were having similar problems, and learning their solutions, has been a good way to grow Rupert Construction Supply in a positive direction.

What challenges have you faced and what motivated you to solve them?

Starting a business from scratch can be a lonely endeavor; not having peers to collaborate with, or talk about the business or any problems you are facing. Doing it on your own and hoping you’re making the right decisions is difficult. Having a group or alliance where you can talk to someone about your concerns, has been a great way to mitigate those issues, and adding voices to the discussion can be extremely helpful

How has the PDC helped you face these challenges?

Learning the value of networking and being reminded that developing relationships with other businesses is key in customers and peers within your own industry. It is important to know that help is available, to learn about different business practices, to talk about contracts, and understand things to watch out for. Meeting face-to-face, it is easier to find out what frustrations and challenges your potential clients face. Hearing about the problems they have and their experience can be the start of you finding them a solution.

What have you learned about your small business due to your participation in PDC workshops?

PDC workshops are a networking opportunity, in a less formal setting, and networking is relationship building. Relationships are the key element in these businesses and this industry. Rupert Construction Supply gets work, not just because they are a DBE, but because they take care to cultivate relationships and deliver good products. And it’s not just a one-way street; it’s nice to be able to offer contacts or help to others as well.

From PDC workshops, I have learned how important it is to be persistent with quotes, follow-up calls, in-person meetings, and learning ways of showcasing value added. When you understand the risk that a contractor takes on by working with you, you have to work hard to make them comfortable and prove yourself. Show them what you can do.

What would you say to other businesses facing challenges? What role has the PDC played?

Start, don’t think about it, just start. For me, it started with one product: bridge bearing pads. My knowledge and experience provides value to large contractors.  I learned something new, then another thing, then another, consistently demonstrating that our experience at Rupert adds value. Just start, and do what is needed as it comes up. Build on successes, even if they are small.

Final thoughts?

To find a way in, you’ve got to be better somehow; hustle, find some way of adding value. Set aside time to continue networking, get in front of them and solidify relationships. So much of this market depends on good relationships, and the PDC provides the platform to work together.

As a DBE, be prepared to do the work. Don’t wait to be handed something by the contract. You need to be successful with or without the DBE certification, so operate as a business, not as a DBE business. The certification is just an added incentive to the contractor. The PDC encourages contractors to give opportunities, but doesn’t guarantee success. That comes from you.