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Master Electrician with Checkered Past Fights Back When Life Knocks Him Down
Prison and alcoholism in the 1990s. The Great Recession and potential bankruptcy in the early 2000s. A stroke in January, followed by a global pandemic.
Master Electrician Mario Campriano knows a lot about overcoming life’s obstacles.
Throughout each ordeal, the owner of Express Electrical Services in Los Angeles learned the greatest lesson of all: Never give up.
After turning his life around and becoming a licensed electrician 30 years ago, one of his most difficult life battles happened in 2008 when a fellow contractor filed bankruptcy and left him on the hook for nearly $300,000 in electrical supplies for new commercial construction.
The unexpected legal problem forced Campriano to make a decision: Give in and file bankruptcy himself, or fight back.
“I decided to fight,” says the burly electrician with a big heart. “I decided to stay in the ring and fight, and said, ‘You know what, I can't give up on my dream.’”
Campriano negotiated a new payment schedule with his supply houses, dropped most of his commercial work, and began offering residential electrical services instead.
“I got back in a truck and I said, ‘I won't touch construction anymore. I only want to work with homeowners.’ I just started going out there and selling my life away, man. I wouldn't take no for an answer,” he explains.
That hard-won tenacity led Campriano to where he is today, with Express Electrical earning $8 million in sales, a 27% net profit, and his techs selling an average ticket of $2,440. Serving the Greater Los Angeles area, his company employs 35 techs, 12 office staff and several apprentices.
Even during the COVID-19 global pandemic, when other electricians in the home services industry reported a devastating drop in service calls, Express Electrical actually saw an increase in revenue for March 2020 compared to last year.
Tom Howard, an HVAC contractor himself and Vice President of Customer Experience for ServiceTitan, caught up with Campriano, a ServiceTitan user since 2012, in a recent webinar to find out what Express Electrical does differently to keep electrical revenue flowing.
Here are the areas of focus Campriano shared:
Take a pledge to ‘help human beings in need’
Campriano leads with a servant’s heart. He immediately recorded a video with a personalized message for customers, explaining what precautionary measures his techs are taking amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Like other essential workers in the trades, the Express electricians protect themselves and their customers by wearing masks, gloves and booties, and using antibacterial wipes, hand sanitizer and disinfectant spray before, during and after every job.
The one thing Express Electrical is not doing? Offering discounts.
“We're not doing any of that,” he says. “You know what we are doing? We're just being humans by saying, ‘Hey, we're in this fight together. If you need services, we're still here.’”
Campriano knows concerned customers want to hold onto their money right now, with so many people deferring mortgage and car payments while dealing with job losses. His solution? Give a 12-month, no-interest, no-payment option to help them out in a time of need.
“What's the best thing you could do to help out your customer?” he asks. “Tell them about your payment plans, make sure they can pay it 13 months or 18 months from now, so they don't have to worry about paying for a big-ticket item right now.”
Campriano, a longtime ServiceTitan user, offers options through GreenSky financing on the mobile app to make it easy and convenient for customers.
Motivate your team — and don’t be a jerk
Despite worries about the coronavirus and rising unemployment numbers, Campriano says he tries to motivate his employees to work as a team and push aside negative thoughts about the health crisis and suffering economy for another time.
Recently, he directed an employee to look at the situation with a cup half-full mentality, instead of talking negatively in the office about the possibility of unemployment rates reaching 30 percent. After all, the remaining 70 percent will still have a job, including this particular employee.
“I don't want to come off as being a jerk, because I could be. I like to come off as motivating,” Campriano says. “If you're negative like, ‘Hey, the sky is falling’…if I start showing fear in my company today, guess what? Everybody's going to start being fearful.
But if I start teaching my company they are heroes, that we're on the front line, we're giving you everything to protect yourselves. Let's go out there and be humans. Let’s help other humans in need. We can do this together as a team.
“This is not an ‘I’ thing, this is a ‘we’ thing. We have to work like gears. They start getting motivated, they start getting pumped, despite knowing they're putting their life at risk going out there,” he says.
Show awesome support for your employees, especially in times of crisis, Campriano advises, and avoid being harsh or negative about any poor job performance.
“Right now, I'm trying to be as human as anybody else,” he says. “Everybody is concerned. I don't want to use the word fear, because I rebuke fear. But people are concerned about what's going on. In California, we're getting hit really hard with this COVID-19. We've got to make sure we stay positive.”
Campriano says Express Electrical checks in with its technicians every day to make sure they’re OK and still willing to do the job.
“I've been very blessed,” he says. “We’ve got technicians who are just saying, ‘We're in this fight together, boss. We're going to do this together as a team.’ I said, ‘Let's do it. Let's rock.’”
Think outside the box — and pay attention to customers’ needs
When the COVID-19 pandemic started hitting the California area, an Express Electrical technician texted Campriano’s brother, Rene, who serves as the company’s general manager, about the possibility of buying discounted poultry and meat from a local distributor.
The two Campriano brothers took advantage of the deal by buying 700 pounds of meat for $1,500, but then they had to scramble to find a place to store it all.
“We didn't think about this ahead of time like, ‘Hey, do you have enough room in your freezer or refrigerator?’ We started calling around to Lowe's, Home Depot, all these places. Nobody had freezers,” Campriano says.
That’s when the lightbulb turned on.
“We're struggling with this and everybody who's hoarding food is struggling with this,” he explains. “So, as Rene is looking for a freezer, I'm on the phone with my marketing agency telling them, ‘I need you to change the ad. I need you to put in freezers in our ad words, diversify it.’
“And sure enough, we started getting calls like crazy. ‘Hey, I bought a freezer. I need some extra power. I need power racks in my garage.’ And that's just because the light bulb turned on, because I was facing the same problem.”
Finding better ways to serve customers in times of need and basing it on your human experience is an ingenious way to adapt to challenges, Howard says.
“They're probably busting their breakers right now, because they’ve got their fridge or freezer and everything else plugged into the same circuit. … All of a sudden it's turned around and you're getting business, which is just awesome to me,” Howard says.
Campriano says his company’s ad asked customers, “Do you have two refrigerators plugged into the same outlet? Call us. We don’t want you to lose the food you’re purchasing right now.”
“Boy, our phone started blowing up over that,” he says. “And that was just thinking outside the box, right? Listen, we want to make money … but at the end of the day, money's not everything. Being human and helping other humans in need is everything. To me, it is, at least.”
Negotiate new deals to diversify your marketing
Changing marketing tactics is another way Campriano keeps his electricians busy. He also pulled back radio advertising—since few customers are driving right now—and negotiated new TV spots for a fraction of the normal cost.
He also suggests other marketing tips, such as:
Don’t put all of your marketing eggs in one digital basket. Campriano still uses newspapers and even phone books to reach certain customers. “Those are mostly your senior citizens, and they’re the ones who are more at risk right now.”
Acquire disconnected phone numbers from contractors no longer doing business in an area you want to serve, and direct those calls to your business. Campriano says he simply negotiates paying the last phone bill to acquire the number.
Set up various satellite offices to capture jobs in more areas through Google Local Services. Express operates offices in Riverside and Orange counties, as well as L.A.
Don’t try to create a winning formula based on quantity versus quality. At Express Electrical, the technicians average only 1.5 calls per day to allow time for quality customer service.
Make sure your pricing is right, train your employees to give 150 percent, and market for today.
Campriano also finds inspiration by giving back to his community every chance he gets. For instance, he and his wife help feed the homeless every year, and the company installed free Ring doorbells for their neighbors in Downey, Calif., to build a sense of community and protect against porch thieves.
“When it comes to giving back to the community, it's all about making sure you can actually give back from a perspective of not trying to get business to come back to you,” Campriano says. “It's just about being human and giving back, man.
“I mean, me and my brother, we've come from a very tough background. … It just makes me feel good that I can give back to the community.”
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