Readers of EC&M’s Contractor Connection department may have noticed a trait shared by most — if not all — of the electrical contractors featured here each month: outstanding customer service. California-based Brewer Electric is no exception. The company, which serves the electrical needs of residents and businesses in the Sacramento area, was recently named the 2011 Top Electrical Contractor by American Home Shield, the Memphis, Tenn.-headquartered provider of home protection plans with a network of more than 10,000 independent contractors.

“Being recognized as one of the best in the nation based on our customers’ feedback confirms that our mantra of ‘old-time service with new technology’ is helping us succeed,” says Mark Brewer, founder and president of Brewer Electric.  A Golden State native, Brewer admits he didn’t originally intend a career as an electrical contractor. Instead, he planned to become a homebuilder.

“In high school, I took architectural drawing and carpentry classes, which I really liked,” he recalls. “I spent a couple of summers helping build houses and decided that’s what I wanted to do for a living after I graduated. Unfortunately, a housing recession struck the nation in the early 1980’s and killed those dreams pretty fast.”

Alternatively, Brewer joined the Navy, where he spent three years troubleshooting avionics on submarine-hunting aircraft. He spent another two years in the Navy reserves before entering the electrical industry in 1986.

“I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands, being outdoors, and doing physical labor, so becoming an electrician proved to be a good fit for me,” says Brewer. “I learned most of my skills on the job, and I got my license in 2000.”

For several years, Brewer worked for local contractors while also performing electrical work on the side. In 2007, he decided it was time to strike out completely on his own.

“I started my company because I got tired of working for other people,” he notes. “I wanted to be my own boss and take my company in the direction I thought it should go instead of following some else’s vision.”

But just like 20 years prior, the economy took a nosedive, and Brewer again found himself struggling to hold onto his dream of being an entrepreneur. Instead of giving up, he began looking for ways to keep business flowing.

“Getting on with American Home Shield helped keep work steady, because service work is not a luxury,” he says. “Everyone needs electricity.”

According to Brewer, another business tactic that has brought him success is sticking to his core business value of making his customers happy.

“I treat my clients the way I want to be treated,” he remarks. “I never pressure them into doing more work than needed. Instead of using fear, I use honesty and knowledge. I educate them about what went wrong, what I’m going to do to fix it, and what steps they can take to prevent it from happening again.”

Unlike some of his competitors, Brewer doesn’t rely on advertising for referrals.  “I don’t have an ad in the Yellow Pages, I don’t run TV or radio commercials, and I don’t have a website,” he says. “To be honest, most of my business comes through word of mouth. That’s what has gotten me through this most recent recession. I’ve watched a lot of my competitors close up shop, and believe it or not, I’m busier than ever.”

Although he enjoys running his own company, Brewer acknowledges that being a business owner isn’t for everyone.  “What a lot of people fail to realize is that, when you’re in business for yourself, you’re not done just because the job is finished,” he says. “You still have to think about billing, purchasing, bidding, and scheduling. And please don’t go out on your own because you think you’re going to get rich. More often than not, that doesn’t happen. Do it because you love it.”
In addition to being named American Home Shield’s 2011 Top Electrical Contractor, Brewer Electric earned a $25,000 bonus for its performance in American Home Shield’s 2011 Contractor Quality Bonus program.