In this post, Lloyd’s Electric Company, Inc. President, and Co-founder, Doug Lloyd continues our discussion about the history of the family business, the highs and lows of leadership, and the gratitude he holds for his mother.
Question: What are some of the values you were raised with that have helped you to achieve so much success?
Doug Lloyd: Be fair. Be somewhat humble. Don’t be afraid of hard work. Treat everyone the way you would like to be treated. And everything else will take care of itself.
Q: In recent years, LES has grown a lot. What do you think has driven that growth?
DL: A need to expand. We got through the downturn in 2008/2009 without too much of a problem. I mean, it was tough financially, but we didn’t lose too many of our people. We were able to keep everyone working. In a lot of cases, I would put two of my more expensive journeymen together on a crew and we would be ready, at the end of the downturn, to add apprentices to those guys and spin crews right back up. And I saw that as an opportunity for us to really grow.
So as we were coming out of the downturn, we got very, very aggressive in a conservative kind of manner. In other words, you want to be able to grow but you’ve got to be careful who you work for. The key is: we want to get paid. We try to associate ourselves with substantial people in town – not necessarily all companies and not necessarily companies that even advertise, but substantial people who have the same tenets that we do. We want to provide the very best service in town at a fair price – at a practical price. It’s not always the cheapest number.
As always in business, you get what you pay for. If I have any say at all in the design aspects of a project, my very first question is, “how long are you going to stay in this building?”
If they’re going to be there for a while, we want to give them a really good system that has plenty of room to grow and is robust enough that they won’t have any problems.
Q: What advice would you give to entrepreneurs just starting?
DL: Prepare for hard work! And prepare for disappointment. The first few years are going to be difficult. You’re going to have ups and downs. You’re going to have what my brother and I call “10-dollar-days,” as in: “for about 10 dollars, I’d sell this place!”
But hopefully, you’ll be smart enough to see every day as a new day. Remember that there is always room for change.
Q: What is the most challenging part of running a family business?
DL: Well, there are always going to be disappointments. You have to listen to everyone but there can only be one leader. Somebody has to make the hard decisions. And you can’t let everyone make the decision. It has to fall to one leader who is ultimately responsible. But you have to listen to everyone’s input.
Q: What kinds of questions are the most difficult?
DL: Who we work for. It’s not just their reputation. A lot of times I get solicited to quote a job on the Internet, over the phone, or through referrals. Before I get really serious about it, I start checking the company out. There are very few secrets in this town. Knoxville, for its size, is not really a big town business-wise. Everybody knows everybody. So I check the company out a little bit and then, frankly, I want to meet the person, shake their hand, and look them in the eye. If I feel good about that, then we’ll go forward with it and start putting a program together.
If I don’t feel good about it, I have to tell them, “I’m sorry, we just don’t have an opening to take on your project right now.”
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your career?
DL: Let me tell you a little story. After September, when the apprenticeship program started, I was coming through the gate one morning and one of the young men came up and said, “I want to shake your hand.” He said, “I want to thank you for giving me an opportunity to go to school.” And I tell you, I kind of broke up on that one.
It’s a program that we put together. It’s the type of program that I was trained under and frankly, I think it will be the best in the state. I want these guys to be top notch and hopefully they’ll stay with me, I mean, that’s what it’s all about. But if they don’t, then they’ll have this to go with them wherever they go for their portion of the effort.
Q: What are your hopes for the future of Lloyd’s Electric Service?
DL: I hope it’s around for 200 years but I don’t want it to grow to the point that it doesn’t realize who people are. We are a third generation company now and I really look to the coming generations to be able to continue this thing without a hiccup. My son, on board now, is the third generation. His wife is also working here.
Every morning when I come in as the guys are getting their trucks loaded up, I do my very best to say good morning to all of them so everybody knows who everybody is. I’ve got a great band of pirates here and I love these guys!
Q: Is there anything you would like to add?
I would just like to say one thing: I am always very thankful to my mother, Doris Lloyd. Early on in the company, she listened to us. At every family gathering, picnic, or meal, something about business always came up because the whole family was so involved in the very early-on stages. She put up with us. I mean, dad and I literally started the company off the kitchen table with not much more than a good idea and a few bucks. Mom put up with a lot on the front end. She really did.