Whenever anyone hires a company to provide services, it’s assumed that the outcome will be an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case in a world where many service providers put a higher premium on speed and profit margins than on top-notch customer service.
So when Karolyn and Justin Brown decided to open their high-tech installation company, they decided to make Honest work for honest pay the company’s motto when they started Empowered Installations LLC in October 2012, after a year of operating as a sole proprietorship.
“We’re honest 100% of the time, and we feel like every job has a right way to do it,” Karolyn Brown says. “We focus on quality service, not just quick service. In our view, an installation or repair should always be executed the right way the first time. We do the right thing, even when nobody is watching.”
The Browns operate their business from the town of Waxahachie, Texas, just south of Dallas. Known for the gingerbread styling of its Victorian-era homes, the community is just off Interstate 35, offering quick access to the sprawling Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
Empowered Installations provides installation, maintenance, and repair to commercial properties with lean lift systems, audio/video systems, CCTV monitors, smart storage systems, and electromechanical appliances. Justin does the heavy lifting as the lead technician, while Karolyn handles the administrative side of things. The Browns hire independent contractors to help with big projects.
“We offer both one-time installations and ongoing service packages. For instance, we just finished installing an audio/video system at a local car dealership.” Most of the company’s new clients come from dealers who sell electronics systems to business owners. “This keeps our costs low, because we don’t have to carry an inventory, and it keeps the dealer’s costs low, too, because they don’t have to have an installation team on payroll when they aren’t needed,” Brown explains.
Turning Military Skills into Civilian Success
Empowered Installations was created when Justin Brown, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, decided that becoming an entrepreneur would be the best way to capitalize on the skills he’d learned in the military. He worked as a helicopter maintenance technician in the Air Force, learning a wide range of valuable skills. He holds several electronics certifications and chose to be self-employed after leaving a company he now does contract work for in the area.
“Once he got out of the military, he tried to find ways to parlay the skills he had learned into the civilian world,” Karolyn says. “He worked with construction companies for 5 years until he eventually became self-employed in 2011. His skills were very sought-after, but companies didn’t want to hire him full time. That’s when we decided it was a really good time to start our own business.”
Karolyn and Justin enjoy their roles in the business for different reasons. “He really enjoys working with electronics,” Karolyn says. “Troubleshooting is like a puzzle to him and is his favorite thing to do. He also loves the freedom of working for himself.
“For me, it’s exciting to build something with my husband instead of building something for someone else. We get to spend lots of time together. We’re very involved in missionary work, so this business gives us the opportunity to do that as well.
“There really isn’t a company in the area that offers similar services,” she adds. “We really separate ourselves by offering a full array of commercial and industrial electronics services all at one place with our company. We can also provide cheaper rates for our services because we have low overhead costs. We make customers feel comfortable about putting us on their job sites as well.”
The company has a website, but word-of-mouth referrals from satisfied clients have brought in most of the company’s clients. “We really value our referrals!”
Accounting for Growth and Capital
Karolyn says that the couple was fortunate enough to have start-up financing available. However, it was a little difficult to secure a small business loan.
“Banks want to see a product or dollars to show rather than just an idea,” she explains. “Make sure you have evidence on paper to increase your chances of getting a loan. We literally put everything we had into the business. We knew it was a big risk, but we felt it was worth it. Thankfully, it has really paid off for us.”
Her advice for aspiring small business owners is to track down others who have been through the process of setting up a company.
“Get in touch with other small business owners. Ask them out for coffee, sit down with them, and pick their brains. We had several friends who had experience with this, and they mentored us during the startup phase. These people can also be very encouraging. You just have to take their direction and actually use it for your own benefit.”
In addition, she believes taking advantage of everything out there is a must, such as looking into entrepreneurship classes at local colleges and doing research online.
Karolyn is a client of 1-800Accountant and has been quite satisfied with the accounting firm’s support. “We were going to go with a local accounting firm, but they were way more expensive than what we could afford. We just needed someone to walk us through the steps. We feel like we get that out of 1-800Accountant.”
She recalls a time when the firm went above and beyond to assist her. “Around tax time, I had no idea what to do. Someone was on the phone with me for over an hour explaining the tax guidelines and what I needed to do. It was extremely helpful.”
When asked what she’d tell a friend about the service, she says that 1-800Accountant provides exactly what small business owners need with no extra costs.
“For smaller companies, you don’t want to waste money on services you don’t need. You get everything that you need at a lower cost from 1-800Accountant. There’s no fluff and stuff that you don’t need. The bottom line is that no matter what your business situation involves, you should have an accounting service on your team.”
Photo credit: The photo of Karolyn and Justin Brown was supplied by Empowered Installation LLC; used with permission.