October 13, 2020

In Charge Electrical Name 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young

From the Austin Business Journal
 

Editor’s note: This story is about one of the winners for the 2020 EY Entrepreneur Of The Year awards. To see the rest of the stories, go here.

Seth Robinson started In Charge Electrical Services LLC in 2007 with three employees. Today, with a crew that measures in the hundreds thanks to organic growth and at least one merger, Robinson and his CEO — Barrett Foster — are atop a budding niche within residential and commercial real estate.

His company works with major homebuilders and small commercial clients in Texas to make sure their products have superior lighting and smart home technology. While working with builders is its bread and butter, individual homeowners can also seek services through In Charge.

The Round Rock-based company has a design center in Pflugerville and six other offices throughout the state. DR Horton, Pulte Homes and Meritage Homes are touted as major clients.

In Charge is a privately owned company. In addition to employee ownership, it is backed by a small group of limited partners, all of whom have a deep track record of helping to manage and successfully grow businesses. Robinson said this ownership structure enables long-term growth and financial stability.

Robinson: Personally, I think I have grown from an individual who, in the first five years, would always try to have my fingers in all things. I have learned to listen to those who I trust and look at decisions from their different viewpoints. I have learned to let them make more decisions on the fly which in the last 8 years has really let us explode in growth. By doing so I have been able to continue to grow In Charge Electric while trusting the day to day operations with the In Charge Family. This is something we would have not been able to do without me trusting the amazing team.

What are you most proud of, professionally?

Robinson: I am very proud of the family and culture that has been built. We started with three employees and grew organically to over 300 with the management team promoting up through the ranks. It is known that if you work hard and apply yourself you will be a leader at In Charge. Employees have embraced this and have taken ownership at In Charge and that has made all our amazing growth possible. People enjoy working together and often spend time together outside of work which has created a great culture and atmosphere. I am very proud of this and it really separates us from many of our competitors and has been a huge positive in recruiting new motivated people.

Foster: While I am proud of In Charge’s growth and success, what gives me the most pride is helping to create opportunities for our employees and seeing them grow, develop, and advance. Many of our most senior people, including our branch managers, started their careers at In Charge as service techs.

What is your top piece of advice for other entrepreneurs, or aspiring entrepreneurs?

Robinson: Do what you say you will do even when it is hard. There have been several times we have completed projects even when circumstances out of our control have changed and cost us money. Your individual and business reputation is so important and if you want to maintain success you must work hard to keep it in high regard.

Foster: Stop thinking and start doing. The earlier that you dive in and take that major risk the better. Life only gets more complicated as time goes on. What might be a great opportunity today, may not be in a month or a year.

How is the Covid-19 pandemic impacting your company?

Robinson: It has been tough. It has affected everyone in their personal lives, and we have tried to accommodate as much as possible to the employee needs while keeping up with our customers needs. Surprisingly during this period our industry has been extremely busy and we have been working at a record pace. Being a service company, it is not as simple as just moving everyone remote but rather we have had to make many adjustments to deal with the Covid-19 requirements. We have had many weeks when we adjust daily to the environment and how to still get the job done. I am proud of the attitude our team has shown and the willingness to figure out a “new normal work environment.”

If you could have dinner with anyone alive or dead, who are you picking and why?

Robinson: My grandfather. He set the example of how satisfying work can be working for someone or on your own. He had many jobs from a very early age until he started his own successful business and I loved working with him.