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Steven Deyo | West Houston Electric and Lessons in Expansion

Steven Deyo is the Vice President of West Houston Electric, and leading their current expansion from Katy, Texas to Los Angeles, California. He shares how his family-owned and operated, third-generation company has made the transition from commercial new builds to residential. He also highlights how they are identifying and capitalizing on new opportunities in the market.

Josh Smith (00:03):

Hello. And welcome back to the sharpest tool where we take this thing out of marketing. Today's guest is Steven Dale, vice president of west Houston electric west Houston. Electric is founded by Steven's parents and their team has served Houston for over 40 years. And Steven started as a helper and journeymen and eventually earned the title of VP leads, the service team, and is expanding the company actually to Los Angeles. So Steven, welcome to the show.

Steven Deyo (00:29):

Hey Josh, thanks for having me out. It's really great to be here

Josh Smith (00:31):

Today. Thanks for coming out. Why don't you tell us a little bit about the company, obviously it's been around for three generations, which is pretty impressive. So tell us a little bit about the backstory.

Steven Deyo (00:40):

Yeah, so I grew up working in the company as a, as a kid. You know, I was out in the warehouse and I'd see all the operations day in and day out, always wanted to be involved. I thought it was a good thing that was happening and wanted to take part in the family business. Uh, so we started contracting over 40 years ago in Houston, building custom homes. We actually won the contract to do president George and Barbara bushes house. When they returned to Houston, we wired their house and that led to us getting a lot of high profile clients in the Houston area, big homes over time, we grew a really great reputation with the architects and the home builders in the area. We expanded over to serving neighborhoods and homes all around Houston.

Josh Smith (01:18):

How did, what are some of your fondest memories as a kid?

Steven Deyo (01:20):

I remember always just being at the business place, going around the warehouse, looking at all the tools and the screws and the connectors and seeing that the men, the technicians come in and out and see their materials get ready for the day. My parents were very much involved in the business and the office, so I could hear the dispatching and the calls and the radios. And I always felt good to be there. It felt like home. And so it really, I just grew up working in the business at 10 years old. I asked my dad for a job interview,

Josh Smith (01:46):

Started paying it at 10 years old.

Steven Deyo (01:48):

I was ready to go to work. And so he gave me a formal interview and it was all at my initiation. So yeah, it's been going ever since

Josh Smith (01:56):

Kicked it off, you became kind of a tech and then went into the journeyman aspect. What made you decide to go that route into the journeymen journey?

Steven Deyo (02:05):

Yeah. So as, as I was able to drive and get out and be independent, I started working with clients on my own and got sent out to serve as calls and got to really hone my skills, working directly with the homeowners, uh, saw what works with them. What makes them comfortable and how important our services are to them.

Josh Smith (02:21):

Yeah. Did you have any kind of like light bulb moment? You're like, this is what I want to do with my life or has it always been there just because he grew up in that

Steven Deyo (02:27):

It's really always been there thinking back this morning, I was like, you know, come to think of it. This is what I dressed as for career day when I was in, you know, third grade, I was an electrician showing up to school. And so it's always, it's always been there. It's a three generations. My grandpa was an electrician. My dad's a master electrician, so it's always been there. I'm also a musician, all three of us, we play guitars and we twist wires.

Josh Smith (02:47):

Oh, there you go. So you're admiring the guitars and the booth here, right? Yeah. That's awesome. Did you play in a band when you were?

Steven Deyo (02:54):

I did. I grew up playing in bands and I'm also a songwriter. That's part of what brought me out here to LA. So yeah. Continue the electrical work out here in LA and I'm also a musician and songwriter.

Josh Smith (03:03):

Oh, very cool. So your business is currently expanding in LA, correct. Tell me a little bit about that.

Steven Deyo (03:08):

Yeah. So we've expanded out to LA, uh, we're serving the greater Los Angeles to west areas and there's a ton of opportunity out here. A lot of older homes that need upgrades for safety and new technology. So it's a lot of opportunity for us out here.

Josh Smith (03:22):

Yeah. And did you make the decision to do that? Just to kind of, you know, coordinate everything that like the move coming out here and obviously the continued trades, is this a part of west Houston electric or a totally different entity

Steven Deyo (03:33):

For an entity? Okay. I started, I came out here and became a California electrical contractor as well. So knowing there's a lot of technology coming with solar and electric cars and the future definitely thought it would be a good idea to have my contracting license out here and continue the business in Texas. So we're able to develop in both cities in LA and Houston,

Josh Smith (03:51):

What's been one of your biggest challenges in terms of getting things up and running out here,

Steven Deyo (03:55):

Definitely coming out of obscurity, getting in front of customers, but letting them see our name and our presence and what we can do for them.

Josh Smith (04:02):

Yeah. So in the beginning you said you specialize in profile and customer work like so high profile clients, you had the Bush operation that you did. Like how did that come about? And is that something that really fed the business? Is that something that you guys enjoyed doing that?

Steven Deyo (04:19):

So we started in 1991. I was only one years old and my parents started it and that was one of the first big contracts. They got that after only two years of being in business, they were able to wire the bushes house that brought a lot of other high profile clients for the, we did several houses for the Houston rockets. Uh, the, the main coach allow teams and various high profile clients building new houses in Houston. So over time, uh, our reputation grew and that, that fueled the business to allow us to expand into homes and helping existing neighborhoods that the subdivisions that all around Houston, not so much just to custom homes, but also to serve those.

Josh Smith (04:54):

Did you find you had a preference like new construction versus residential homes was one, a better business bet for you

Steven Deyo (05:01):

As the home services was a better business bet. And over time we've transitioned to the service work. We like working with the individuals directly and building up a rapport and a long-term relationship with those homeowners rather than just building their house one time and walking away in a long-term relationship.

Josh Smith (05:18):

I know sometimes it could probably be like really like desirable to get in with the contractors new home bill, just like guaranteed work and that sort of thing. Did you find that to be true or where there's challenges with that that were just not real desirable

Steven Deyo (05:32):

Challenges, it's more tied to the economy and Houston is more tied to the oil prices and the what's going on. How many houses are being built, where with the service work it's always in demand. Yeah.

Josh Smith (05:42):

Yeah, definitely later your team made a shift to move to residential work like you were talking about. So what really prompted that as opposed to just continuing the new construction? Was it the demand,

Steven Deyo (05:53):

The demand, and just naturally we were getting a lot of requests. We became, uh, specialized at troubleshooting at solutions for older homes at bringing them up to code safety upgrades, things that older homes needed to make them up to the 2020 standards. Yeah. Over time we became specialized in that. And it's more valuable skill than just putting in the brand new wiring.

Josh Smith (06:15):

Yeah. How did your years working on custom jobs actually make you better at residential work?

Steven Deyo (06:19):

So we learned about customer satisfaction. We learned about working for these clients that needed these things down on the schedule. Uh, really careful work, precision being able to go into a finished home and run wires carefully with the least amount of damage to the house.

Josh Smith (06:34):

Yeah. Were there any challenges going into residential work

Steven Deyo (06:38):

And just going into residential worker, always working with the customer's budget, working with their expectations, as opposed to a new house where they have sort of a much larger budget. So there's always some challenges going around the existing system, seeing what we can do within the customer's budget to give them the best level of service and safety with the upgrades that we're doing. Yeah.

Josh Smith (06:58):

That's a lot of change for a business to kind of go through, even over the course of three decades, branching into new obviously lines of work. There's a lot of challenges with that. Keeping everybody aligned, the tax, motivated, all of that sort of thing from a leadership level. Did you see your dad do anything or any other leaders in the company do anything that really stood out to you to make that change as easy and effective as possible?

Steven Deyo (07:19):

For the most part? I think it was us getting out there and doing it ourselves. I saw my dad and myself go out and run a lot of jobs, build new processes for our service company really from the ground up. Yeah. So over the years we've worked closely, we were the technicians ourselves. We've been fortunate to hire great technicians and it'd be able to expand and take the way that we serve our clients and have our team carry that for us.

Josh Smith (07:41):

Okay. So I got it. I got a winger here. This is a really interesting thought that just popped into my head. And obviously as the owner's son you're coming around and all of a sudden you're announced starting to lead teams, and you've got a new thing that's happening out here. Did you have any challenges with some of the more senior than tenured contractors that you had to work with and be able to build influence with in order to get the job done? Were there any of those challenges coming up in the trade?

Steven Deyo (08:06):

There are always challenges being a young leader with the team getting everyone's respect and also authority. But I think a lot of that was helped because I was out there in the field working so much. I started when I was 14 years old, I spent the whole summers charter school working and it really enjoyed it, but I learned most of the skills working with the team directly and over time. Uh, I think that put me in a position of respect because they knew that I came from the same work that they did. And I was looking out for everyone's best interest with the, what the different decisions were doing, the types of work we do. And the marketing that we're going after now, what did

Josh Smith (08:41):

Learn or what have you learned so far out here in LA, since you've been out here, you got everything kind of the balls, moving with the business to get it up and running. You're about to launch a new website, which is awesome. What have you learned so far in that experience?

Steven Deyo (08:54):

Definitely learned about gathering a team at partnering with the right people to make it happen. That it's a lot of processes that go, uh, that are going into getting new customers and developing our market. So over

Josh Smith (09:06):

The time, learning from the companies that we work with, that help us to make it happen. Uh, doing podcasts, also listening to podcasts like this one has, let me gather a lot of content and learn from other industry experts. Yeah. Do you do anything, uh, other than podcasts that like personally feed you to help give you new ideas and things like that?

Steven Deyo (09:24):

I try to attend trade conventions, expos, where I can learn part of coaching groups where they teach us this material. Yeah. A blue collar success group is one that yeah. Had have success with.

Josh Smith (09:36):

What's one of the most recent teaching moments that you've had, where somebody imparted some wisdom to you that you implemented, and you saw a lot of success with

Steven Deyo (09:45):

Definitely going out and doing something unexpected and extra for the customer hearing about wow factor and what can we do to go above and beyond and show this customer that we really want to give them a long relationship and serve them. Yeah.

Josh Smith (09:57):

We call that a uniquely striking impression here. So yeah, that's definitely that resonates with us a lot. Anything you want to mention like that you've learned as well, that you're looking forward to when it comes to the LA expansion,

Steven Deyo (10:10):

Looking forward to opening into new markets and serving customers that we haven't been able to before. There's a lot of potential with the older homes here to bring them up to code. LA has a lot of older, 1930s, 1920s houses that they're not going to tear down. Yeah. So they need a lot of upgrades to make them safe for today's residents. And so I think that'll give us a lot of opportunity to bring our services to these residents here. Definitely.

Josh Smith (10:34):

And you, you mentioned processes when it comes to hiring new people, have you found it difficult to find techs in today's day and age?

Steven Deyo (10:41):

Yeah. It is a difficult is a challenge. Yeah. You have to be sure of what you're looking for and definitely stay following up with people and stay up to date. Always, always be recruiting, always be looking.

Josh Smith (10:52):

Yeah. What have you found the most success with in that area? Because I know that's a big pain point for a lot of home service businesses right now is making sure that they can get texts when they need them and getting the right texts into their culture.

Steven Deyo (11:03):

Right? So as part of recruiting texts, um, has been the organic presence that we have. We do get a lot of applicants through our website organically. And part of keeping our team happy and onboard is the incentive-based pay that we offer. We know we'd pay well to our, uh, technicians. We share in the profits with our technicians and with our team. And they're always motivated to go out every day and see how much they can serve the customer really within their budget, but also do the best job they can for the customer.

Josh Smith (11:32):

I want to talk a little bit about the company culture that you had grown up, the family environment. What were some of the things culturally that stuck out to you growing up with west Houston electric?

Steven Deyo (11:41):

So I always saw my parents working hard, you know, morning early in the morning until the end of the day and every customer that they talked with on the phone, you know, if they treated them like they were the only customer, they would go out of their way to make sure they were taken care of. So I always heard a high level of customer service from my parents, from the other people in the office. And I knew that our customers were really important to us and our company was really important to our family. So it was always something that I wanted to help with. Yeah.

Josh Smith (12:08):

Any other culture, things that you

Steven Deyo (12:09):

Noticed? We don't, uh, we don't turn down jobs that are too small or too large. We really try to evaluate them on a case by case basis, as far as the culture, really honesty and integrity in everything that we do. There's a lot of opportunity and the trades to be misleading with customers. So we really value our honesty and we show, uh, we look into the house, we look as, as much as we can, visual inspections look for improvements, and we try to be really open and honest with our customers as much as possible. That's way more important than profit with us.

Josh Smith (12:43):

And that's something, eh, how are you going to plan to implement that in, into the new operation in LA? What are some of the ways you've thought of?

Steven Deyo (12:50):

Definitely communication is an important part. As many touch points as possible with our customers. We have text and email and messaging and all the different mediums today really helps to stay in touch. And I find that the more in touch we are with the customers, the more trust they have, they love being able to text us back and forth. And that helps a lot. So I think we'll continue to expand that messaging and keep our customers close the communication. Yeah.

Josh Smith (13:17):

How are you using processes in your company as well? I know, um, standard operating processes are SLPs are really powerful when it comes to making sure you have a smooth operation. And obviously with LA there's a real opportunity for you to continue to build that. Is that something you've been building actively or are you adopting a lot from, uh, west Houston electric

Steven Deyo (13:36):

A lot from what we're using, what we're able to use with our technologies we've joined service Titan two years ago. Yeah. So we have some field service management software, which helps us have a home for all of our processes. And then everything live processes are very important for the service calls for making sure that we're being thorough and accurate. We have forms that are in checklists that are filled out by the technicians that help make that possible remotely managing various locations

Josh Smith (14:02):

Important as having a field management software to your business in particular,

Steven Deyo (14:06):

Very important. It's the central hub for everything we do. So we have our call takers. Our CSR agents are working within the system. This office is in the system and the field technicians are all on the same system. So we can see in real time estimates being built, we can take corrective steps whenever we need to call a technician or fix something in real time. It really allows us to keep a pulse on what's going on and we can do business from anywhere. We can keep an eye on our business and see how it's going. Kind of,

Josh Smith (14:33):

I'm curious from a marketing perspective too, obviously building a new brand is no easy feat. What are some of the ways that you've kind of thought up of how to kind of get your brand, the kind of recognition it needs? So you can get the kind of traction you, you want to grow it the way that you need to

Steven Deyo (14:48):

Definitely taking advantage of as many opportunity out there, advertising campaigns and venues, various websites, everything online that we can be in front of, and also referrals from home Depot, places like that, where people do shop, they look for electricians. We want to stay present in as many channels as we can, and then put what what's our unique offering out there in front of the customer.

Josh Smith (15:11):

Yeah. You could do social media videos of you connecting amplifiers for guitars. And I know my audio guy is like smiling right now, nodding like, yeah, that's exactly what, and it could go viral. You'll be the guitarist electrician. I don't know if that is any better, but we can work with that. That sounds cool. Yeah. Yeah. That's really cool. Have you found it and identified any ways that you're being more unique and distinct apart from west Houston electric since you've moved to LA with the LA portion of the business?

Steven Deyo (15:41):

Yes. There are some, there is a little more accelerated use of technology out here. Smart devices are really popular in LA. A lot of my customers want to automate their homes. So when they're away, they can control the lights, the fans, everything. So we're seeing quicker adoption of technologies here. Also the age of the homes is very unique to LA and construction is much less popular out here. So it's more important to renovate the houses, bring them up to code, bring in the safety updates that are needed to make them safe. Yeah.

Josh Smith (16:11):

I'm curious on the technology portion, what, how have you seen that evolve? Uh, specifically in the electrical field? Now we have a lot of, we interview a lot of HVAC and plumber contractors too, and they have a lot of technology updates, but in the electrical field, it's a very interesting area because there's a lot of technological advancements. What have you seen change over the years from when you were little to where you're at now? That is kind of a direction you're moving with.

Steven Deyo (16:34):

Okay. Definitely. So the internet of things, all the connected devices you go to best buy and there's first of all, hold on. Okay.

Josh Smith (16:40):

Love that you use the internet of things. So that was awesome. Okay.

Steven Deyo (16:44):

Yeah, you go into best buy and you've got like three aisles, you know, different devices that connect to your electrical system and connect to wifi. So it gives us an opportunity to make our home smart and connected and integrated with our smartphones and with our lives. So as electricians, we're very much in demand. We need to hook up these devices, the electric car chargers, the switches and dimmers that are like controls also led lighting has been a game changer over the last decade. We were switching out many light fixtures to led. They have over a 25 year life in those cases. So a lot less service are needed. You fix it one time and it's fixed, right? Yeah. So we're seeing a lot of changes in technology and technology use using less energy. How can we conserve energy? How can we control it and create better living conditions?

Josh Smith (17:30):

How have your calls shifted with the advancement of the internet of things? How have their requests shifted over, say the past five to 10 years?

Steven Deyo (17:38):

Definitely there's more consumers people that go to best buy or Amazon and they order products and they need an electrician. All of a sudden, they didn't necessarily have something wrong or need it repaired, but because they bought this camera floodlight or control device, they now need an electrician. It's gives us an opportunity to go into their home. A lot of cases, we uncover some hidden dangers or some issues that need to be addressed. And so it actually allows us to make their homes safer and prevent something and prevent shock or something from happening to someone that they didn't know about. Yeah. That's, that's

Josh Smith (18:09):

Really good. That's awesome. Anything else that you've seen?

Steven Deyo (18:12):

Well, we've seen equipment that protects the devices as the devices in the house, get more expensive. The home theater equipment, the appliances, the electric cars, generator systems, solar systems, all of these devices are worth thousands of dollars and they can be damaged from power surges. So we've actually seen an electrical code change here in 2020 throughout the country. That surge protection is required interest. And that we liked that because we've always believed in surge protection and promoted it. But now it's actually required by the code because they found out that the safety devices in your house, the smoke detectors, the shock protection outlets, they won't function if they're damaged from the surge. So you need surge protection installed to actually keep your panel safe, keep your home safe and keep those devices running properly. So we stay on top of all the latest code changes we're required to do continued education every year to make sure that we know all the changes and we can fly them to our customer's houses.

Josh Smith (19:05):

That's awesome. Well, this has been really awesome, Stephen and I really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy day, especially with all the, uh, coronavirus stuff going on.

Steven Deyo (19:14):

Thank you. I

Josh Smith (19:15):

Appreciate it too. I know it's a, it's a bit challenging to get out these days into public places. Yeah. Is there any, I just want to kind of tie it up with a bowl. Is there any last piece of advice you'd give to anybody thinking of doing exactly what you're doing right now, which is moving into a new city and starting up your thing, your new business, maybe it's an extension of a business already, but through some of the challenges, what's the one piece of advice you'd give somebody who's thinking about doing the same thing,

Steven Deyo (19:38):

Clear on your goals and partner with people that can help you be accountable to those goals and check on them regularly. Okay.

Josh Smith (19:46):

Yeah. That's great advice. I can come set up better myself was I probably would've said it in a lot more words, so I love your simplicity to it. That's awesome. Thank you so much. Really appreciate it, Steven. My pleasure. Thank you. And for everybody listening, definitely hit that like button pound, the subscribe button, wherever you might be listening at. So you can get more of this awesome content. As we're pumping out these wonderful interviews from all of us here at the sharpest tool, we'll talk to you then

Speaker 3 (20:12):

[inaudible].

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