Lance Fawcett has double cause to celebrate.
The former electrical apprentice has marked 25 years since founding his business, Fawcett Electrical, at the same time as celebrating his 50th birthday.
And he is looking forward to further developing the Skelmanthorpe-based company, which employs 10 people and carries out electrical installation work for domestic properties, offices and a wide variety of commercial and industrial premises.
Lance was born in Lincolnshire, but has lived in Yorkshire since he was 11.
He attended Scissett Middle School and Shelley High School, but admits: “I sat five 0-levels and didn’t get any!”
He says: “I was always interested in electrics – I can’t explain why. My father was a butcher and we had no tradition of electricians in the family.
“When I left school, my father asked what I was going to do. I said I didn’t know, so he said I should knock on some doors and find a job.”
Lance’s first employment was with a small firm mending domestic appliances.
He went on to work for a family business involved in repairing appliances and electrical installation as an apprentice electrician, studying on the job and at Huddersfield Technical College.
He was with the firm for seven years before deciding at the age of 25 to set up on his own.
“The main reason I jumped ship was because it was an old-fashioned family firm,” he says.
“I wanted to move the business forwards with the times. They had been established a long time, but the business was slowing down as their client base diminished.”
Lance launched his company with modest resources.
“I had a garden shed as my storage and I was just a man with a van,” he says.
“I set up in the early 1990s during a recession and it was slow progress for quite a few years.
“But I started to build a client base. In this industry, it’s all about word-of-mouth recommendation.”
Says Lance: “I was on my own for 18 months before setting on our first apprentice – and we had an apprentice every year for the next 10 years.
“That is one of the rewards of being the boss – bringing in young kids and being almost like a father to them, seeing them progress through the ‘silly’ teenage stage and training them up to be capable individuals.”
Now the company has negotiated its second recession and Lance detects distinct signs of recovery.
It also moved 12 months ago from premises at Station Road in Skelmanthorpe to bigger, more modern offices at the nearby Crofthead Business Park – which has provided more space for storage and parking.
“The level of enquiries is picking up and there is definitely a more positive feel to things,” he says.
“In previous years, we would respond to enquiries to work on a scheme only for the project not to go ahead because the finances weren’t there. Now things are happening.”
Fawcett Electrical is carrying out work on projects ranging from putting up a light fitting for an individual householder to completing electrical installations on apartment blocks and new-build housing developments to fitting electrics for offices, shops and factories.
It remains a highly competitive business – with contractors keen to secure the lowest price when putting work out to tender.
But Lance says: “We are working across the M62 corridor. We have done a lot of work in Scunthorpe recently on properties flooded by the tidal surge.”
He says: “The recession was interesting because we lost a number of our regular customers, which means the direction of the company has changed.
“A lot of work has come from self-builders – people who have done extremely well in their careers and are now building £1m to £2m properties. In the past few years we have done some interesting bespoke installations.”
Another growth area is in solar panel installations and energy -efficient LED lighting. Fawcett Electrical is registered with the Microgeneration Certification Scheme and has carried out solar photovoltaic system installations on a scheme of eight houses at Harrogate and other properties, including a radio station in Leeds.
“People are asking themselves how they can save money on their energy bills,” he says. “Solar is now so much more affordable. While the feed-in tariffs have fallen, so has the cost of the kit.
“The technology is improving all the time and it has become a good investment – typically with a pay-back of seven years and a 12% to 13% return on the investment.
“I think solar PV should be mandatory on all new-builds. Everyone is worried about global warming and burning fossil fuels – but the sun is always up there!”
Although Lance no longer goes out in the van on jobs, he still works from 7.30am to 6pm – and some Saturdays – securing new clients and contracts and overseeing the strategic direction of the business.
And it’s been a real family affair. He says: “My wife Debra was a real rock during the early days, doing the wages in her spare time and typing up documents. She now works with me in the business and we have shared the highs and lows. We have always worked well together – it’s been a team effort.”
The couple enjoy caravanning and weekends walking in the Yorkshire and Derbyshire countryside. They also enjoy meals out and socialising.
Lance has no intention of taking a back seat, however, and still gets satisfaction from a job well done. “Our business is strange because you are working to tight time constraints and working in a small ‘window’ among other tradespeople.
“It’s very rare to get a thank-your from the customer, even if you do a fantastic job because having tradespeople in can be fraught for the customer. It’s a testing time. When someone does have the time to put pen to paper to thank you it’s very gratifying.”
He also has some sound advice for others tempted to step out on their own. “Being self-employed requires determination,” he says. “And if at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again!”
Role: Managing director
Family: Married to Debra with daughters Chloe, 23, and Hollie, 19
Holidays: We never visit the same place twice. We particularly enjoyed
Rome and a 10-day cruise to see the wonders of the ancient world
Car: Range Rover Sport
First job: Working for a firm repairing domestic appliances
Best thing about the job? Providing customer satisfaction
Worst thing about the job? I hate paperwork with a vengeance. I have to bully myself into dealing with it!
Business tip: Deliver a quality product to customer and always be absolutely honest with them. If they have had a good experience, they will come back
Work: Domestic, commercial and industrial electrical installation
Site: Unit D3, Crofthead Business Park, Skelmanthorpe
Phone: 01484 863769 or 07973 741357