Michelle Perry is the founder of Emerald Resource, an electrical low voltage contractor that designs, engineers and installs customized telecommunications networks including Telephone Systems, Audio Visual, VTC, CCTV, Access Control, and ISP/OSP Cabling and Fiber solutions to meet standard and enhanced telecommunication services. In layman terms, this veteran, woman-owned business is responsible for bringing power, light, and communications to buildings and communities across the state of TN and beyond. The amazing part is that Emerald Resource started out as a technology staffing firm! So, now you are wondering how do they go from a staffing firm to a major player in the electrical contracting space….they capitalized on the opportunities given. Michelle’s story is really one that shows no matter what you put your mind to, you can definitely achieve it. Check out her story below and how her Nashville Business Incubation Center membership is currently taking her business to the next level.
Tell us how you started Emerald Resource?
I was an IT recruiter for a fortune 500 company. The organization just went through the whole Y2k fiasco and began making internal changes along with purchasing companies from overseas. By 2003, I had enough and turned in my notice, however, they were determined not to let me go for 6 months so I worked so many hours during this period. After this time, I started getting back to me and what made me happy. Then, Thanksgiving rolls around and my Mom was like “what are you going to do” and I was like “Well, maybe I will just start my own company.” I received a check from my Grandmother that Christmas for $5,000, I also received calls from old clients during this time needing referrals for their business needs. I realized people needed to pay me for my advice and started my company at the beginning of 2004.
Your aha moment?
It started after receiving my first staffing opportunity with Beacon Technologies, a telecom business also at the Nashville Business Incubation Center. I meet with the owner when he needed a proposal written but he didn’t want to pay it for it. In exchange, he agreed to give me a percentage of the job if they won (and they did!). During the time working with Beacon Technologies, I got to learn what they did and gleaned basic knowledge. Having an undergraduate degree in Finance and my MBA I was able to see opportunity in spite of my lack of on-the-job electrical contracting experience. I knew I could build teams and provide the business acumen to make money. Fast track to 2008, when I landed my first federal contract on the implementation side and I have grown sustainably ever since.
So, what has your growth entailed from the type of clients to number of employees?
Well, in 2009 I moved to NBIC, and this was really the jump start I needed to begin meeting new contacts to help go after the right jobs. Our client list now includes: Department of the Army, Department of Energy, Department of the Air Force, Department of Forest Service, TN Army National Guard and the Air National Guard to name a few. We have also grown from a team of three to now 25 employees.
You mentioned that NBIC is playing a role in the growth of your company. For those entrepreneurs considering NBIC right now, what three things are you loving about your experience thus far?
- Brainstorming and Ideation: The ability to walk in and bounce ideas off other business owners and the NBIC team is great. I’m a little different, I have ideas that I know could make money and Angela Jones is like my sounding board. I can schedule time to meet with her and get out all the things I have in my head. It is great to get out your thoughts out so you can then re-focus. Many times, Angela will listen, talk through the idea with me and then help me to not forget my core goals and the best way to stay on track. For me it comes down to the guidance, refocusing me and given me the opportunity to voice my ideas. They may not always come to fruition, but at least I had a knowledgeable source there to listen.
- Comraderie: At NBIC, every company is different but we all face many of the same problems, from logistics, cash flow, etc. I can recall on several occasions, taking a coffee break outside and sharing almost identical stories with another electrical manufacturing company that is also in the program.
- Processes, Processes, Processes: So, I already had Quickbooks but I did not have the other operational processes in place. I didn’t have an employee handbook and standard operating procedures for example. To be honest, I didn’t think they were necessary at the time. I was trying to run the business and bring in sales. However, the day came where I needed these processes in place. It was more painful to stop then and get it handled.
In such a male-dominated industry, do you notice any resistance from clients or counterparts?
Yea, I have a lot less now, however I am not going to lie. I just always remember, I did this on my own and can continue to push through any obstacle.
I could imagine your schedule is very demanding, how do you manage your work/life balance?
That’s one area I don’t do so well in. I am a single Mom, and when I started in 2004, my daughter was 14. There was private school, extracurricular activities and it was difficult for the first the couple of years until she got a drivers license. However, with me having my own company, it has instilled in her a great work ethic as she was able to work on job sites during the summer.
I would say I still have to work on mastering the work-life balance but I love what I do, so it doesn’t feel like work.
Lastly, what’s next for Emerald Resource?
Stay fully staffed, fully busy and getting in more specialty projects, like our recent large excavation job. I will also be obtaining my general contractor license. I have always wanted to erect my own building and I am on my way to doing so.