Business was slow for Miller Electric in March and April of this year. Demand for the company’s remodeling services fell sharply as the result of the economic downturn.
Instead of laying off staff members or cutting their pay, Miller Electric owners Ed and Sue Gocher asked their 11 employees to work even harder for the same pay.
“Employees were asked to do more, and they responded very well,” Ed Gocher said.
Instead, the Gochers cut their own pay and decided not to take a vacation this year. They also began focusing on types of work for which demand remains strong, such as preventative maintenance work and installation of green lighting fixtures.
“Some just whine and complain and think that the phone is going to ring,” Ed Gocher said. “You’ve got to look for opportunities. You’ve got to go out and shake the tree.”
Despite the recession, Gocher doesn’t strive to make Miller Electric the cheapest company. Instead, he wants it to be the neatest and the best. He wants Miller Electric to be viable in the long term, a business that his sons, Tyler, 17, and Adam, 13, might possibly take over in the future.
“This is a family business,” Gocher said. “Making a bunch of money today is not the most important thing in the world.”
Gocher began working at Miller Electric more than six years ago and bought the business after three or four months, when former owner Bill Miller retired. In that time, Gocher has expanded the business from two employees to 11, most of whom have more than 20 years of experience in the field.
Gocher spends most of his time coordinating scheduling, bidding on products and ordering materials. His wife, Sue, takes care of finances. His sons also work at Miller Electric when they aren’t in school. Tyler helps out with placing orders and arranging materials for the next day’s projects, while Adam does landscaping work and takes out the trash.
When Gocher first took over the business, he had more work than he could keep up with through referrals alone. To keep business strong, Gocher relies more on networking than he did during peak economic times.
He joined both the Longboat Key, Lido Key, St. Armands Key Chamber of Commerce and the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce in 2005.
Gocher credits his staff with much of Miller Electric’s success, joking, “It’s everyone’s fault.” And, so, when he returned from the Longboat Key, Lido Key, St. Armands Key Chamber of Commerce Small Business Week Annual Awards Breakfast after having accepted the first-place award for the “11 or More Employees” category on behalf of Miller Electric, he reminded his staff that their actions have consequences: Each employee got a paid day off.
Location: 6992 Iris St., Sarasota
Start date: Started in 1988; purchased by the Gochers in 2003
Number of employees when started: Two
Number of employees today: 11
Advice: “Do the nicest, neatest, cleanest work that you can do,” Ed Gocher says.
Where do you see your business in one year? Similar to where it is now. “We don’t wait to see what happens,” Ed Gocher says. “We’re trying to make it happen.”