Introducing Brett Campbell of Laser Electrical Armidale, formerly New England Electrical. From starting out as an electrical apprentice at the Armidale Hospital, Brett is now an employer with three tradies, three apprentices and an office manager on his team.
Tell us a little about yourself.
My family moved here when I was about four. My father was a local insurance agent, so I grew up in Armidale. I did my electrical apprenticeship at the local hospital; this was great training in all things domestic and commercial.
After completing my apprenticeship, I left for the great adventure in WA, where I worked for a couple of years in the mining industry north of Kalgoorlie. In fact, I would say I grew up there, going there as a 20-year-old man and coming back somewhat more of a man at 22.
After returning, I worked for various companies in Armidale and then travelled for a year throughout the UK and Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Meeting people from different backgrounds and religions was a life-changing experience.
Before having children, my wife, Carol, and I travelled extensively for a couple of years before coming home via Asia. We then settled down, mostly because Carol said we had to. We have three kids: Jenna, 21; Tom, 19; and Jack, 17. Jenna and Tom are at university, and Jack is in Year 12.
And starting your business?
I started my own business in the early ‘90s, as Brett Campbell Electrical. We then grew, rebranding eight years ago as New England Electrical.
What does Laser Electrical Armidale do?
We do both commercial and domestic electrical work, although the majority of our work is domestic-based. Some of the bigger businesses in the Laser Group have national clients, so for example we could now also look after Coles in Armidale on behalf of another Laser business.
We’re doing a lot of solar now for both ourselves and a lot of companies out of town. It’s such a great way for people to save money on their electricity bills – it leaves a great green legacy.
Why the switch to Laser Electrical?
We joined the group two years ago, after we were recommended to the Laser Group by another business in town. We were approached by the State Manager, who flew up from Sydney. We were very cautious at first, but after just one meeting, they won us over.
Since joining, they have made us a more efficient and accountable business, thanks in large part to their digital systems and support.
We use an app for every job, which is much more efficient for our clients and our business. We do make a big point of telling our clients that we are not playing on our phones, but in fact we are doing our jobs, and saving time and money.
What is the secret to your success?
We’ve stood the test of time, and I think the reason is simply that we try. We try to do the right things by our clients, to give the right advice, and to do the job properly.
We focus on being respectful in how we treat our clients and their homes. Joining Laser with their “totally dependable” mission statement has proven to be really nice fit for us.
What were your biggest challenges starting out?
My biggest challenge was building a clientele, through word of mouth, and advertising.
What is your favourite part of running your own business?
Definitely our customers, meeting new people every day, and doing the right thing by them. It’s very satisfying, making their work with us an enjoyable experience. I have always found that the simple task of cleaning up after ourselves makes people happy.
As a small business owner, what qualities have you found the most useful?
I genuinely like people, meeting people, hearing about their lives and their life experience, their travels. I love developing a more personal relationship with our clients.
What inspires you?
My family first and foremost, followed by the need to do a good job and get rewarded for it. I’m happy living a nice if sometimes boring life.
Any advice for a business just starting out?
Do your homework, check your market, and get advice form other business people. After my experience with Laser, I’d recommend looking into a group which provides business training and administrative tools and support. For me, the camaraderie I’ve found within the group has been invaluable. I would have only one word of caution: make sure you share the same values.
Where to from here?
I’d like to consolidate what we do, and I’m looking forward to industry developments, as well as building on what we are learning with Laser.
You are exceptionally well-travelled; what kept you in Armidale?
I’m often asked of all the countries I’ve visited, where would I like to live most. My answer is always the same. The only place I can imagine bringing up a family in is Australia. I can’t imagine a better town than Armidale. There are so many wonderful, interesting people in this town, who have been very good for and to us. Being able to raise a family in this town is quite unique: having a university in town makes kids think they can go to uni, and the schools are second to none.