Powering through the pandemic
SELECT Member Matt Burton reveals how he’s facing the challenges of lockdown
After Matt Burton’s wife announced she was pregnant in 2018, he decided it was time to leave the company where he had been a supervisor for eight years and strike out on his own. Since then, he has built Matt Burton Electrical, based in Newton Stewart, Dumfries and Galloway, into a successful business servicing domestic, commercial and agricultural customers.
Matt came late to a career in electrical contracting. His first interest had been mechanical engineering, which he studied for two years at college. When he couldn’t find a job in this field, he worked shifts at his best friend’s family campsite business and got interested in the electrical industry. Matt said: “My friend Bob was a qualified electrician and ran the electrical contracting side of his family’s business.
“Bob and his family offered me an apprenticeship and I worked my way up to supervisor. The electrical side of the business grew so that 90% of our work was outwith the holiday camp.
“I always knew I would like to start my own business when I had the right knowledge and experience and Bob’s family gave me their full support.
“I was very lucky to have my best friend as my mentor; he was always encouraging and open to my ideas.”
Also part of the Matt Burton Electrical team is his wife Kay, who plays a big role helping with the accounts side of the business, and his apprentice, Jamie Smith, who joined in November 2019.
Matt said: “It had always been my plan to take on an apprentice. It’s not only to give a young person a chance of a career but also because I am very particular on how I do things, so I wanted someone with no bad habits. Jamie stood out immediately; he was polite, interested in the job and had the right attitude. Seeing him improving and growing over the last year makes me feel very proud.”
Matt also gets great satisfaction from the positive feedback he receives. He said: “I really enjoy involving customers in their projects and the feeling you get from making their ideas a reality.
“One standout moment was before Christmas where we helped a doctor’s family get their kitchen ready for the festivities. Rotting joints in their home resulted in major works for more than a year, with the family using a makeshift kitchen in their workshop/garage.
“Once their new kitchen was installed we managed to get the power on by 11pm on 22 December. They could not have been more thankful, with the wife in tears because she finally managed to get her family around the table for Christmas dinner. The doctor works extremely long hours between COVID wards and A&E at the hospital at nights and weekends and at his surgery throughout the day. It gave us a great feeling of pride to play our part in giving them an early Christmas present.”
Another highlight for Matt was being shortlisted in the 2019 SELECT Awards for the Best Visual Promotion and Best Delivery of Customer Service titles.
He said: “When I started my business, being a Member of SELECT was my number one priority. The training courses and Toolbox Talks have been a massive help to keep up to date with amendments and further my knowledge.
“Membership Representative Fiona Smith and Technical Adviser Stuart McKelvie have made my experience of being part of SELECT fantastic. Fiona has always been super encouraging and happy to help. Stuart is an absolute asset to SELECT as his knowledge of the regs book is beyond me – he recites it like poetry! Director of Technical Services Dave Forrester is another one I would also like to praise.
“They are always at the end of the phone or an email when you need help.”
Rising to the challenge
Like all small business owners, the COVID pandemic has been a source of some sleepless nights for Matt, but he and Jamie have worked hard to finish the backlog of work that had built up during lockdowns.
He said: “It’s been a challenging time and we’ve had to put in longer hours. After the first lockdown there was an even bigger upturn in customers wanting work done so very quickly we had several projects on the go. But that feeling of being under pressure motivates me to make sure I’m organised, so I plan ahead and meet challenges head on with determination.
“It’s been a tough past year, but I remain positive. As long as you have the passion, drive and a good foundation of experience and knowledge then the best and worst decisions are the ones we learn from the most.
“If you are willing to put 150% into everything you want to achieve then everything will fall into place.
“I am a firm believer in what you put in to the business, you will get out later down the line, so I get a great feeling of satisfaction for what we have achieved, both prior to the pandemic and during it. I want to continue to grow the business, with the possibility of taking on a qualified electrician in the future.”
It’s not just his business that is growing, as Matt and Kay are now having another baby to join daughters Olivia and Ella – and that’s just the motivation Matt likes.