Thomas Pacchioli is the founder and President of Pacman Electric, located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. With over twenty-two years of professional experience, Pacchioli provides a wide range of electrical services to commercial and industrial clients. He works alongside his son, who serves as Vice-President, to ensure each job is completed on time and to the best of his abilities. By implementing a customer-centric approach, client satisfaction is always his top priority. With a wife and four children, Pacchioli takes great pride in running a highly successful business.
Where did the idea for Pacman Electric come from?
The guy I was working for said I was maxed out on my hours, which hurt my earning potential. It got me to thinking that I could do this and make the customers happy running my own business. You know when you see other people do it, you think you could do it differently and better, so I was thinking about giving it a go. I debated it and debated it. One day I was on a job and turned on the radio and there was a guy on there talking about the pros and cons of starting a business and it got me all fired up. I thought I could do this. I thought about my four kids. College was coming. What I like about being in business is there’s no ceiling. It’s all up to you, how you treat your customers, how you produce. That’s why I went for it.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
We have meetings with the guys in the office, the estimators, the job managers, and we go through all the daily stuff. When I come into my office, I do customer outreach. I have a CEO, a CFO, and a CCO and they handle the operations, while I do a lot of the hands-on with the customers, go to lunch with them, talk about jobs, talk about what’s coming up, the things they need from us. It’s my job to keep up relationships because those are the cornerstone of the business.
How do you bring ideas to life?
By having our meetings and allowing for conversation. We look at things like health care, construction, what’s creating business for us. We have made adjustments in the office so many times. I used to say when I was in the field, even an apprentice can come up with a good idea. You can go overboard, but throwing things out and letting them throw ideas out is a good way to keep ideas fresh and in development.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Technology is expanding and really making our jobs easier and better. We can stay on top of a lot more than we used to be able to. We have this new software where our guys can look at their iPad and handle all kinds of things for their job. If they have questions on their plans, we can FaceTime with them and go over things in real time so they can work things out with us very efficiently. It’s a big-time change.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Putting in the hours you have to put in. You can’t get that mindset of putting things off and waiting to do things the next day.
What advice would you give your younger self?
When I first started the business, I was too tough on employees. I set my standards way too high. Over time, I’ve learned that everybody has qualities that are useful, even if they’re not obvious. Now I work harder to find those qualities and help bring them out.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I like to pay as I go, despite having so many people in my office that want to extend. Don’t get me wrong, everybody has to take on loans every now and then, but everyone wants me to lease everything, they want me to get loans on everything. But I don’t want to jump ahead and get in debt. I’m pretty strict on it. I’ve bent a little bit on it, but I think the best thing to do is pay as you go. In our business there are peaks and there are valleys, so when a slowdown comes, I don’t have to shut the doors and send my guys home. I try to always control my overhead. That’s the one thing that everybody disagrees with me on, but it’s worked so far over 20 years and I’m sticking with it.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Make a list of things to do. Start out with priorities and then write them down so that you’re not wandering around the office during the day and losing track of what you need to do. You know how your mind goes, especially now with social media which is such a distraction. Lists help keep you on task.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Treat the customers with respect and if there’s a problem, don’t be so rigid. Sometimes there’s gray areas but ultimately you have to take care of it and make the customer happy. I’m not saying you let yourself be taken for a ride, but when you have good customers and you run into some gray areas where it could cost him or you, and the customer puts his back up, you take the hit and keep the good relationship. I don’t lose relationships over a change order that’s not being paid. Look at the big picture.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Getting too busy and having some of the customers think that they were being neglected. I was really fussy about the job being done right and on time so I had trouble delegating, and I just came to a point where I knew I had to begin to trust and delegate. That was hard for me, but I did it and it’s really paid off. Then I started hiring better and training better.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
What I might do is combine a couple trades together, like HVAC and electrical, because once you get your customer and they’re happy with you, and you show you provide good service and you do what you say for how much you say, you would double the business in a heartbeat by having two divisions.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
We had this girl in the office that used to be in the food business and she really wanted to get out of it, so we hired her in an entry-level HR position and she was working really hard. She didn’t know anything starting out about our business, but she worked to catch up. And then one day, I noticed she started to get down a little bit. That night I was leaving the office and I handed her a hundred-dollar bill. I said, “This is for your effort.” She tried to refuse but I insisted. That was over a year ago, and she continues to grow and develop and is an excellent employee. I’m not saying it’s because of that, but I think that’s the best $100 I ever spent. It just let her know that she was being noticed. And now, as we speak, she’s training another girl and we’re moving her over to our construction department, so she’s really moving up.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
We use ConEst, which is a bidding software. We also use SureCount, which helps speed up our estimating, and Quickbooks.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Markup & Profit: A Contractor’s Guide by Michael Stone. I read that when I started the company and when I had no idea how to price things or what to do. It was a huge asset for me.
What is your favorite quote?
“There’s no limit to what a man can do and where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.” – Ronald Reagan. You stick your chest out in this business, it’ll catch up to you. It’s your employees that carry you through. I’m in an office. I run things here. But people don’t see me, they see my guys. That’s who makes the difference for them.
• Be honest and treat your customers well.
• Take care of your employees and treat them with respect.
• Put in the time.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.