Family ties power electrical business
Jim Grant may have put his name on his business, Jim's Electric Company, but he didn't start the business by himself. Jim's Electric is a family business, started in 1976 by Grant and his wife, Nancy. The Grants' two sons, Jesse and Tony, are hea...
Jim Grant may have put his name on his business, Jim's Electric Company, but he didn't start the business by himself.
Jim's Electric is a family business, started in 1976 by Grant and his wife, Nancy. The Grants' two sons, Jesse and Tony, are heavily involved in running the business with their father, who holds the title of president. Jesse Grant is the vice president, Tony Grant handles general operations, while Nancy Grant has retired.
The company celebrated 40 years of business in 2016. The main location is in Baxter, but the company does have local phone numbers for Crosslake and Little Falls, due to how often the business does work there.
Jim's Electric began thanks to the support and belief of a close family friend, Jim Grant said. Grant was working as an electrician but was about to lose his job, because his employer was having tax issues. He had a few other job options lined up when longtime family friend Gordon Benson approached him at Grant's sister's graduation party.
Grant told Benson about his issues at work, and Benson asked him if he'd want to start his own business. Grant said it would be nice, but he didn't have the money. Benson replied that he'd support him if he wanted to start a business, an offer Grant took with a grain of salt.
Grant checked with his father to see if Benson might be serious, and his father told him Benson was. Later that night, Grant called Benson to see if he was serious, to which Benson told him he was.
Grant accepted, and a month later, Jim's Electric was born.
"It's pretty much a fairy tale," Grant said. "We recognized really fast that this was an opportunity that is unheard of. It only comes to a very small handful of people."
The first office for Jim's Electric was a folding card table in the corner of the dining room of the Grant family's trailer house, Jesse Grant said. The original warehouse for the business was one rented stall of a five-stall garage with a dirt floor, Jim Grant said.
"It's light years away from where we're at today," Jesse Grant said. "It's pretty neat when you know the history and can see it."
Jim's Electric has succeeded thanks to hard work, good people, mentors and, most importantly, family support, Jim Grant said. The greatest gift his business has given him has been the chance to work with his sons and watch them grow, he said.
"It's not always been easy; we've not always agreed," Jim Grant said. "But the pure gift to be able to do that, it's a blessing that I've relished."
In 1986, the company purchased land from the city of Baxter, where the business currently sits. The original building built that year was 3,500 square feet. Then in 2000, an expansion project doubled the square footage to its current size of 7,000 square feet.
What they do
Jim's Electric does a wide variety of electrical work, Jesse Grant said. If it needs to be hooked up or controlled, he said, give them a call. If they can't do the work, they'll be able to direct a customer to someone who can.
The company does residential and commercial work, Jesse Grant said. There's also a team of employees who provide low voltage electrical services, which includes data centers, fiber optic cabling, video security systems, building automation and more.
"The lines are getting blurred between being an electrician and technology," Jesse Grant said. "Every day there's another app that ties something together, so it's becoming more and more of what we do."
Generators have become a large part of the company's business, both installing and servicing them, Jesse Grant said. It's now its own company, Generator Power Systems, and includes five people who travel the Midwest to furnish, install and service generators.
A core part of the business involves responding to and taking care of emergencies for customers, Jesse Grant said. Employees live in different places throughout the area, he said, so they can cover about a 60-mile radius from the Baxter location on a daily basis.
"Somebody's got to fix it, and we're the guys that do it," Jesse Grant said.
Jim's Electric recently worked on the new Tim Horton's on Washington Street in Brainerd, as well as numerous other commercial jobs in the area, Jesse Grant said. Those jobs are more visible than residential jobs, he said, but there's a closer connection with residential customers.
"When somebody trusts you enough to allow you to come into their home, which is a very personal space," Jim Grant said, "that says a lot about you."
There have always been storms in the Brainerd lakes area, but the supercell thunderstorm that rolled through in July of 2015 provided a lesson in response and preparedness, Jesse Grant said. After the storm, the company responded to customers who needed service after the power company had restored their power.
"Every storm, we always see something," Jesse Grant said. "Every storm, there's always something that we've got to respond to."
The company was looking for a way to say thank you to its customers when it came up with Jim's Java, a special blend of coffee grounds roasted by Reality Roasters in Little Falls. In turn, those customers have started thanking Jim's Electric for the thank you gift.
"It's the craziest thing," Jesse Grant said.
Recently, people have started asking to buy the coffee grounds, so Jim's Electric has started selling them through the company website. The proceeds go to the company's charitable giving, which includes the Mid-Minnesota Women's Center, one of the company's customers.
Jesse Grant went to electrician school and moved back to Baxter in 1999, where he started working for his father as an electrician. Since then, he's moved into an executive role with the company, where he handles much of what goes on in the business.
"Any questions or decisions, everything flows through me at some point," Jesse Grant said.
He initially studied mass communications for a year at St. Cloud State University before deciding it wasn't for him. Due to a lack of direction, he said, he went to electrician school.
"It was something I knew," he said.
Jim Grant's talk of retirement has turned into a running joke, Jesse Grant said, and he's not sure if his father will ever retire. He can see why his father might be reluctant to step away, though, as it's hard to stop doing something you've been doing for 40 years.
"If you've done it all, for a lot of years, it's really hard to back away from that," Jesse Grant said. "Myself, I think I would be bored if I didn't have some kind of routine every day."
Jim's Electric has 38 employees, Jesse Grant said, with a third of them in the office and two-thirds of them in the field. It's a huge responsibility to support those people and their families, Jim Grant said, but it's also an honor to work with them. They're not just employees, he said, they're team members and family members.
The company tries to create an environment people want to be in, Jesse Grant said, so people don't dread coming to work. They also try to put together gatherings outside work where people can socialize and get to know each other.
"You get to know everybody, and everybody gets to know you for the most part," Jesse Grant said.
Jim's Electric employees are on life's journey together, Jim Grant said. The company has lost team members to illness and death, while having also seen team members have babies during their time at the company.
"It's a journey together, it's a journey through life," Jim Grant said. "If we can somehow be part of that, that's the most you can expect out of a business."