Pursuing Its Own Destiny
Balanced Load Electric lights up Naperville
Owning a business is the ultimate expression of the American dream—with a caveat. The promise of any successful business may be inspired by possibility and freedom, but its foundation is built day to day in the trenches, from a team committed to hard work and delivering solutions to clients and customers in the community. Ultimately, running a business takes grit and a willingness to do whatever it takes to attract and cultivate in-house talent and create long-lasting relationships with clients.
When tenured electricians Frank Bruno and Pete Siebels formed Balanced Load Electric, LLC in 2015, they answered a need for a company in Naperville, Illinois, to provide lighting, design-build, energy efficiency, new age power and renewable energy solutions to large, midsized and boutique commercial, residential and industrial companies. Both owners apprenticed through IBEW Local 701, their local union chapter, and after years working to fulfill someone else’s dream, the two friends decided to pursue their own destiny.
“I went to college for two years and then began driving a delivery truck for Terrance Electric, which got my eyes on the field,” says Frank. “From there I went into apprenticeship and, 20 years later, Pete and I started the company. Pete went to Illinois State University where he received a B.A. in construction management, and after college he entered the apprenticeship [program].”
Pete and Frank worked for a company that shifted its focus solely to large accounts, which brought them to a crossroads. “What comes with large work is large amounts of time waiting, sitting at home for months not working, and being sick and tired of doing that,” explains Frank. “We talked about how we could work for ourselves and make enough money and get enough work to keep both of us working all year. We decided to just give it a shot. The economy was just turning around, residential was on the upswing, and people couldn’t get enough subcontractors to do the work.”
A Crash Course in Business
The two hit the ground running, learning the ins and outs of managing a business while answering the needs of their clients. There was ample responsibility in setting up an LLC, taxes, insurance, payroll—they embraced every foundational task of starting a business while delivering services and solutions to clients in Naperville.
“I didn’t have any business training,” Frank says. “It was a crash course. We focused on residential work in the beginning; in the meantime, we learned how to run a business. We purchased an electronic estimating program that’s fully digital, which was a big expense, and learned how to use the system and estimate work faster and more accurately.”
Building lasting Relationships
Once the company was established, the duo brought Tom Cross into the picture to help grow the business and widen their client base. Previously, Tom had moved to Chicago in 2005 for an electrical apprenticeship program and worked for a contractor for 12 years, eventually branching out into estimating and project management. With Tom’s expertise, Pete and Frank have been able to build a solid client base, allowing the team to work year-round.
Though Tom did not officially join the company until earlier this year, Frank will tell you that Tom was involved in the business early on and helped secure one of Balanced Load Electric’s largest accounts—a major project for Medieval Times, a company that was looking to revamp lighting in its arena in Schaumburg, Illinois. “The company I was working for at the time didn’t want to go after new work,” Tom says. “I knew Pete and Frank were hungry for work.”
“We got the job and today we have a lasting relationship with Medieval Times and we do all their work on all projects,” Frank adds. “That was our largest job at the time, and we brought in more help. From there, we built a relationship with DuPage Children’s Museum; they found us through a previous contractor. We completed an energy efficiency LED lighting upgrade in their museum. At that point, we approached Tom to see if he’d be interested in a new opportunity with us. In January 2019, Tom officially came over and he’s made a difference in obtaining and sustaining work for the company. We wouldn’t be where we are today without him.”
Balanced Load Electric continues to build on its reputation, and word-of-mouth referrals. As a union contractor, the company hires from its local union hall and has established a core group of talented and committed electricians who understand the culture and work ethic of the company. The company empowers its general contractors to make decisions, which gives clients greater flexibility and establishes trust in the process—and in the end result. It’s all to benefit the customer.
“Our people in the field work hand in hand with the clients and are not restricted to check back and see what the office wants to do,” Frank says. “They can make decisions and solve problems to benefit the customer right on-site. That’s how we’re able to retain the trust of clients for future projects.”
“We want to give our clients a great experience, so they’ll come back,” Tom says.
Previous clients such as the Illinois Institute of Technology (Illinois Tech) often invite the Balanced Load Electric team to bid on new projects because, Frank says, of the quality of past work. That, he adds, keeps the work steady and ensures the team retains strong client relationships.
“We have over 20 bids out right now that we’re waiting to hear back on, and it usually takes two to three weeks for a contractor to get back to us,” Tom says.
“The majority of what we’re putting out through bids is coming through The Blue Book Network,” Frank adds. “We submit a bid based on due dates and follow up via email, and the general contractors tell us when the projects come in. We have a handful of customers and clients we serve directly that don’t go through Blue Book, like Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, Illinois Tech, DuPage Children’s Museum, McDonald’s and Medieval Times. When they call, we take care of them directly.”
“From Blue Book we’ve retained relationships with people and are now their preferred vendors when it comes to bidding,” Tom says. “They want us to work with them because we provide a good, competitive number and we’ve established relationships, so they keep coming back to us.”
This team has developed a healthy perspective about where it is and where it’s headed, setting goals and being patient with the progress of the business while retaining the great work and quality that Balanced Load Electric is known for. Frank, Pete and Tom are putting in time and a half during this growth season to ensure the future of the company is set and that there will be a legacy to hand down to the next generation.
“Being an owner of a company is a lot of responsibility, but you control more of your destiny,” Frank says. “What you put in is what you get out.”
“We don’t have other employees yet,” Tom says. “All three of us do everything right now. We’re growing rapidly, and our biggest goal right now is to take our profits and put them back into the business to make sure the company succeeds. Our ultimate goal is to continue to grow as an organization, so we can provide something for our families in the future. We don’t want it to balloon up and sell it. We’re not out to be millionaires. We want this to be part of us.”