Born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario, Brad Fraser was on the path to becoming a mechanical engineer when life events led him to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps in the electrical business in 1971. “My mother was ill, so I stayed home to take care of her,” reminisces Fraser, about how he got started. “My grandfather invited me to work for him during that time and eventually convinced me to sign up in the electrical trade, so I did.”
In 1971, Fraser was licensed and co-managing his grandfather’s electrical business, and in 1981, he started putting together the details for his own business. With a friend’s encouragement, Fraser moved to Brantford in 1987, and Southwestern Electric Ltd. was born.
Today, Southwestern operates in Muskoka and Burlington, employs five electricians, and specializes in industrial, commercial and residential repairs, maintenance, renovations, and new builds.
“We are about 50%industrial repairs, troubleshooting and maintenance, 20% commercial repairs and maintenance, 20% residential renovations, repairs, and the odd new build, with 10% left over for inventive or menial jobs,” says Fraser, “because as Granddad always said, ‘You do whatever you need to do, even if it’s sweeping sidewalks.’”
Fraser attributes Southwestern Electric’s success to his roots and hard work, but knows that the electrical industry changes quickly. The only way to stay ahead of those changes is to stay on top of the information.
Fraser understands the value of networking and belongs to OEL’s Tri County chapter. Since he joined, he’s met an inclusive group of people who thrive and grow on information sharing, industry news and updates, and professional development. “No man is an island,” says Fraser. “It’s important for electrical industry professionals to connect with each other and look out for one another. That’s what being part of the OEL is: A network of well-informed professionals, constantly looking out for one another.”
Fraser finds the value in this so important, that he often travels six hours south and back, just to attend Tri County’s monthly meetings. These meetings have allowed Fraser and his staff to stay current and connected.
“It’s about making sure our companies are running properly and we’re helping each other,” Fraser says. “Physically knowing who my peers are brings a new depth to the experiences and knowledge being exchanged. This is why attending these meetings holds more value to me than just receiving an email or an update, though those are important too.”
Fraser never leaves a meeting empty handed. There are always numerous ESA inspectors in attendance to answer questions, local utility updates, and even guest speakers from sectors that affect his business. In one night he is made aware of current and relevant issues or changes that have surfaced.
“I’m just a small guy, and I can get really busy. It’s easy to get lost in the day. I don’t have someone in an office looking out for me. The information OEL sends out and the information from the meetings are all crucial,” says Fraser. “Some guys won’t even be aware of changes until six months later, this can affect their bottom line.”
Supporting Fraser in all he does professionally is his wife who has been working with him behind the scenes for 20 years. Fraser’s wife brings a wealth of knowledge as she also operates her own family law practice.
Fraser enjoys a sense of security belonging to the Tri County chapter. As a member, he knows that he can call any of his peers if he has questions. He may be considered a ‘small’ contractor, but he doesn’t feel like he’s on his own. For him, membership with the OEL is money well spent.
“I would recommend any contractor – especially the smaller ones – to join,” advises Fraser. “You’re treated just as importantly as the big guys in all aspects. From access to the inspectors to making sure your concerns are voiced, as a little fish, it’s nice to feel like your opinion matters and that you’re part of something. OEL does a great job of keeping their members in the loop and offering benefits and savings, but for me, the value is in the people I’ve met and voice we have as a one.
At 64, Fraser is thankful for his work, and still enjoys it. Being part of the OEL has allowed him to thrive both personally and professionally. He loves what he does and doesn’t plan on retiring any time soon, so you can continue to find him at Tri County’s monthly meetings enjoying the food, fun and conversations.
Huong Nguyen is the Ontario Electrical League (OEL)’s Marketing Communications and Chapter Support Representative. This article first appeared in the September issue of OEL’s Dialogue.