Feb 23, 2017

Shawn LemayShawn Lemay is President of SML Electric, an electrical contractor operating out of Ottawa, Ontario.

Right out of high school Shawn joined the trades, focusing on building automation controls, but quickly realized his passion was in electrical work. “I was always interested in construction and hands-on type of work. However, it was the electrical trade got my attention because of the mix between hands-on and the thinking process involved.”

As an apprentice, Shawn was often called on to commercial construction sites, and was assigned to help fellow electricians with service calls. Through these experiences he was able to help with trouble shooting, and became fascinated with how older buildings were wired.

His curiosity was piqued, and he began working towards one day owning his own business.

After completing his apprenticeship, at the age of 23, Shawn was promoted to foreman and was responsible for managing a crew of up to 15 employees at time on various commercial jobs, which allowed him to gain crucial experience as a manager. However, never one to settle for the status quo, Shawn wanted to reach a higher level in the trade, so after hours he completed his course to become a master electrician, which brought him that much closer to his goal of owning his own company.

SML began out of Shawn’s passion for great work, and a modest network of customers that stemmed from the clientele of his mother’s hair salon. He took on odd jobs here and there on residential projects — working evenings and weekends while also maintaining a full-time position with another contractor. However, it wasn’t long before his superior workmanship and excellent customer service landed him referral after referral, and he felt he was ready to step out on his own.

It was 2012 when Shawn decided to start SML Electric. He was a newlywed, with a new home, but he strongly believed that “if you want to achieve something, you have to take risks.” At the time, Shawn was unable to afford to invest in advertising so he credits word-of-mouth as a key driver for his success.

Today, SML electric comprises a crew of 16, and they specialize in residential and commercial projects, including major undertakings such as the Château Laurier and Marriot Hotels in Ottawa.

When asked where he sees himself in 5 or 10 years, Shawn believes still at the forefront of SML Electric. “As for the company, I hope to be taking on bigger projects in the greater Ottawa region and expanding our expertise while still keeping our quality of work and our Family oriented staff.”

Showing no signs of slowing down, Shawn consistently evaluates the future of the industry and is determined to remain ahead of the curve. He understands the challenges that face the electrical world, but that is what inspires him on a daily basis and why he enjoys the trade so much. Despite the changes in the electrical contracting world, Shawn feels that as long as companies and their staff are respectful, provide excellent service, and are willing to adapt and learn new things they will be able to keep up.

In fact, Shawn has this advice for anyone starting out in the industry:

as a new trade member — “Don’t be afraid to ask questions. There are no stupid questions! This trade is constantly evolving and even electricians that have been in the trades for years will still be learning new things on a daily basis. Be organized and pro-active and don’t be afraid to give it your all!”

as a business owner — “It’s not easy… you need to be ready to give it 150% and put everything important in your life on hold for a couple years. If married or in a couple, you need to make sure that he or she is on the same page and ready to support you because you will need all the support you can get!”

For Shawn, his wife has been and continues to be a major source of inspiration for him throughout his journey, and he credits his relationship as a key factor in his success, as she believed in his vision and has supported him and their family from day one. He also has an incredible team at SML, who operate within a familial culture. He learns from them just as much as they learn from him, and he can often be found strapping on his pouch and working alongside his team, supporting them any way he can.

His reputation among his clients speaks for itself, his passion for great work doesn’t go unnoticed, and he wholeheartedly believes that “just because it’s behind the walls, doesn’t mean it can be messy.”

For more information on SML electric, or to reach Shawn directly, please visit the website: