In 2010 Jamie Johnson founded Verde Energy Efficiency Experts in Chicago with the goal of providing reliable and affordable energy efficiency solutions. The company offers a wide range of services, from lighting upgrades and refrigeration motor replacements to customized energy efficiency plans. In 2021, Jamie decided to sit for the local electrical exam; this is his story of using Interplay’s training to earn his license.
The Risks of Dependency
Our team of 13 electricians and technicians is committed to providing the best possible service to our clients. We work with businesses of all sizes, from small grocery stores to large food manufacturers. Our clients are located all over Chicago, and we proudly offer our services to a diverse group of businesses. We believe that energy efficiency is a crucial part of any business and are dedicated to helping our clients save money and reduce their carbon footprint.
Like most businesses, we sometimes rely on subcontractors to support our team in completing bigger projects. In fact, when we first started installing LED lighting upgrades for our clients, we used a variety of subcontractors. I learned pretty quickly, however, that although they can bring many benefits, they can also open us up to risks regarding quality and protecting client relationships. To mitigate this risk, I hired my own crew after a few years and eventually hired licensed electricians to manage those crews.
However, in the evolution of building out our crew, one big risk remained.
Having previously been a firefighter for ten years, I was not a licensed electrician myself. I depended on my hired licensed electricians to ensure we were doing the right thing on each job, from buying the right materials to ensuring installations were completed safely and correctly. I often hired retired or off-duty firefighters, so safety and integrity were never issues. The real liability I faced was that electrical licenses follow the electrician, and there was always the potential risk that our supervising electrician would leave the company.
Taking Matters into my Own Hands
In 2021, I decided I wanted to understand the trade better and started studying for the local licensing exam. I had an incredibly skilled lead electrician whom I had worked with for six years but knew he would eventually leave one day to start his own business.
I had tried encouraging other crew members to take the exam themselves, but ultimately I decided I was up to the challenge. I really enjoyed studying in my past life. Well, maybe ‘enjoying’ isn’t the right word, but I felt full of purpose when I was studying for something important. And this was important, critical even, for my business to continue succeeding.
Study Methods and Preparations
Once I decided to get my license, I didn’t know where to start. I purchased every book I could find on the topic, from Tom Henry to Mike Holt’s study guides. They were helpful for sure, especially the practice tests. But sometimes, I felt like I was just going through the motions, reading a chapter out of some book, and never certain if it was relevant or the right topic for the exam I was going to take in a few months.
That was when I realized that I was already paying for a service that could help me.
In 2020, we partnered with Interplay to help train our crew while there was not enough work. Under our PPP loan, we could provide our team with training, and while we were not generating revenue from the company during the height of the pandemic, we felt it prudent to invest that time to improve our staff knowledge base.
I had always been impressed with Interplay’s technical content and platform for team training, but as CEO, it wasn’t something I revisited after making the initial purchasing decision. However, after logging on as a learner with a career goal in mind, I appreciated the investment even further!
Right away, I got started with Interplay’s Electrical Basics video courses.
While preparing for the exam, I enjoyed growing my knowledge in the basics, NEC code, and more advanced topics like electric motors. I would wake up at 5:00 am each morning and spend about 45 minutes on the software. I found the format and the quizzes after each topic reinforced my learning, and I even became competitive about earning points in the system and trying to make the leaderboard!
I wanted each crew member to know that I was using the software and eager to learn new skills alongside them. I was hoping that would inspire them to do the same in our business regarding new revenue opportunities like HVAC and heat pump systems.
Securing the License
In August of 2021, I took the exam. After seven hours of a grueling open book test and about 80 questions later, I left completely exhausted. Then, about a month later, I got the results that I passed! I was thrilled.
Even though I eventually lost my lead electrician and his license later that year, I’m proud to say that our operations didn’t skip a beat. My newly earned license prepared me to better understand and competently oversee jobs, minimizing the risk and dependency I once experienced.
I like to tell all of my crew that when you’re ready to take the licensing exam, the first step is to start with Interplay. The intro electrical courses build that foundation to help you with your practice exams and beyond.
Interplay played a critical role in helping me pass my exam and keep the business operating. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to learn alongside my crew in an effective training format outside of a textbook.
Schedule time with one of our training consultants to learn more about Interplay’s electrical courses and exam prep.