28 August 2009

Excavation safety "Dial Before You Dig"

A Dial Before You Dig picture showing typical congestion of underground pipes and cables

Damage claims running into millions of dollars, criminal prosecution charges, serious injury, even death!! The risks in doing excavation work are plenty. Learn how we manage these risks and make this a profitable business.

A number of years ago on an early Tuesday morning in Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of India, I was talking to a client half a world away from me. Halfway through my conversation, the line abruptly went silent.

"Hello, you there? Hello..." I repeated for a while. Tried calling back, no success. "Strange" I thought and decided to try again a while later. A visibly angry colleague rushed back to his desk right then. "These support guys are so unreliable" he was fuming. "Such an important video conference with the Tokyo team gets blacked out, and they can do nothing to fix it! No signal, they say".

As more and more colleagues joined us to complain of telephones and even internet services cut abruptly, we realised something was amiss. And so it was...

Nearly 5,000 telephone lines of the Bangalore Telecom went dead on Tuesday morning. Reason: Workers employed by Reliance Industries Ltd cut across their concrete duct and cables while laying its Optical Fibre Cable (OFC) ...

Not just that. Over 80 per cent of Spice Telecom Network's services were hit and the entire ITPL was plunged into non-communication. Both their telephone lines and data circuits were affected.     Read whole story here...

  • Commercial damage claims by businesses (including hospitals, emergency services, schools and community centres) unable to function
  • Damage claims by the underground asset owner
  • Criminal prosecution if negligence can be proved as cause in certain cases
  • Serious injury or even death from accidents such as ruptured sewage or gas pipes or contact with electricity cables

Quite scary, isn't it? It is definitely a risky business, but there are also various ways to stay safe. The first thing required is to get to know the location of underground assets in the work site. A wonderfully easy way to start is to Dial Before You Dig (DBYD) on 1100. This is a free referral service for underground pipes and cables anywhere in Australia. They partner with all underground asset owners around Australia and act as a single point of contact for excavators.

Unfortunately though, not all asset owners in Australia will be members of DBYD, so do not assume that the plans received through them are the only assets. So dont go running the trenching machine blindly, dig around by hand first to establish exactly where the assets are. Once exposed, protecting the assets is the excavator's responsibility too - so get this done before starting the job. Put up barriers in case it is an area that other people may use. Proceed to the excavation only when all of this has been done, and stay safe!

25 August 2009

DDIY (Dont Do It Yourself) Electrical Work

Recently I was called to a job in Preston. When I arrived the house had been disconnected from electrical supply by the local distribution company. A fault in the main switch board caused a fire that destroyed the entire switchboard, electrical meter and wooden meter enclosure. Luckily for the tenants, the smell of burning plastic and wood was noticed early and the relevant authorities were called immediately. If the tenants had not been home, the fire could have easily spread to the rest of the house and also the adjoining residence.

Examination of the burnt switchboard components revealed the cause of the fire to be illegal and substandard electrical wiring connecting an air conditioner. The costs to restore power not only included replacement of the switchboard, but also the mains cable, service fuse and earthing system components. More than $2,000 was spent by the owner to restore electrical supply to the residence. This was yet another reminder for consumers to never undertake electrical work themselves.

Nearly every day I come across illegal and/or unsafe electrical wiring. In most cases the current property owners are unaware of the condition and potential risk the illegal wiring presents. It is unfortunate that even when the wiring does not comply with standards or is highly dangerous, the equipment connected works. With the equipment in working order, it often comes as a shock to owners that the installation is illegal and/or dangerous. It would be easier if illegal wiring did not work at all, but unfortunately this is not the case.

Sometimes the owners have had an unqualified friend or family member undertake electrical work in an effort to save on the cost of a qualified and insured electrical tradesman. What is not often considered is the financial impact should the illegal wiring cause a fire.

When I discover illegal electrical wiring, I make sure the owner is informed. In all cases, this will impact the planned schedule of electrical work and will increase the cost of the job to rectify the illegal condition. In severe cases, I will provide the owner two options,

a. Rectify the condition
b. Isolate/remove the illegal wiring

Ignoring illegal wiring is not an option. Last week I come across one of the worst cases of illegal wiring, the owner had paid more than $1,000 to have low voltage down lights installed some years back. He believed the wiring was installed in a compliant manner by a registered electrician. The cost to rectify the illegal wiring was $1,500

The pitfalls of a DIY Culture

Go to any large hardware store on a weekend and you will see thousands of consumers deciding to DIY. In a country where the cost of labor is high, it is inevitable that many people will choose to do many jobs in and around the home themselves. I don’t have a problem with this at all; I myself will often shop at the local Bunnings store to pick up tools and or materials for a weekend project around the home. What I do have a problem with is consumers going to hardware stores to purchase electrical wiring and equipment with the intent to install this equipment themselves. Whilst it is not illegal for hardware stores to sell electrical wiring and equipment, they (in my opinion) should never provide guidance or instruction to consumers on how to go about installing the electrical wiring and or equipment. In my opinion all hardware stores selling electrical equipment to consumers owe a duty of care to consumers to make clear the fact that all electrical wiring and equipment must be installed by a Registered Electrical Contractor no matter how large or small the job is. This should be communicated to consumers in written form and also importantly communicated verbally to consumers who purchase (or about to purchase) electrical wiring and / or equipment.

More: You may not be insured if DIY electrical causes property damage including fire

24 August 2009

7 easy ways to save money in your pocket

Cash reconciliation time is never a happy time for us. Almost always we end up with less cash than calculated and then Geoff does a clean of the van  and comes up with the receipts he had just dumped quickly into the glovebox or finds one stuck inside the pages of the diary  and finally we are evenly reconciled. Needless to say, we waste much more time looking for these "lost" receipts than saved when they were just dumped quickly into whatever was near at the time!

Last night was one of the worst episodes where we finally had to give up. I had to assume that he has probably used the cash for personal purposes which he has now forgotten. We surely missed out on some business deductions, but without records we could do nothing. The only thing good out of it is that I had the opportunity of drilling into Geoff the importance of discipline for success of a small business. Hopefully now, receipts will never go missing again and I will live in a world of happily(reconciled)-ever-after!!

Here are some ways you can make this much easier than it sounds:

  • Have a separate cash box for your business and use it only and only for the business
  • Have a cash receipt book and note down every incoming or outgoing transaction, however small or big they may be. Do not round off and do not discard coins.
  • Create a separate box/file/bag for business bills and receipts. Do not dump them in your personal wallet or glovebox or diary. Do not mix business and personal purchases in the same bill, so if you buy some materials from Bunnings and decide to buy something for your garden, tell them to give you 2 separate bills
  • Note down name, address, contact number for every prospect and customer. Give them a receipt for any payment and keep a copy for your records
  • Ask for receipts for everything. This is also required for GST credit
  • Have a separate bank account and credit card for the business.
  • Try to use credit card for every purchase and bill payment. It is better for an audit trail, but more importantly, it achieves better cash flow. Pay off the credit card every month and be careful not to go into overdraft on the bank account or take cash out of credit card. There are cheaper ways of accessing credit!
Once you make this a habit, these will seem less of the painful tasks that they seem now and become just an easy part of your lifestyle you dont stop to think about.

22 August 2009

Top 6 reasons why proper book-keeping is important

The other day I went down to the city to meet my friend Z. A classmate during my MBA days, she has now opened her own consulting company and also does some business coaching and book-keeping for small businesses.

"Do small businesses in Australia actually spend money on a business coach?" I wondered and asked her.

Well, as it turns out, one of her offerings is to arrange financing. She has contacts in the banking industry and helps businesses build their financial statements to present to the bank and structures different ways in which they can access more funding. Tradies and other small businesses who need the cash but are not confident enough to do financial statements on their own come to her, but many of them are already too late. After years of erroneous book-keeping, normally rushed through while doing the BAS/tax returns, it is extremely difficult if not totally impossible for anyone to set everything right. Z was unable to correct the accounts of a builder who recently came to her and he will probably file for bankruptcy.

According to
CPA Australia, 32% of businesses fail due to financial mismanagement and out of failed businesses 12% have poor or no records/books . We are lucky that I am well qualified to understand and keep books and analyse/manage finances while Geoff concentrates on the operational side of the business. However, if you do not have the expertise, please do not hesitate to pay at least a book-keeper for the business. The importance of book-keeping cannot be stressed enough, and I will jot down just some of the reasons why it is so important for the health or even life of your business.

  1. Better financial analysis and management. I start every morning by checking MYOB to see bills we need to pay and overdue customer payments. At the end of the day either Geoff or me prints the invoices required for the day so they can be sent off the next day. For a young business like ours, or actually for most small businesses, cash flow management is one of the most important things to keep an eye on. Irrespective of how busy you are, delaying invoices, not following up on cusomer payments or falling out of a supplier's good books due to constant delays in payments can bring you down crashing!
  2. Tax returns made easier. We do not have to rush to find all bills or try putting expenses down from memory come tax time. A simple click on MYOB is all it takes to create BAS statements  or view reports of Profit & Loss , Balance Sheet  or Cash Flow . This also makes it easy for our tax advisor to concentrate on just giving us tips to save tax and not spend his (very expensive) time on creating or correcting financial statements
  3. Asking for funding/ loans from a bank requires financial statements. Eventually, if you want to sell out and exit - you need financial statements for at least a few years. Messy or erroneous statements will cause every buyer to run a mile away!!
  4. Once a week, Geoff and me sit down to check our Balance Sheet and P&L and compare against our budgets and estimates to see if we are on track. The well-kept books makes business planning so much easier.
  5. Not separating personal and business funds causes a lot many businesses to be penalised by the ATO or even fail. Using business cash to shop at Coles may seem perfectly logical to a sole proprietor - after all he is the only employee and only owner. But a jumbled mess of transactions over the long term will make you miss deductions you are entitled to, or put in wrong ones and be penalised, or take on much more risk with your hard-earned personal savings than you realised and lead to personal bankruptcy! My next post on financial discipline  gives tips on how to do this.
  6. Record-keeping required by law for 5 years after the transaction occurs or they are prepared (as per the ATO ). We have a file with A4 size plastic sheet holders for each month and every bill/invoice, however small they might be, goes in here. This makes it easy to search for and retrieve them when required or if audited. Apart from this, electrical safety certificates and our main supplier's invoices each have their own folders.
I appreciate that most small business owners will be extremely busy just running the business. Geoff works very long hours taking calls, travelling out to provide free quotes for jobs, scheduling jobs and completing them. Many of the jobs require coordination with inspectors, electricity retail/distribution companies and take more time. Then there are calls from job seekers, advertisors, wanna-be suppliers. When he comes home the last thing he wants to do is to do book-keeping. However, given how extremely important this function is to a business, I think investing in a professional book-keeper is something all businesses should do. If you keep all bills and invoices, and make sure to keep your business and personal finances separate - a professional will not take much time to prepare the books each week/month depending on how big the business is, and will definitely pay for itself over the year.

17 August 2009

Suburbs we service

We service the norther suburbs Melbourne VIC

Our business is based in Epping Victoria, we understand that travel is part of the service business that we are in.  For general Electrical work, we do often travel up to an hour away from Epping to service our customers.

Below is a list of the suburbs we have serviced so far along with their postcodes.
  • Ashburton 3147
  • Brunswick 3056
  • Bundoora 3083
  • Campbellfield 3061
  • Coburg 3058
  • Craigieburn 3064
  • Diamond Creek 3089
  • Doreen 3754
  • Eltham 3095
  • Epping 3076
  • Glen Iris 3146
  • Glenroy 3046
  • Heidelberg West 3081
  • Ivanhoe 3079
  • Ivanhoe East 3079
  • Kingsbury 3083
  • Lalor 3075
  • Macleod 3085
  • Mill Park 3082
  • Moonee Ponds 3039
  • Northcote 3070
  • Preston 3072 
  • Rosanna 3084
  • South Morang 3752
  • St Albans 3021
  • Sunshine 3020
  • Sunshine West 3020
  • Taylors Lakes 3038
  • Thomastown 3074
  • Thornbury 3071
  • Watsonia 3087
  • Whittlesea 3757
  • Yan Yean 3755
  • Reservoir 3073

Geoff is a registered electrician with over 20 years experience in the industry. He is also licensed to provide data and voice services. 

12 August 2009

Welcome to Epping Electrical

Our story

Epping Electrical is the leading Electrical Contracting business operating in the Northern Suburbs of Melbourne Victoria.  We have been trading as Epping Electrical since 2009 and has become a well known and trusted operation.

We provide Electrical Services in Domestic, Commercial and Industrial areas, we also provide Data and Telephone Services.  For many of our domestic customers, additional power points, light fittings and Switchboard upgrades is undertaken most frequently.  We do work for a select number of quality builders on architect designed projects, our attention to detail and reliability is what keeps these builders calling us back everytime.

We pride ourselves by our levels of customer satisfaction and the quality of our workmanship.  We don't take shortcuts with electricity, we know if the job is done well it WILL last a lifetime.  We are so confident in our work that we offer Lifetime Workmanship Warranty to all our customers.  This provides our customers the peace of mind that all our work will be done right the first time.  If anything does go wrong with our work (excluding materials, covered by limited manufactures warranty) for the life of the Electrical Installation, we will fix it at no cost.  That's our promise.

The Director and Owner

Geoff Connor - Epping Electrical Director 
With over 20 years of experience in the electrical trade and a degree in IT (Business Information Systems), Geoff heads the business and is the public face of Epping Electrical. He is a Registered Electrical Contractor and seasoned tradesperson. He also holds an open registration for telecommunications.  He is passionate about offering the best possible service to customers, Geoff is always looking out for new tools and methods that will keep Epping Electrical ahead of the game.  Clearly, Geoff is NOT your typical tradie!  
Contact Geoff directly on 0431 232 796

The aim of this website
Through this website, we aim to showcase our unique business and to document the experiences on the job.  In the process, we hope it will provide a valuable insight into our operation for existing and potential future customers.  We also hope it will be helpful to small business owners and other tradespeople wanting to set up their own business and to young Australians aiming to become electricians.  We prove through this website that all electricians and electrical contractors are NOT the same!

Career choice: Electrician

Do you want to be an electrician? Are you currently an electrical apprentice and want to know more about your career options once you complete? These articles will help you in your preparation.

A day in the life of an electrician
How is it in other countries : Nepal

Tradies and small business owners

As a small business owner we understand how helpful it is to get some practical tips from those who have been through it, how important it is to have the right resources and some guidance, advice and information along the way of whether we are on the right path. This is where we document our business experience, what worked and what did not.

Sponsoring major events

An entrepreneur's life

Making money

Geoff is a registered electrician with over 20 years experience in the industry. He also provides voice & data services.

DIY tips and tricks

We keep reminding you to never attempt DIY electrical work for the sake of safety.Nor should you attempt work like fixing gas leaks or plumbing beyond some minor tasks like changing washers and taps. However, there are certainly many things around the house for the DIY enthusiast. How else would your local Bunnings  survive otherwise? :) We are DIY enthusiasts ourselves, and here are tips from some of our own weekend projects.

Useful articles for our Customers

As we go about our work each day, we come across instances where customers could have saved some money, been safer or just been more aware of the best options available to them in this world of fast changing technology. This is where we document such experiences in the hope that all future customers will benefit from this knowledge.

Christmas lights

New homes and major renovations

Safety tips

General electrical problems

Newest gadgets and features