Northern Nevada Business Weekly: Tell us about Briggs Electric and your role with the company.
Greg Dye: We are a family owned company that’s privately held and headquartered in Tustin, Calif. Our patriarch, Tom Perry, passed away last December. His two boys, Todd and Jeff, have taken over the company, and we are a branch office. My role for Briggs Electric is general manager. I hold the licenses for the company up here. I have a general contracting, an electrical contracting and a concrete contracting license. They all apply in different phases of electrical work.
NNBW: How did you get into this profession?
Dye: My wife’s father was an electrician, and I did some side jobs with him and liked it. On a lark, I heard that they were advertising for the electrician’s apprenticeship program in Southern California, and I put my application in. I really didn’t think I had a chance because I had no trade experience or anything I thought they would be looking for, but they accepted me.
NNBW: Since that humble beginning, you’ve had a long career in the construction industry — what are some of your favorite memories?
Dye: It’s the people. I have met some really, really special people in this industry and enjoy the camaraderie of working with them. Sometimes it is just having some fun on a job when you get the right mix of people. Things are a little stricter today with safety than when I came up in the field, and for good reason. But the best thing about this industry is the people we meet. It is the people who work here and our clients. Construction people are “can-do” people. They like building things and they like solving problems. When you get the right mix it is a lot of fun.
NNBW: What strategies did Briggs Electric employ to survive through regional construction downturn?
Dye: The expression I use with our people is that I like steak and lobster as much as the next guy, but if I have to survive I’ll eat bugs and berries. In a down economic time you start identifying which bugs taste good and which ones don’t. We went back to the basics. We started this company with relationships and knowing who we were doing work with and making a commitment to our clients, and usually that word of mouth got us the next job and the next. It was the path to where we are today. Before the Great Recession, there was about a two-year window where there was more work out there than you knew what to do with, and I think we lost sight of what is important. We started doing work with just about anybody, and when the recession hit it was a wake-up call that we needed to get back to basics — taking care of the clients was important, and diversification of the business into mining and renewables. We got down to a group of people who were loyal, appreciative and believe in the company. We cut back from 36 people in the office and more than 160 people out in the field down to a low point of nine people in the office and about 20 in the field. Thankfully it improved considerably since then.
NNBW: In all the jobs you’ve worked on, does one stand out as your favorite?
Dye: We did the Charles River Laboratories job in Reno with Gilbane Construction. It was a fast-track job and the biggest job Briggs Electric has ever done. We had that synergy with Gilbane as a team. It was just a lot of fun and turned out to be a good job.
NNBW: On the flip side, which job proved to be the most difficult of challenging?
Dye: The remodel at the MontBleu Casino at Lake Tahoe. It was super fast-track; we had three shifts working around the clock. They were changing things left and right, and we didn’t want to inconvenience the guests too much. We had limited windows of work, and there were a lot of trades working on top of each other. It was a very stressful job because of all the timelines.
NNBW: What was your first job?
Dye: I was a stockboy in Super X Drugs in Anaheim, Calif. Before that I worked every summer with my uncle who was a gardener in Los Angeles. We spent two or three months gardening, cleaning fields, trimming trees and mowing lawns.
NNBW: Have any advice for someone considering entering the electrical trade?
Dye: Have a passion for what you do. You will be doing it for an awful long time, so don’t allow yourself to be stuck in a job just because you are attracted to the wages. Challenge yourself. This trade is adapting every day, and staying ahead is almost impossible.
NNBW: What’s new in your trade?
Dye: Five years ago there was hardly any solar or wind power. It existed, but not on the commercial scale that it is right now. We do a lot of mining work, which isn’t new, but it’s new for us. The technology that’s driving mining today is all instrument- and process-driven. Everything has a computer chip in it now, and the requirements to keep that computer chip happy from a power standpoint are much more rigorous. It requires somebody competent in being able to program it, or at least install it. Things are a lot more sophisticated.
NNBW: After more than three decades in the industry, what are your main strengths as a manager?
Dye: From a business standpoint, I have probably made more than my share of bad business decisions, such as going after clients we should have avoided, or holding on to people I shouldn’t have. We survived, so I guess I didn’t do too badly. One of the things Tom Perry had, who started this office up here with me, was a sense for the people. My strongest suit is being able to carry on that legacy of who we are as a company. We care about our people, and we are a family here.
NNBW: How do you like to spend your time away from work?
Dye: I live out in a rural area, and it is like going out to the ranch for a while. I don’t have any neighbors. Just listening to the birds and the peace and quiet is nice. My cell phone doesn’t work there. Every weekend I take an hour to hour-and-a-half walk up the hill for exercise and relaxation.
NNBW: If you could live your life over again, what one regret do you have that you wish you could erase?
Dye: My one regret is that I stopped short of my degree. I had 21 units left to get my degree in zoology, and I got into the apprenticeship before I could do it.
NNBW: What did you dream of becoming when you were a kid?
Dye: I wanted to be a game warden. I loved to hunt and fish.
NNBW: If you had enough money to retire right now, would you?
Dye: No. I love what I do. I might slow it down a little bit.
NNBW: What’s your idea of the perfect vacation?
Dye: Peace and quiet. Being marooned on an island with no phones, no TV, and a stack of books with no distractions.
NNBW: Why did you choose a career in northern Nevada? What do you like most about working/living here?
Dye: I came to northern Nevada to work with my dad. I needed to get out of Southern California and the rat race. The schools were horrible for my kids growing up. We went to Gardnerville Elementary School and just fell in love with the place. More than anything else, northern Nevada is home. I love rural Nevada. I love the people. They are just good, honest, salt-of-the-earth wonderful people. That is the best part about living here, and I’ll die here.
Know someone whose perspective you would like to share with NNBW readers? Email reporter Rob Sabo at email@example.com.