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It’s just business: Entrepreneur turns crisis into opportunity

// Family business Kodiak Electric took a chance during the recession and won success in return

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When the U.S. economy began taking a serious nosedive in 2007, the repercussions on businesses were felt coast to coast – not the ideal time to launch a new company. However, the most successful entrepreneurs know that the time is right to start a business when the necessity is there, not always when the time is right. You just have to get up and do it and that’s just what Dan Peterson did when he launched Kodiak Electric in 2008.
Despite his friends and family expressing their concern over starting a business in a bad economy, he took the plunge anyway.
“When 2008 happened and the economy crashed, I had to do something to keep myself employed,” Peterson said. Like a lot of Americans, he too was laid off after 13 years with Excel Electric of Tacoma.
With permission granted from Excel Electric to contract with one of their clients, the Puyallup Tribe, Peterson landed this first of his customers. Himself Native American (Aleut Tribe, Alaska), he found that his heritage would help him with getting started. He got signed up with the Tribe’s TERO Office (Tribal Employment Rights Ordinance) and started taking work orders for the Puyallup Tribal Health Authority and thus Kodiak Electric was off and running.
“My dad always told me when I was younger that I should use my Native heritage to help for business because you get preference. I just wanted to be a good electrician but it got me in the door to show that I am a good electrician,” Peterson said “I’m really grateful to able to use my heritage to get me in the door and I maintain a customer base because I want to do a good job for them at a fair rate.”

“I started with zero dollars in the bank – no checking, no savings, nothing, so we built it from the ground up,”

Peterson had no nest egg saved to kick off his new venture, but employing a customer service centered business philosophy proved to be all he needed to establish a solid name for himself and his company.
“I started with zero dollars in the bank – no checking, no savings, nothing, so we built it from the ground up,” he said. Working out of his pick-up truck, he started picking up more customers.
“The philosophy I take in business is ‘get a customer, keep a customer.’ Do what you have to do to keep them happy – give them a fair price and do a good job no matter what it takes. The customer, at the end, has to be happy – that’s the goal.”
Soon Peterson brought his sons Justin and Geoff on board the business, as this was a very important thing to do for Peterson. 
“In the old days the father taught the sons his trade and the sons would pass that on. I’ve always liked that I could pass something on to them,” he said. “To have my two sons with me is amazing. I don’t think it can get much better for a dad than to have his kids working with him. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Peterson’s 10-year plan is to continue grooming son Geoff to take more and more lead in the business – how to find jobs, make bids on jobs and, most importantly, how to provide top-notch customer service.
“That’s key – get the customers you have and keep them happy because it’s so hard to get new customers all the time,” Peterson said. “Some people’s philosophy in business is to make as much as you can and go on to the next customer when that one’s done. I think that’s a bad philosophy because soon word gets around that that’s what you’re doing and you’re not there for them. In the big picture, it’s worth it to have the customer happy.”
Now in its eighth year of business, Kodiak Electric is running strong as ever.
“It’s kind of funny how it works out but I’ve pretty much made close to the same thing I’ve made for the past 20 years as a journeyman,” Peterson said.
At this point, he doesn’t see himself going back to working for anyone, as the taste of self-employment is sweet on many levels.
“Once you start a business, it’s very hard to go back and work for somebody. It ruined me in a good way because now I want to be self-employed and I like to be my own boss and treat customers the way I like to treat them.”
Contact Kodiak Electric at (253) 722-4739.

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