Miami Electric Masters gets financial energy boost

By Ana Acle-Menendez

By his own account, Kent Crook is a self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur. He started his first business as a teenager and, since then, has launched more than 25 businesses.

Over the years, he has experienced both successes and failures. The one constant has been his love for building companies.

His most recent business venture is Miami Electric Masters, a two-year-old service repair electrical company with 10 employees. Although it had four employees its first year and revenue of $1.3 million, finding the capital to grow has not been easy. Crook said banks have a strict rule about not lending money to companies less than two years old.

“We were looking to buy trucks and inventory, and we were in our first year and four months at the time,” he said.

So, he reached out to the Florida SBDC at FIU, the small business development center at Florida International University’s College of Business, which provides no-cost consulting to entrepreneurs and small-business owners.

“They were able to help me find the proper lending sources,” said Crook, who was approved for $70,000 in working capital without having to “wait out” to reach the company’s two-year anniversary.

“I was more than satisfied,” Crook said, adding that his Florida SBDC at FIU consultant was able to provide information on lenders who were not the usual go-to folks. “We’re almost at the point to buy another truck or two.”

Crook’s first entrepreneurial venture was at age 15, when he saw his mother, who managed apartments, pay someone $300 to clean and paint them. When he told his mom he could do the job, she said she had to pay a company, not a person. He then learned how to form a company. Soon afterward, KC Enterprises became his first business.

Since then, the 55-year-old has opened, closed and sold businesses in various industries, including solar power, payphones, electrical, plumbing, home automation, real estate and education. He has been a trustee, chairman and board member of Chamber South and a member of various other local organizations. He also has a business that coaches other entrepreneurs. One of his biggest lessons, he said, came from crashing a million-dollar business during the recession; then picking up and beginning another business that led to success.

Miami Electric Masters is his third electrical company. “You have to know how to market and brand in order to get the phone to ring,” Crook said.

“People have hobbies – fishing or golf,” Crook said. “I enjoy building companies.”

His current obstacle, he said, is finding technicians. “The workforce is shifting, people aren’t getting into the construction trades anymore.” Instead, he looks for people with good attitudes that he can train. “If I could find two technicians, I’d be putting two more trucks out.”

When asked about his professional strengths and education, Crook said: “I’m a guy who has learned to find the right people to do the things I don’t enjoy, and I keep focused on the things I do enjoy.”

For example, he may not enjoy bookkeeping, but Crook keeps an eye on those important business numbers. He said he focuses on keeping the phone ringing, providing top-notch customer service, networking in local organizations and involving himself in community service.

To continue growing his business, Crook now is consulting with the Florida SBDC at FIU on how to obtain government contracts.

“The opportunity is there all you have to do is do it,” Crook said. “So many people put their foot in the water and don’t jump in. That’s what they’re there for.”