A bit about how we started
About Maritz Electrical
Humble beginnings to successful Maritz Electrical, by Kurt Maritz
What a start!
Like many contractors, Maritz Electrical had a very humble beginning.
My journey started way back, long before the birth of Maritz Electrical in 2001, working for an electrical supplier, Robyn Electrical and while my career was still in its infancy, I moved into the contracting side of the electrical business.
My first sub-contractor was Cyprian Rossland, who first worked for the city before venturing on his own sub-contracting business. Soon the contracting side of my small business was more successful than the supply side.
And so Maritz Electrical was born in 2001. Like many businesses, my tiny 2-bedroomed flat in Wynberg served as my place to sleep and my office and boardroom. The office being a 1,5m wide by 2m high cupboard in which my computer, files and fax machine all fit together like a jig-saw puzzle.
My days were spent on sites while nights, often until 2am and longer, consisted of administrative duties, paperwork and quotes. I came to realise then that I was not the only person living this dream. I faxed an order to Elektro-labels one morning at about 2am, only to be called back immediately by the owner complaining that he was woken up by the ringing phone/fax machine at some ridiculous hour; he also worked from home. He was relieved that the call was not about his sick mother in the Eastern Cape.
Operating from a garage? Yes, really. Having no workshop as such, as the workers consisted of myself, Cyprian and a guy who later adopted the name “Black David”. His name was a natural choice as our other worker was also named David, but the new David had a fairer complexion and he adopted the name “White David” to avoid confusion when called.
I know working from a garage is such a cliché, but boy, this is exactly what we did. We worked out of Cyprian’s garage, spilling over into his entertainment area, having many an argument with his wife about the mess, no matter how hard we tried to keep the place tidy.
Growth time. By 2003, things were going relatively well. By that I mean we were starting to establish a good business. I sold my flat and moved to Golflinks Estate, opposite the Royal Cape Golf Course, and was happy to finally claim my first office. Yes, the second bedroom in the new house was proudly branded “My Office”.
What of the workshop? Well, that was still Cyprian’s garage.
Maritz Electrical becomes a company. I was still operating as a sole proprietor and registered a close corporation in 2004. Unable to secure the name Maritz Electrical at the registrar of companies, as this the name was already taken, I registered JT Maritz Electrical CC trading as Maritz Electrical.
Now operationally, Maritz Electrical was in a loose partnership with Cyprian. Maritz Electrical sourced the work and paid for materials while Cyprian owned MIB Electrical that did the work and paid for labour. This arrangement worked well, but ended when I purchased our first official premises in De Wet Road, Ottery.
Staff truly do help you grow. I searched long and hard for my first electrician (we affectionately call them “sparkies” in our industry), eventually employing Clint Davids. Clint gave me the fright of my life when he decided to leave, but thankfully he came to his senses, and my relief, and returned. Michael Norkett has also been with me for many years.
Maritz Electrical now boasts operations from De Wet Road, Athlone Industria, Kenilworth and Landsdowne Road.
Sadly, Maritz Electrical has experienced the loss of 2 staff members. Errol Craig who died of cancer 2 years ago, was our buyer and Mr Kamish died of throat cancer.
We are fortunate not to have had any major accidents, but 2 incidents, while funny now, could have resulted in serious injury. We were working on lights, on wooden poles at the Blue Waters campsite, and our “sparkie”, Sam, was right at the top of a 6m extension ladder, reaching as high as he could, when it started moving. Sam thought it was the ladder moving so he shouted to his assistant to keep it still. His assistant was confused. Sam soon realised, in a state of fear, that the movement was the actual pole breaking underground. Sam did what he thought for a minute was the right thing to do, and jumped from a height of 6 metres onto soft grass. Somehow, and fortunately the soft grass seemed to help as he was not hurt. Boy, were we lucky!
Then on another occasion, Mr Kamish was working on a site that did have very high safety standards, but he still managed to fall off a ladder while trying to hold a drill and electrical part in his hands. He broke both his knees. Too afraid to let me know, he arranged transport to a hospital, without me or the client knowing anything. I only heard about it 2 days later.
Our suppliers help make our history. My first account was with Voltex. They approved a credit limit of just R5000, 00, obviously thinking that the risk was too high. Our limit today has grown a hundred fold with them. The person who opened the account for us, Ursula, still works for them, and our relationship is great with her and Voltex. Our second account was opened at Bellville Electrical and the owner wanted to do things the old way, no forms, just a look in the eye and a firm handshake and the ‘account’ was opened. If only business was still done this way.
Venturing into the tender market. All contractors strive to secure tenders. Little did we know at the time the hard work and hours we have to put in to make sure the tender jobs are carried out to the highest standards demanded by the City, but, if done correctly and in partnership with the City, these are very successful initiatives that empower and create significant employment. Our first major tender was for electrical maintenance for Electrical Support Services (ESS) around 2008. ESS has consistently been one of our biggest clients in the City of Cape Town (COCT). We are proud that many of our work standards were ‘stolen’ from them.
Our largest single job to date is the flood light project done for the Mangaung Municipality in 2012, at the Kaizer Botshabelo Stadium. We installed just short of R10 million worth of floodlights.
We are truly living a dream. This is manifested in the incredible work our city is doing for the communities and which Maritz Electrical is proud to be involved in. The sports grounds that are being lit up is testament to a city that works for its people.
Our vehicles become our workhorses. My first bakkie, a 1985 Toyota Stallion, was eventually stolen outside Bergvliet Library. Strangely a tracker was installed, but the police officer who called me to inform me they had found the vehicle in Blue Downs, said that there was no need to come and collect as the only thing left of the bakkie was the part of the engine with the tracker attached to it! Well at least we knew the tracker worked. And, again, like all small business owners, my own car, a Toyota, eventually became too small, and my first real SUV was a blue Isuzu Frontier, which was my only emotional purchase, and one I did not want to sell. It eventually became a company bakkie but surrendered to the pressure of being overworked and died a very slow death.
And it’s the money that makes the world go round. Business owners understand the need to perform on the job, but know that chasing the money is what survival is all about. I recall my first job for the city was for work we did at the old Green Point Stadium. Our contact there was Blamo Brooks and his manager Alex Dykes. We had to collect a cheque in those days, from the twenty second floor for payment. The lift up to that floor felt like 2 days long and then we had to go down again and straight to the bank. The wait for the cheques to clear back then also felt like a century. Jokes aside, the income that we receive goes to keeping our business alive and we,at Maritz Electrical are now in the fortunate position to give back to the community. To this end we have supported numerous welfare organisations and also Van der Stel Rugby Club that can only survive on donations and sponsorships.
For this we have to thank our clients. Without them, Maritz Electrical would not be where it is today!
A wife and family in a million! Finally, we as business owners feel that we sacrifice a lot to succeed. But the truth is, it is our wives and families that have to endure our failures and successes, our triumphs and frustrations, our wins and losses. I could never, ever, have done this without the support of my wife, Janine. She has supported me unconditionally, helped endlessly to raise my awesome children and has been by my side through bad times and good.
Janine, I love you and thank you for being my pillar of strength to lean on and also for giving me some of the most sound advice on which I was able to steer the business in the right direction.
We are very proud of our staff at Maritz Electrical and like to brag about them.
A bit about our staff. Peter Barendse – Our business brain
Peter joined Maritz Electrical a short time ago and manages operations to a specific precision that is synonymous with Peter only. He has a keen eye for business issues and an ability to solve challenges effectively. He has a firm control over operations and his knack of making things happen is something we are very glad to have.
A bit about our staff. Howard Hagan – A true electrician
Howard started in the electrical industry 27 years ago as an electrician, 20 years and counting as a master installation electrician. He has been with Maritz Electrical for three and a half years and is our Senior Manager. Before Maritz Electrical he worked in many industries from Nuclear to Petro chemical, domestic to construction. He has National Diploma in Electrical Engineering, and, interestingly is also a certified scuba diver, a Master of Ninjitsu, a qualified surgical assistant, a freelance writer and has worked as a Ballroom and Latin Dance instructor. We have very interesting people at Maritz Electrical; no doubt about that.
A bit about our staff. Latecia Cornelius – A story on safety.
Maritz Electrical’s Safety Officer, Latecia Cornelius, is not just any old safety officer. Her dedication in seeing that all the staff have the required safety training is exemplary. When we receive a report on a safety audit, it is 100% and, if by some relatively small chance, it is less than 100%, then she sets to work meticulously investigating what the cause is and what can be done to prevent a recurrence. Coaching the staff that were involved, making sure they understand and then she ensures a safe working environment. She is really a gem in the rough and tough world of electrical construction.