New Schaeffer Electric president rose from the ranks

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By PAUL RIAT
Special Correspondent

Tim Chettle, who joined Schaeffer Electric as an apprentice electrician with IBEW Local 1, was named the new President of Schaeffer, the first non-Schaeffer family member to run the company in its 75-year history.

 [frame src="https://labortribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/schaefferChettle1.jpeg" width="150" height="250" align="left" style="2" linkstyle="none" title="TIM CHETTLE"]Chettle says it is both an honor, and a little scary, to fill the shoes of Dan Schaeffer, who moves to the newly created position of Chief Executive Officer. But it’s a move that builds on training that started way back in 1989 when Chettle joined the company.

“The union brotherhood taught me the importance of quality and of getting stuff done on time,” Chettle told the Labor Tribune.

“All the training and the classwork made it easy to step up and keep growing as I went. After being an apprentice, working up through the trade to foreman, running larger work, I got interested in 'voice and data' and went back to the Local to see if they had any training seminars in that field. Of course they obliged.”

With training and experience, Chettle moved up to head the communication labor force at Schaeffer. That's when then President Dan Schaeffer started introducing him to management training at the National Electrical Contractors Association, eventually promoting Chettle to Vice President of Operations, and now President.

“A lot of contractors begin with knowledge of their trade, but on the business side they need some education and that's NECA's forté,” Schaeffer said.

“Obviously, the IBEW does a great job of training people with the skills necessary to perform in the field; technology, safety, the whole bit. NECA's focus is on the business side with management development, marketing and business training.”

NECA advances the electrical construction industry through advocacy, education, research and standards development. It's 119 independently chartered chapters, including the St Louis chapter at 3245 Hampton Ave., serve member contractors in their area. Membership is roots-up; established on the local level, with each chapter operating local programs and offering access to national conventions and seminars.

“We have hundreds of management courses,” said David Ward, Field Representative, Midwestern Region of NECA. “They are in project management, estimating, building information systems, marketing, succession planning, labor relations, design/build, project management... up to 250 classes on anything that an electrical contractor might need.”

Training is available to management employees of any of the 4,200 contractor members across the country; about 70 to 75 percent of the IBEW members that work in construction work for NECA employers, according to Ward.

SUCCESSION

“My main goal has been to pass this company on to the next generation, whether that is a Schaeffer family member or not was secondary,” Dan Schaeffer said, of the decision to promote Chettle to President. “We've been in this business more than 75 years and the important thing is to maintain that legacy and move it forward. Tim is at the right age, has the experience and willingness... now is the time to pull the trigger.”

Passing on control of daily operations doesn't mean Dan Schaeffer is retiring. He says he hopes to help Chettle with business and marketing, and to help some of the younger workers in sales and customer relationship development. This succession plan has been in the works for more than three years, when Chettle (along with four others) purchased stock in the company, which now has five owners. As President, he is now responsible for the day-to-day operations of the company.

“The biggest change I'm making is putting people in the position that they're good at,” Chettle said. “We tend to let people work their way up just because the other guy retired and the guy beneath him moves up. I'm a little different. I'm going to put people in spots if they're good at it, or find people who are good at it.”

He points to Schaeffer as his primary mentor along the way.

“It really isn't a change in the company culture as much as it is in leadership style,” Schaeffer said. “I've had my opportunities over the last 20-plus years to shape the company, and now it's Tim's turn to shape his team.”

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