About 10 years ago, during a Father’s Day trip to East Rosebud Lake, Dennis Breitenstein announced he was thinking about retiring. His son Wiley asked immediately about what he planned to do with his business, Denny’s Electric.
Initially, Dennis said one possibility would be to shut it down. But Wiley had his own idea. He asked his dad what he thought about having him eventually take over the business.
His dad agreed, but only after making sure that Wiley was serious.
“He asked if I was ready for a big move like this because there’s no net if you fail,” he said.
And in order to make the switch, Wiley had a lot of work ahead of him. Under Montana law, anybody who wants to work as an electrical contractor must first be a licensed master electrician.
Wiley entered an electrical apprenticeship program under his father’s supervision. The process includes both on-the-job training and classroom work.
Wiley had worked in systems engineering and had done a lot of work with computers. Growing up, he sometimes accompanied his dad to job sites, so working as an electrician wasn’t new to him.
“First I got certification as a residential wireman, then I got an inside wireman certification. Four years later, I got my master’s license,” Breitenstein said.
Each year, as Wiley progressed through the program, he earned shares of equity in the business.
“You went to work during the day and you studied at night, so there were evenings where all I was doing was homework. But that’s not unusual for a lot of people,” he said.
These days, Wiley continues to work in partnership with his dad and step mother. Dennis still comes into the office regularly, mostly to handle payroll and other paperwork.
Denny’s Electric specializes in residential and commercial electrical work. The Billings market has been quite active lately with residential and commercial construction moving at a brisk pace.
When Wiley isn’t doing electrical work, he likes to make gold and silver jewelry.
What’s the biggest challenge you face in your job?
Finding qualified employees. I am currently hiring for full-time licensed journeymen, licensed residential wiremen and part-time office/warehouse help.
What’s the best business advice you have received? The work you do is a reflection of yourself, your company, your partners, and your employees. I believe that if you work hard, are diligent, pay attention to detail and have unwavering integrity, you will be successful in whatever you do.
Who gave you that advice? This is something I have heard my entire life. However my father is likely the first person to have said it to me.
Outside of work, my biggest passion is: My son. I love watching him learn and discover. We are currently in the process of building a Tesla Coil. ( A much less dangerous version of the lightning producing water fountain he originally proposed.)
Which living person do you most admire? My father. He has taught me everything I need to know in the career path that I have chosen.
Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? Success is such a relative term, of course profit and loss are the easiest quantifiable measurements. However for me its the journey. Every day is filled with learning opportunities. I have failed, lost, won, and succeeded. Its what I've learned in the process that defines true success.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? I hope that my greatest achievement is still to come. However I am very proud of the path I have taken which has led to where I am today. Obtaining my Masters license is a major accomplishment for any electrician.
I’m happiest when I’m…Spending quality time with my son. Whether it is a day at the zoo, him coming to work with me, or watching cartoons. We always have a great time.