The slow burn of transforming a passion into a career: How Chris Masse never gave up on his lifelong dream to be his own boss
They say if you find your passion the money will follow – and that’s certainly been true for Chris Masse.
While most 13-year-olds spent their weekends trying to escape work, Chris spent them working for a neighbour’s full utility services company, doing odd jobs like washing hydro trucks.
Eventually, the weekend gigs lead to summer employment as a labourer, helping out with running fibre optic cables, but stopping short of climbing poles. He enjoyed the work so much, he even considered becoming a lineman himself.
But all that changed as he neared the end of high school, and he reconsidered his career path. Right next door to the utility outfit he’d worked with all those summers was an electrical company. At around the age of 17, he decided to make a switch and explore the electrical trade by working for them.
“I honestly believe I've just always been meant to be an electrician or be involved in the electrical field,” said Chris, who runs his own electrical company called CGM Electric out of London, Ontario. “It just came naturally to me, so there was no need to go venturing anywhere else.”
After graduating high school, he signed up for an electrical apprenticeship with the same company that hired him as a teen. By age 23, Chris was a licensed electrician working full-time for them and was determined to work his way up in the company.
“There were some guys that came in and out – a little bit of turnover,” he said. “But I worked out pretty quickly that I wanted to be the number one guy there.”
Over the next two years, Chris took on a larger leadership role at the company, helping to run most of the bigger jobs and looking after the guys on the crew.
“I enjoyed it so much, I figured, ‘why not do it for myself?’” he said.
Eager to start his own company, he obtained his master electrician license from the Electrical Safety Authority – a necessary step if you want to run an electrical contracting business.
Chris opened his own sole proprietorship around the age of 28. Around the same time, he received a job offer for a maintenance electrician role with a company that had obtained a military contract.
Besides the interesting challenge of working on military vehicles, the job offered a steady paycheck with full benefits and a pension. Chris took the job and enjoyed the stability it provided for him and his expanding family, which grew to include three children – Jack, Haley, and Riley.
Over the next 10 years, Chris worked full-time, but he still managed to fit in extra jobs on the side under his sole proprietorship.
“I just couldn't let my own thing go,” he said, about keeping his own company running on the side for 12 years. “I’ve just always had a vision of being my own boss and, you know, controlling my own destiny – whatever that may be.”
After many years of dreaming about it, he recently took the plunge.
“This past year, I turned 40 years old,” he explained. “I said, ‘Okay, I'm only doing it for myself from now on.’ And so, I quit the corporate gig.”
One of the first things Chris did after deciding to transition his side business into his primary source of income was to speak with Greg Shoniker, his FBC Local Tax Consultant. Since 2017, he has relied on Greg for sound business and tax advice.
“I'm not afraid to call Greg at any hour because he’s been wonderful to me – he’s my first point of contact,” he said. “I just trust him to come up with brilliant ideas. He is always thinking of me and of helping my business scale.”
When it came to CGM, Chris was keen to structure his business in the most tax-efficient matter possible. Greg provided the tailored guidance he needed, based on his understanding of Chris’ unique situation and goals for CGM.
“The best thing about Greg? He just thinks out of the box for me all the time.”
Relationships matter to Chris, and he relies on industry contacts and referrals from clients to generate business. For example, he has formed a good working relationship with his friend’s home-building company, Precision Homes. During the summer, he helps out with the installation of pools and all the electrical work that goes with it.
Looking to the future, Chris plans to invest in a company website and marketing plan in addition to bringing on employees as his business grows. To that end, when he tiered his corporation, he left shares open to give to his future employees.
“If you want to keep someone long-term, you’ve got to give them something,” he explained. “If I find someone really good, then I'm obviously going to give them a piece of the business so that they have that same mentality and work ethic going forward.”
When he’s not on the job, he’s busy attending his children’s sporting events and spending time with his new girlfriend who lives in the U.S. There’s no question that Chris has a lot on the go personally and professionally, but he’s happily fulfilling his dream.
“I love going to work every day for myself,” he said. “I’m just enjoying life and working on jobs and taking care of my kids all at the same time.”