We enjoyed having the opportunity to sit down with Co-Founder, Bob Lopez to discover how Nor-Cal Controls began its journey of inception. Through unending passion and dedication, a bit of creativity, and a little imagination, Bob provided insight on why we exist and how our core values led us to be one of America’s most trusted SCADA provider!
A Founders Story
When my wife, Carolyn, and I started Nor-Cal Controls in early 2006, it was out of sheer necessity. We had three kids at home, and we needed money. Carolyn was working as an OB RN at Marshall Medical Center in Placerville, and I was working out of the Central Engineering group for Calpine in Folsom, California.
Being a California-based hourly employee, my wage rates adjusted based on overtime; 1.5 after 8 hours, 2.0 after 12 hours. This cost did not sit well with facility managers in flat 40-hour work week states, so I was notified I would not be allowed to work any overtime when traveling to support our facilities located outside of California.
It was at this point that the thought occurred to us that I could start moonlighting providing consulting and training services as a GE Turbine technical advisor to a few old GE customers. I brought this idea of moonlighting on my own time to Calpine. A few weeks later I was notified that Calpine would have no issue if I provided GE technical advisor consulting and training services to other power generation plants if they were, “Not directly competing with Calpine.” When I asked what that meant, Calpine being the super cool company they were, told me – “Just don’t provide services to any plants that are electrically tied to the same bus as any Calpine plant.” That was going to be easy and left the whole country wide open!
We spent a few days as a family kicking around ideas for a cool company name and landed on the extremely unique Nor-Cal Controls. With a name confirmed, our next stop was the El Dorado County office to get a business license. Carolyn and I had no idea what we were really getting into, but as we started to win contracts, we took baby steps in grinding through terms and conditions, insurance, and pricing. It was during these early contracts that we started to develop our vision for empowering our customers by imparting knowledge and setting personal customer service standards.
Initially, all the new Nor-Cal work was scheduled on weekends or vacations, but really started taking on a life of its own. In 2008, Calpine announced that they would be moving the Central Engineering group from California to Houston, Texas. It was at that time I decided to leave Calpine and Carolyn, Ian, and I took off on an adventure to work in Alaska for a few years.
On our return to California in 2010, we went full time with Nor-Cal, bringing on our oldest son Rob, our daughter Shelly, and our youngest son Ian. Reflecting on our growth, I think our success can be distilled down to three simple traits:
1. We model our customer support to be attentive, flexible, and quick to respond. We also teach all our customers to be self-sufficient, as we do not want them to feel dependent on Nor-Cal for support. This ties into our goal of always providing an excellent customer experience.
2. We strive to match the treatment and value we place on our employees from the experience I had working for Pete Cartwright (CEO) at Calpine. Calpine was one of the best companies I have ever worked for – and Pete is by far the best CEO I have ever known. This reflects our high value for culture and employee satisfaction.
3. We freely share what we have learned, which is reflected in our value to share knowledge and to assist with customer self-sufficiency through thought leadership, training, and initiatives. If we can always strive to be the best, keep sharing knowledge, treat our customers with stellar support, and take care of our employees the best we can, we truly believe everything else follows.
Nor-Cal Controls Core Values
Family People want to work with people they like and trust. Being personable and caring goes far in building long-term relationships.
Dependability Our customers need to know they can count on us 24/7, that includes late at night, early mornings, weekends, and holidays.
Hard Work We have strong work ethic, we prove ourselves every day, and do not quit until the job is done and done right.
Trust Our word is our bond to always be honest and transparent. Our customers need to know we will deliver for them every time.
Knowledge Nor-Cal has a culture of growth and learning, as we are the industry experts in our field. Sharing that knowledge with our customers builds trust and strengthens our reputation and credibility.
At Nor-Cal Controls, we are passionate about what we do. The Nor-Cal Way offers you a dedicated team, proven engineering excellence, customizable solar solutions, and unparalleled customer support.
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