Faced with a difficult decision at his old job over a decade ago, Tim Terrell opted to help an older customer pay her electrical bill when his boss wanted to charge her almost four times the amount she owed.
“There was no way I was giving her a bill for that much,” Terrell said.
The incident inspired him to begin his own electrical company where he could be the one setting the rules.
Terrell Electric LLC was established in April 2014. Terrell described it as a “complete electrical services company” that works to satisfy and meet the needs of customers.
The company offers a wide range of services, from electrical appliance repair to general inspections, as well as services on the corporate level, such as project managements and energy surveys.
While based in Columbia, the company has expanded into Moberly and Sedalia in recent years.
Terrell takes pride in his flat rate policy, which assures no additional costs for external factors such as overtime or after-hours appointments.
“Being in the military, the whole reason I served was to serve other people,” Terrell said. “Whatever you pay at 9 a.m. Monday morning is what you’ll pay Friday night at 10 p.m.”
“I want to keep my costs low so my customer doesn’t have an excessive bill,” he said.
A work force of one can often mean long work days, but the 16-to-18-hour on-call shifts are important to Terrell, especially when problems could develop over time.
“Electrical problems can hurt somebody,” he said. “They can cause a fire.”
The work ethic instilled in Terrell and his business stems from the time he spent serving his country, and he believes those values separate Terrell Electric from others competitors. His values include the need to ensure the safety of others, as well as being fair and reasonable when it comes to pricing.
Terrell enlisted in the Army on March 25, 1988, just two days after he turned 17.
Originally with the National Guard, he later shifted to scuba training, which he described as “the hardest school the military has.” Only 75 of the 450 people who enrolled in the 13-week course managed to graduate, he said.
Terrell credits the crossover test within the course, where cadets must tread water until they are “pulled under,” as the most challenging aspect.
The challenge could last for up to four hours, and cadets were expected to “jump right back in” once they were resuscitated.
“We thought that we were competing with each other, but you’re competing with yourself,” Terrell said.
After officially becoming a combat diver, he was able to experience the world in a way that not many his age could have done.
He spent time in Germany, Iraq and Australia, among other places, and he trained with Chinese, French, Russian and Korean forces along the way.
The training was “all about team building and team spirit,” he said, and he found it enjoyable for the most part.
His duties ranged from rigging to underwater welding and torching in his initial training, but his jobs soon expanded once he became a combat diver.
“We will infiltrate areas, we will board ships, we will attack units underwater,” he said. ”We could even set up and disarm explosives.”
One lasting memory was during the Battle of Mogadishu in October 1993, where Somalian forces shot down U.S. helicopters. It became a sustained battle that lasted three days.
“It quickly turned into a real ugly day,” Terrell said.
Nineteen Americans were killed during the battle, which later inspired the 2001 film “Black Hawk Down.”
Terrell said he prefers to rely on humor to ease the memory of such incidents. He joked that he volunteered to appear in the film “as an extra” if they needed him.
Terrell’s Army service ended in October 1994, and he spent the time afterward working various electrical jobs around Missouri before starting his own business.
In addition to his work at Terrell Electric, he established the 22 Club of Columbia, a network that helps veterans struggling with depression, PTSD and homelessness.
The group allows veterans to connect with one another through social media in order to help them recover and settle into a post-service life.
In 2011, Terrell was able to participate in the NASA National Community College Aerospace Scholars program. He was one of 230 participants in the program while enrolled at Moberly Area Community College.
His company’s website is full of testimonials from customers around the state, describing him as “professional and quick,” as well as “up front” about his services.
“Tim is extremely professional and honest,” customer Collin Bunch said. “There’s not much more you need to know.”
Terrell said he plans to continue to expand the business by adding new employees and ensuring a team member is at most two hours away from any location where calls may originate.
Just as he sacrificed a large part of his youth for his country, Terrell said he is more than willing to sacrifice hours of his day to make sure Missourians are well cared for in their own homes.
“Your home and your safety is more important than a couple of hours of my time,” he said.