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Wednesday, June 19, 2024
Kraun Electric co-owner started at the bottom

Aaron Jones's career is a classic tale of how hard work and always striving to be the best can take you to the top.

The Niagara-on-the-Lake resident, who started literally at the bottom, is now a co-owner of one of Niagara's largest electrical companies, Kraun Electric.

The multi-million-dollar firm is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year with a new jolt of energy, overhauling the company's look, logo and mission statement.

Jones, 39, started at Kraun as a labourer in 2003 and bought half the company three years ago with Kelly Braun, the daughter of the firm's founder.

“I’m always aiming higher,” says Jones. “If I can go to bed completely tired and exhausted mentally and physically from pushing myself, that’s a good day.”

The company invested a six-figure sum in revamping the overall look of the company and Jones thinks it’s Kraun Electric's willingness to transform and to listen that has made the company successful for so long.

“The company is always expanding and we’re always open to new ideas, and that gives people the chance to thrive.”

Jones, who was born and raised in St. Catharines, says he never saw himself as a leader growing up.

“I thought I was going to go into science of some sort. I was fairly timid, I didn’t think of myself as a leader, but (in Grade 9) one of my teachers picked me and one other person to get sent to a leadership camp.”

He thought, “That’s neat, I didn’t even think this was going on.”

Throughout the years Jones kept finding himself in leadership roles as he became the president of his youth church group and quickly moved up in the ranks of his student job at a movie theatre.

“Whatever I do, I want to be the best at it as I can be,” says Jones. “I’m a fairly competitive person but never to the detriment of others. It was always about being in competition with myself.” 

After high school Jones completed an electrical program at Niagara College and started a job as a labourer at Kraun. 

To that point Kraun had been a St. Catharines staple since 1996, when John Krause decided he wanted to start a business with his children.

Says his daughter, Braun: “We were always a close-knit family and we always did tons together, so this seemed like a natural fit and that’s really how it started.”

Jones was friends with her brother, Kevin Krause, and that’s how he landed the job.

“Even in the beginning there was certainly no free ride or ticket and I had to prove myself many times to John (Krause),” says Jones.

“As an apprentice, I remember once going to John and saying, ‘John, I want you to do a review of my work.’ And there was no such thing as a formal review at the time.”

“A week or two later he called me back into his office and said, ‘I’m glad you asked me to do that, because I went and talked to all the foremen and I have some amazing feedback for you and this is a really good process.’ ”

Jones worked his way up through the company, just like he had at his previous employment positions, until he finally became part of Kraun Electric’s leadership.

When John Krause retired in 2018, Jones decided he wanted to take over the company but he didn’t want to do it alone, so he approached Kelly.

”I said, ‘I’m going to make an offer to your dad to buy out the business but I think you’re going to want to stay here,’ ” recalls Jones. He and Braun get along well and, he says, “If it wasn’t for that I don’t think this would have worked.”

They bought out Braun’s father and brother and now they're in it “equally together.”

“There isn’t one family that owns this more and I’m just tagging along. It forces us to really work hard at staying in alignment,” he says.

While Kraun Electric is no longer just a family business, Jones and Braun want to carry on that legacy into the future.

“We’ve just tried to welcome people in our family,” says Braun. “And now Aaron and I try to carry on that same warmth and welcoming atmosphere where people feel cared for and connected, as if they are family.”

But Jones says he doesn’t expect his children to follow in his footsteps.

“That’s not my plan. The company has really gone beyond a family business type of thing. They’ll probably choose their own path. My ambitions for how I will exit the company one day are not hinging on my kids taking it over, by any means.”

Together, the two business partners have different perspectives to offer the company. 

“I started as just an employee and so I’ve kind of seen both sides of it. I know what it’s like to just be an employee and I also now know what it’s like to own and run the business,” says Jones.

But that shift also means he made lots of friends in different departments – and now he's one of the bosses.

“It was an adjustment for me,” admits Jones, “because I had to learn to make sure to put the company first.”

 

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