Editor's Note: This article is part of a series that looks closer at select Inc. 5000 companies in the trenches.
When Chris Caliedo bought a small air conditioning firm in Honolulu in 2013 as a sideline to his day job as operations manager for a marine services company, his employer didn't give it much thought. But when the AC company began to blossom, that employer--also known as Dad--told him to choose between them. "He gave me an ultimatum," Caliedo says, chuckling at the thought: " 'Either stay, and get rid of the AC company, or you can go with the AC company and we ain't going to give you sh-t.' " Not only did he leave the family firm, but, using his marine industry contacts, Caliedo eventually began to compete against his father as well. Regal handles general contracting work on ships (like the container vessel Haleakala, shown above), such as welding, mechanical repair, HVAC, and painting. Caliedo is now looking to expand to Mobile, Alabama, another shipping center. Meanwhile, father and son have repaired their relationship, with each having found his own niche in the industry. Here, Caliedo offers his perspective on starting up and growing in an industry as familiar to him as his hometown. --As told to Bill Saporito
I was born and raised in Hawaii, and I've been surrounded by boats since I was a kid. I learned how to weld in second grade.
After I bought this air conditioner company, my buddies were saying why not do ship repair too? It basically snowballed. At my previous company, I was the operations manager. I had all the connections back then. I was basically the face of that company. But I wanted to do something on my own. At least I knew that if I ever failed, I could always go back into the industry. So I took a leap of faith.
The first year was super rough. We had small government jobs, a few over $100,000. But we had only three customers, and we grossed $1.1 million.
We could end up with $10 million in revenue this year, but we're not going to stoop to low-balling bids like some other companies. So we're probably going to do the same as last year.
I have a great team of people I work with. Without them, I don't know where I'd be today. When I first started, we all would wonder what job we were going to do next. My guys said, "Chris, wherever you go we're going with you."