Above all else, Basim Mansour is a runner. Not a track runner, not a trail runner, but a life runner.
While the cement of this disposition was poured long ago, it wasn’t until his beloved father’s untimely death of a heart attack in 1990 that the solidification was complete. Mousa “Michael” Basim had been the hardworking founder of Michael & Son, a full-service electric company, and as Proud Son in the equation, nineteen-year-old Basim shouldered the burden of running the company without a single word of protest. “It was very important to me not to cry at his viewing and funeral,” Basim remembers. “I wanted to be strong for my mother and sister. The most important thing to me after that was getting back into the office and moving forward. I wanted to start running.” And so Basim did just that, sprinting through the 1990 recession, through his own learning curve, and through the struggles that followed.
One night after a particularly vigorous day, he found himself in his car with a pounding headache, his mind flooded with such a slew of worries over paying bills and managing the company that he could hardly think straight. And yet suddenly, the young man’s mind sharpened into a crystal-clear recognition. “I realized that my problems weren’t going to kill me, so what?” he recalls. As soon as he came to this understanding and told himself to let go, the stress and headache dissipated and he stood peaceful and calm in the face of the storm. “Maintaining this calm in thinking helps me get things done better,” he says now.
In the intervening years since that night, this sense of calm and quiet strength has become as much a part of Basim’s character as the urge to run, resulting in a compelling mix of traits that at first seem contradictory but are rather inherently intertwined. In truth, his ascension up the ladder toward betterment isn’t some jittery, haphazard climb—rather, it is a purposeful, steady, reliable drive. “Life is lived on a treadmill, and the moment you stop running is the moment you’re going backwards,” he says. “To quit growing is to stop living, so I’ll be running as long as God lets me.” The urgency in his step inspires others to do the same, and it is with this still and steadfast passion that he has led Michael & Son down the path to success thus far.
The company was first launched in 1976 by Mousa Mansour, an electrician who did commercial and residential electric and construction work. Compelled by a strong sense of familial duty, Basim began working with his father at the age of five. “I was always sensitive to my parents and my surroundings,” he remembers. “When I knew that my family was struggling, I just felt it was my duty and my job to do what I could to help.” After managing Michael and Son during the day, Basim’s father would work nights at the Hyatt Regency Hotel as an engineer. The family also owned a restaurant where his mother worked a full day until seven o’clock at night, after which she would return home to sleep for a few hours and rise in time to work her shift at a Toddle House breakfast restaurant from midnight until six in the morning. “You’d have to be a real non-caring, non-feeling person to see that kind of thing and not do what you had to do to help,” he says. To contribute, Basim got a job working a paper route at age eleven, rising at four in the morning to deliver papers to his neighborhood and $150 per month to his family’s resources. He kept none of the money for himself.
Aside from the paper route, working for Michael & Son was the only job Basim ever had, and he developed the skills of his craft so proficiently that he was serving as lead electrician for ten thousand square foot projects by the age of sixteen. He studied with Mousa every summer, every weekend, and even after school when time permitted. When the young man was seventeen, his father received a large promotion job to replace twelve thousand lights in a nearby high school, and Basim ran the job on his own. Then, when Mousa’s ability to train his son in the trade came to its abrupt and tragic halt, Basim dropped out of college to take over the business—a one-truck operation with one or two employees at the time.
With so much yet to learn about managing the company, he completed the contracts his father had taken on before his death and then refined the company’s repertoire to solely electrical work, hoping to start afresh with an element of organization that had been otherwise lacking in Michael & Son. Then, in 1999, the company assumed service work, adding a construction and handyman component to which Basim had always been naturally drawn. With the new business model, his fleet of trucks expanded to three. Plumbing was later added in 2004, followed by HVAC in 2008. “The reality is that if you’re truly a service business, you want to take care of the customer,” Basim remarks. “The genesis of our diversification served to make the customer’s life easier—for example, allowing us to patch up drywall after electrical work.”
The company’s growth in the intervening years has been nothing short of exponential. “Less than ten years ago, we were operating out of my garage, with the shop on the second floor and the office on the first,” Basim reports. When they purchased their first condo warehouse, he remembers how the unit’s sheer size reminded him of a Costco. Contrary to the advice of his manager and sister, he soon bought two neighboring warehouses to supplement the first, which the company eventually outgrew. They added another building and then yet another, expanding their parking lots out over the land to accommodate the influx of employees. Now a complete electrical, plumbing, HVAC, construction, and handyman operation, Michael & Son services everywhere from Baltimore to Winchester to Fredericksburg and extending down to Richmond, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach. Today, the company has over 150 trucks and about 220 employees, drawing $40 million in revenue this year alone.
When it comes to the future of Michael & Son, Basim isn’t hesitating to shoot for the moon. He expects the company’s revenues to mirror the impressive growth they’ve seen recently, predicting that its size will double in the next three years. “I want to be a hundred million dollar service company,” he says, and then pauses. “Then I want to be a billion dollar service company!” Growth is expected to be accomplished in part through franchising, which Basim is working on currently. He envisions the sweeping of his brand across the U.S., making Michael & Son a household name. Once he gets to that point, he expects his goal will then be to extend internationally. “I know myself,” he says. “I know that once we reach our goals in the states, I’ll continue to ask myself what comes next.”
To this effect, it’s interesting to note that Basim works not because he has to, but because this sense of perpetual forward motion runs deep in his veins. He doesn’t even use an alarm clock—rather, his life and work flow, enmesh, and perpetuate incredibly organically. “A job represents some place you have to be in order to make money, but a business is a part of your very existence that brings you money incidentally,” Basim explains. “A lot of business owners have jobs, but I don’t. I have a business.” Through his business, Basim is able to facilitate the kind of deep connections that bring life its greater worth. This is accomplished in one sense through the relationship Michael and Son cultivates with the community. Their website, for instance, emanates a personality, sincerity, and amity that is lacking in many larger corporations today. Philanthropy is another important component in the company’s relationship to the community, not to mention the generation-spanning connection between Michael and Basim, which Basim hopes will be continued through one of his own sons. “You have to be part of the world, part of the nation, part of the community. There’s no such thing as a single-souled person in this world,” he confirms.
When it comes to advising young people entering the workforce today, Basim employs the KISS acronym, representing the humorous yet compelling idea to “keep it simple, stupid.” He applies this philosophy to a string of succinct yet powerful phrases for further instruction. “Make a plan. Set a goal. Bust your ass,” he says. “Don’t try to do too much, but instead master a few skills really well. Wait until your business has built a foundation of success before branching out into other services.” Positioning one’s self as an expert in a single matter is paramount to success, and in this sense, knowledge is power. “If you want to run a show, you’ve got to be the show. You’ve got to know more than anyone else about the topic at hand,” he emphasizes, echoing his father’s sentiments exactly.
Beyond this advice, Basim leads by example: a port in the storm, a runner moving steadily toward success, and a family man with unshakable integrity and work ethic. An old-fashioned man at heart, he’s the kind of guy who loves to guarantee trust and sincerity through a simple handshake. “I strive to always walk—or run, rather—on the ground,” says Basim.
In his further attempts to delineate a picture of what it means to be truly successful, Basim recalls the glossy pages of a particular issue of Time magazine featuring a relatively early photograph of famed boxer Mike Tyson. Basim recalls being instantly captivated by the photo, which portrayed an exhausted yet perseverant Tyson in the moments following a particularly grueling workout. “In order to succeed, it is not good enough to say you’re doing your best. In order to succeed, you must do what is necessary,” says Basim, quoting Winston Churchill. Tyson’s posture epitomizes these words as he sprawls in the photograph, sweat-stained and dog-tired, recuperating after throwing his last ounce of strength and stamina into the workout.
“There’s a lot of satisfaction in giving everything you’ve got, and the biggest regret in a lot of peoples’ lives is not being the best person they could have been or doing the best job they could have done,” says Basim. This means perpetually redefining your limits, reconfiguring your mind in terms of what is possible and impossible. It means to start and finish your race with the kind of quiet strength that allows one to persevere—a resolve that comes not from without, but within. Ready, set, go.