E-J Electric Installation Co., one of the nation’s most accomplished privately owned electrical contractors, is celebrating an astounding 125 years in business. BTEA President Elizabeth Crowley interviewed E-J’s CEO Anthony Mann about the secrets of the company’s success.
Tony Mann and his daughter, Isabelle, a fourth generation leader of E-J’s family business.

 

Q. How has E-J Electric survived and thrived as a family business for 125 years?

A. MANN: Focus on safety is always number one. Every meeting we have starts with safety. You’ve got to care about your people, and make sure everyone gets home safe every day. Which ties into another thing about us that’s really interesting. We have 70 people at E-J who are related to someone else in the company. Besides being a family business, we have many families working for us. Our VP of Risk Management and Compliance’s husband, for example, is a foreman. We’ve got brothers that are working together, which is really fun. It really creates a great culture, and I think that’s part of why people stay with us for so long. Frank Lambraia, who actually just was named president of E-J, started as an intern. Another key to our success is quality. If you focus on quality, that ends up being your reputation and it’s much easier to get work. Another thing we’ve done for the last 25 years is the National Electrical Roundtable, which we founded, where we do peer reviews on each other, and different parts of our company meet together to focus on best practices. So, our operations people, our labor people, our accounting, every part of the business meets with the nine other companies around the country, and they’re able to share their best practices.

 

Q. How long have you been at the helm of E-J and what’s the story of your family’s involvement in the business over the years?

A. MANN: We were founded in 1899 by two men, [Jack] Enright and [Theodore] Joseph; thus, the E-J. My grandfather came in in 1912. He was an electrician, pursuing a free engineering education at night. He got his engineering degree and came in as chief engineer. Enright passed away shortly thereafter. Joseph was around until the early ’50s; he had no children. So, my grandfather, who was partners with Ted Joseph, took over the business. My dad then came into the business and retired several years ago. I’m third generation. My daughter now is fourth generation, which I’m really proud of.

 

Q. What is the most challenging job you’ve ever done, and why?

A. MANN: When Hurricane Sandy came in it wiped out NYU Langone; totally flooded it, the hospital was out of business. They brought us in with the engineer and the contractor—it was Turner and JB&B—and we came up with a plan how to get the hospital back up and running in 30 days. They had no electricity. We had to replace all their services, and we were able to work with national manufacturers to manufacture switchgear all over the country. They put us right at the top of the list, because it was Sandy, it was healthcare, and they just went right to work and made switchgear in seven days, which was unheard of, because they were working three shifts to make it happen. And then our people were working 24 hours a day, seven days a week to replace everything that needed to be replaced, and to install all the new switchgear. In 30 days we got them back up and running. It really was challenging, and it really was a team effort with the engineer, the contractor, the owner, everyone working hand in hand.

 

Q. What is the value that you find in being a part of NYECA and the BTEA?

A. MANN: The BTEA’s safety committee is a great thing, because best practices are shared and a lot of them are unique to your city. You get everyone around the table to just share what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, and it’s really a great resource for our company, and, I think, for all the companies that are part of it. Another great thing with BTEA and NYECA are the seminars. It’s fantastic getting people involved in learning things that are going on in the industry and really getting educated. Also, the networking events—meeting other people in the industry, other contractors, getting to know everyone. And then both organizations’ advocacy in pushing what is important to the industry up in Albany and in the city to make New York a better place.

 

Q. What would you like to see happen either on the government or industry sides that would help your business?

A. MANN: The most important thing is for the government and industry to keep investing in infrastructure, because when you invest in infrastructure, it creates jobs to start off with, but then it builds communities by attracting businesses and residents to those communities. So, by investing in infrastructure there’s a long-term payoff. From the federal level, there’s been a big push with the infrastructure bill, but there needs to be more. We have a governor who seems very focused on this and that’s fantastic, but we need to keep focusing on it, keep investing, because it pays off really well for everyone in the long term.