Clinton Electric Inc.
Since 1981, Clinton Electric Inc. (Clinton) has been setting the electrical contracting standard and building repeat business throughout rural southern Illinois. “We have a higher standard for our electricians on the job site and the way our customers are taken care of,” explains Pam Allen, president of Clinton.
As the company’s second generation of family ownership, Pam watched her father and mother, Gene and Barbara Clinton, build the business from the ground up. “They were Clinton through and through,” she recalls. “They started the company in 1981 and developed a large customer base, which we still have today. As my father worked on building relationships with customers, they came to associate Clinton with him and he became the strength behind the company name.”
Continuing the Clinton tradition
Although Gene retired in 2010, Clinton continues to forge ahead with a solid customer base and trusted reputation for second-to-none quality. “We’re now in our second generation of ownership,” says Pam. “Wayne Clinton, my brother, is our vice president and one of our lead field superintendents working as an electrician. Owen Allen, my husband and vice president of Clinton, was the second person my father hired many years ago as an estimator and he’s been with the company for 28 years. Owen now manages all construction aspects of the company.”
With family ownership and a network of longstanding union electricians Clinton remains a steady competitor in southern Illinois despite recent market challenges. “We now have 26 electricians and nine employees in the office, which is on the low side,” reveals Pam. “A few years ago we had 100 electricians in the field, because we had several large projects going. It all really depends on the economy and our workload.”
Even in a slow market, Pam says Clinton continues to attract repeat clients by operating what she explains as the Clinton Way. “What sets us apart in our region is our top-notch quality workforce,” she conveys. “We have 20 to 25 foremen that have been with us for many years. When we get a good person, we do everything we can to keep them. We have great pride in our workforce and a core group of foremen and electricians that has made for repeat business.”
Setting the standard
Pam attributes Clinton’s union workforce to the company’s reputation for trusted service in the commercial, health care and industrial sectors. “Customers often request a certain contractor based on past success and that helps keep our foot in the door,” she explains. “A union electrician just has a higher standard and an unparalleled level of service. The competition for projects is getting tougher, though, as more and more nonunion contractors with lower wage rates are popping up all the time.”
Although union contractors demand higher wages and have a bigger price tag, Pam says it doesn’t take long for clients to see the difference. “Once we get our foot in the door and show them there’s a difference in the end product, more often than not, clients see a difference that warrants the price,” she adds. “Union electricians complete several years of education and training, which serves as a tremendous asset to us and our customers.”
Clinton’s reputation for superior union electricians has earned the company a range of sizable contracts throughout the region. “We recently completed a sizable portion of the electrical work during the construction of the brand new St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital,” shares Pam. “We also did a large plant addition at Continental Tire in Mount Vernon, Ill. Those have been our two largest projects in recent years.”
Before the recession Clinton tackled a substantial educational project at the Carterville High School in Carterville, Ill. “At that point, we had about 100 electricians and that’s a lot for one electrical contractor in this rural area,” adds Pam.
The succeeding generation
While the market has certainly slowed down over the last few years, Pam says the company continues to focus on putting its well-known name out there and backing it up with the finest service. “The challenge in the transition of family management has been in meeting expectations because my father set the bar so high for Clinton,” she reveals. “We had to almost re-establish ourselves, not completely from scratch, but we had to prove that we’re still the same quality contractor we’ve always been.”
According to Pam, her father’s strong personality was trusted by many customers. “We’re still working on proving we’re up to the challenge,” she continues. “I think time is helping with the transition. It takes time to build trust and for a customer to see, yes, we’re still the same Clinton.”
One way Clinton is meeting high expectations is through simple face-to-face interaction. “Our project managers are out there making contact to keep our foot in the door in cases where a customer could have easily tried someone else,” details Pam. “The employees in our office, which includes project managers, estimators, accounting and warehouse personnel, all have many years of experience with our company and are devoted to maintaining the high standard we have set. Their expertise, combined with our field electricians’, are the reason for our success.”
Clinton also stays well connected and up to date in its industry through important relationships with associations such as the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA). “We’ve been a NECA Illinois Chapter member for 33 years now, but I never realized how much they did on our behalf until my father retired and I got into more of a managerial role,” shares Pam. “We are constantly getting information from NECA, from training opportunities to resources like manuals, website links and information on legislative issues. NECA and Billy Serbousek, president of the Illinois chapter, along with his staff, are at our beck and call; they bend over backward to help and are very proactive in all matters related to electrical contracting. Their office leads the charge in addressing some of the toughest issues we face.”
Pam is proud to sustain the partnership with NECA her father began years ago. “It’s a relationship that my father maintained for many years so it’s important to us to keep that going,” adds Pam. After 33 years, Pam and her husband, brother and other valued employees are continuing the Clinton Electric Inc. tradition, bound by family ownership and a commitment to longstanding customers.
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