Skyline Electric Company
- Written by: Molly Shaw
- Produced by: Sean O'Reilly
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
Todd Shaffer, president of Skyline Electric Company (Skyline), says he’s never satisfied. “I’m never completely satisfied with our company because we’re constantly improving and finding ways to be better for our customers and our people,” he explains. However, Todd deserves more credit, as he nearly rescued the Utah-based electrical contractor when it was on the verge of collapsing in 2001.
The Comeback Kid
“I began working for Skyline in 1979 when I was a 16-year-old high school dropout,” reveals Todd. “A neighborhood guy hired me to steam clean motors for Skyline’s electric motor service and sales division. I eventually decided I wanted to be an electrician because the pay was better and started an apprenticeship.”
Over the next 22 years, Todd began to work his way up the company ladder. “I became a foreman, then a superintendent and eventually a project manager and chief estimator,” he recalls. “In 2001, the company was going through severe trials and nearly fell into bankruptcy.”
While most would sell-out and move on, Todd saw an opportunity to turn things around for Skyline. “Myself and another employee decided to purchase the company and we did so at a deep discount, but still I had to put everything on the line; my home and nearly everything I owned,” shares Todd.
Above all else, Todd had faith. “I remember my wife asked me, ‘What are you going to do if this thing goes under,’ and I said, ‘That’s impossible, because I won’t let it; I won’t allow it to fail,'” recalls Todd. “My partner and I saw the potential in Skyline, but it had been mismanaged in the past.”
A Fresh Start
To make a turnaround for the then-54-year-old company was a huge undertaking. “We went through every dollar that was coming in and out of Skyline, from the janitor’s pay to our vendors,” reveals Todd. “We managed to cut our overhead in half and my partner and I barely made a paycheck for ourselves. If you added it all up I was probably making $5.00 an hour back then.”
Todd and his partner also instituted what he refers to as sweeping tracking measures to better follow the company’s operations. “The old system was too slow and didn’t give us results fast enough,” adds Todd. “Now, for every job, our project managers have up-to-the-minute information to track.”
With better management and new operating systems, Skyline was off to a fresh start. Today, the company remains based in Utah, but also serves customers in Nevada, southern Idaho and western Wyoming. Although Todd’s partner has since retired, Todd still plays an active role in the company. “I just love doing this work and I don’t want to retire,” he assures.
Tackling the Toughest Jobs
Since Todd assumed ownership, Skyline has developed into a highly specialized industrial contractor, doing new construction, remodels, control systems, maintenance and phone and data work for a variety of applications. “We like difficult jobs,” claims Todd. “We like to tackle the stuff that requires specialized skill and extra effort to perform well. It’s not just lighting and panels; it’s much more complicated than that.”
Skyline works directly with owners and a range of recurring customers, avoiding the hard bid route as much as possible. “We have a number of large repeat clients; Boeing, GSL Minerals and Kennecott just to name a few; we have guys there all the time,” details Todd. “We can do anything from runway lighting to water treatment plant work, mining and medium voltage distribution.”
While Skyline has overcome more challenges than most in the past, Todd reports he’s never seen his team really come together like they did on the Central Weber wastewater treatment facility. “We did a complete $12 million electrical expansion of the entire plant,” reveals Todd. “From medium voltage distribution to controls; it was the biggest job we’ve ever done and it was a team effort to bid it and complete. Our crew pulled together and it taught us that we can do anything we put our minds to.”
The company has delivered several runway rehabs for the Salt Lake International Airport, including a $6 million de-icing pad job. “We also frequently work with the University of Utah and the state of Utah for jobs over a million,” adds Todd.
At the end of the day Todd says it’s all about problem-solving and making situations easier on customers. “When a customer calls here, we want it to be their last phone call,” he explains. “When we call them back we’re going to tell them it’s taken care of. The goal is to build memorable service.”
This dedication to service might have something to do with the fact that 2012 was Skyline’s most profitable year on record. “We’ve done extremely well through the downturn and I feel good about where we’re at,” reveals Todd.
Todd attributes the company’s success to a fabulous team. “Our people are fantastic; they’re highly motivated and hard working, in fact, they’re some of the best people I’ve worked with in 30-plus years in the industry,” he assures. “With our team and our service I see us growing 10 to 15 percent in the next couple of years.”
Skyline remains well-connected throughout the industry as a proud member of NECA’s (National Electrical Contractors Association) Intermountain Chapter. “NECA has been crucial to our success because the organization’s contractors are at the cutting edge of industry practices, safety and training,” adds Todd. “Being a member allows us to share information and collaborate with other contractors.”
While Todd was certainly the spark to bring new life back to the company, it’s a dedicated team, improved operating systems and memorable service that will carry Skyline Electric Company through for the long haul.
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