Forward Looking

H & W Electrical

For 45 years, H & W Electrical has been providing the Greenville, South Carolina commercial and industrial market with quality workmanship at honest prices. Founded in 1973 by current owner Richard D. Holcombe, the electrical services firm offers a full spectrum of design and build, lighting design, process and control, industrial and commercial installation, in-house engineering, plant maintenance, and strategic outage services.
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H & W Electrical’s design experts can collaborate with other professionals to take clients from conception to layout, and then to the engineering phase, which it does not sub-contract. H & W’s skilled team has made the electrical services firm a valued asset to industrial and commercial clients for over four decades, offering quality workmanship at honest prices.

The history of H & W dates back to the 1940s, when Richard Holcombe’s father did local electrical work. After working for him for some time, Richard decided to incorporate a business in the early 70s. Fifteen years ago, his son, Alan Holcombe, joined the H & W team as well.

In an interview with Construction in Focus, President Alan Holcombe tells us about what’s in store for the family-owned company as it approaches a half-century in the South Carolina business community.

Over the last several years, H & W’s staff has grown a lot both internally in the office and out in the field. It now has a core of 100 fulltime workers and 70 additional temporary staff that is contracted through various separate agencies. “Our field staff has increased by about 25 percent since 2016. We have also hired new project managers,” says President Alan Holcombe.

H & W has hired some key team members who have helped take the company to the next level: Tommy Harris, Derryck Evans, Tommy Haughton, Matthew Butler, and Shannon Brown. Tommy Harris is a master electrician who has been with the company for 25 years, and has recently been promoted to Project Manager. Project Manager Tommy Haughton is an electrical engineer originally from Ireland, who President Holcombe praises as being very absorbed in company ethos. Project Manager Derryck Evans is another new staff member who has been in the industry for almost 30 years and brings a wealth of experience. He has hit the ground running at H & W and has brought in a new client base, helping the team to expand its network.

Assistant Project Manager Matthew Butler is currently in the process of getting his Electrical Engineering degree. He has been tasked with running the warehouse, coordinating logistics, equipment maintenance, and procurement for materials and tools. H & W has also welcomed Shannon Brown to help with administrative duties, the safety program, and payroll. She headed the company app that H & W launched last year, which helped the company keep on track with cost and labor in real time and remain efficient.

“They have all exceeded my expectations. I cannot say enough good things about them,” says Holcombe.

Indeed, H & W’s exceptional staff is what sets it apart from other electrical service companies and has driven its success throughout the decades. Last year, H & W brought in over $25 million dollars in revenue and this year, it is projected to earn over $30 million. As Holcombe reveals that the construction community is tight-knit, a well-reputed company with reputable staff is a recipe for success.

“We primarily do word-of-mouth hiring, and our people are incredibly talented. Most of the people who have come here have never left. As a matter of fact, we have about a dozen employees who have been here for over 30 years. I think that speaks volumes about the type of company we run and the type of employees we hire. They are committed and loyal. We have a very low turnover rate,” he tells us.

H & W also has a high number of “boomerang employees,” those who seek other opportunities before returning to the company in the end. “We have had people leave, but those who have left have also come back. And when they do, they are very thankful and wish they would have never left to begin with.”

Part of what makes this family-owned business a warm and enjoyable place to work is its culture of open communication and its open door policy. H & W looks after its team, partnering with top safety companies to maintain high workplace safety standards. Its strong leadership and clear incentive structures also encourage H & W staff to strive for continued self-improvement. “We incentivize our people by creating tiered structures for them, so they know what they’re working for.”

As Holcombe remarks, “leadership starts at the top.” Outlining clear goals for the team empowers to perform well. “When people don’t know what they’re working for, it’s like a ship without a rudder, going in circles. We provide people with clear goals and directives, making a big difference,” Holcombe explains.

To keep the electrical services company on track, the management at H & W also holds weekly meetings to discuss profit and losses. Using real-time data on where its projects stand in terms of costs, materials, and labor allows the management to make informed future decisions and give constant feedback to the team so they know where they are now, and where they are expected to head.

In an industry where workmanship is crucial, Holcombe tells us through word of mouth, H & W has been able to maintain its high standards through finding and keeping those of the highest work ethic as business grows.

“We are pretty skeptical when somebody submits a résumé and nobody has ever heard of them, because in this market, you can list many things but no one knows what exactly you can and can’t do until you go out on the field and perform,” says Holcombe. “So if somebody who has a longstanding relationship with us recommends a worker very highly, we pay attention to that. It’s really the only way to hire people in this industry.”

Since its inception, the customer service-oriented firm has been developing an impressive portfolio that includes working with universities, the automotive industry, general manufacturing, medical facilities, electric vehicle charging stations, corporate offices, retail, and places of worship. H & W cultivates customer relationships by continuously servicing clients on the jobsite, keeping in touch by hosting social events, and of course, word of mouth.

“This is a service industry,” Holcombe states. “People talk, especially in the construction market. We expand our networks through word of mouth. We also have a social media platform we’ve launched recently through Twitter and Facebook, run by an assistant project manager.”

As the industry continues to modernize, H & W’s goals going forward are to keep ahead by investing in new emerging technologies. One new technological development in which H & W is interested is inductive charging. Also known as wireless charging or cordless charging, it uses an electromagnetic field to transfer energy between two objects. The technology is used in low and high power applications, from mobile devices to electric cars.

Fuel cells are another popular new technology, harnessing electricity by mixing fuel (often hydrogen) with air in a function similar to a battery. Fuel cells can be used in a number of applications, including primary and backup power generation, which functions much more efficiently than traditional coal power plants.

“And as always, we want to diversify our networks, and we want to expand and grow in all areas of commercial and industrial services,” Holcombe adds. “We have in-house professionals who do drafting and AutoCAD design for us, and we would like to grow in that department.”

In the future, H & W may upgrade its Greenville office as well. This could possibly mean expansion to its current location, and/or perhaps purchasing an additional location within the Greenville area. The new office would have to be strategically located in a part of the city where H & W could logistically be responsive. Such a big decision would not be made without careful consideration, as the ethics-driven business operates on fiscally conservative values.

“We are very conservative monetarily. We are always putting money back into the company. We don’t carry any debt. We work off all our own capital and are constantly reinvesting our capital back into the company,” Holcombe emphasizes. It is an approach which has worked well for 45 years.

If your South Carolina commercial or institutional facility requires electrical services, you can reach H & W Electrical at info@hwelectrical.com or on its website, www.hwelectrical.com.

Building the Next Generation

As thousands of experienced workers retire across North America every day, it is small wonder many industries are concerned about the future. It has been a decade since the oldest members of the baby boom generation started leaving their jobs, removing from the workplace decades of experience and skills that are tough to replace. The situation is so dire that, when younger workers are not available or knowledgeable enough to take over, retired staffers are often called back to work on a part-time basis.

November 15, 2019, 12:06 AM EST