A Small Business Success Story

Hewitt Young Electric

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Hewitt Young Electric provides a full range of services from design and new construction to rehabilitation, maintenance, and more. The team is prepared to take on virtually any size project in any sector, whether commercial, industrial, institutional or residential.
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The company got its start in 2003, when Robert Hewitt and his cousin, Greg Young, decided to join forces and launch their own business. “We were both working on a job site together for different contractors and we wanted to do it on our own,” Mr. Hewitt remembers. “The company started out small, the two of us working out of the basement of his condo. Within two or three years we were doing $3 million dollars a year in business and growing.”

Soon, the two founders were able to graduate from the basement to an office in an industrial park in Rochester, New York. “We just kept chasing more and more work. By the year 2010 or 2011 we were doing anywhere from $15 to $20 million dollars a year.”

Good old-fashioned work ethic helped the two-man show gain traction during those early years. “We were both brought up to work hard,” Mr. Hewitt says. “I think it was about work ethic.” But he refuses to take all the credit for the rapid growth. “The marketplace at that time just exploded for us. It was actually good timing. It wasn’t just us making it happen.”

Spearheaded by Robert’s son, Cody Hewitt, the team implemented a 25,000 square foot prefabrication shop in 2012, which led to even more growth and success. “We were one of the first in Rochester that dove in 100 percent into prefabrication for projects. And I think that helped us grow.” A key benefit to prefabricating in house is the ability to speed up the schedule. The team can get a head start on the construction process before the project is even off the ground. “The walls are not even up and we are already building product,” Mr. Hewitt points out. “So you have less onsite construction time.” Costs are also reduced, saving clients money. In addition, the team also has more control over quality in the climate-controlled shop, ensuring that the product is top notch.

The company’s prefabrication capabilities put it ahead of the pack. More prevalent on the west coast, prefabrication “has not been common with the electrical contractors in the eastern part of the country. It has not been a common practice here in western New York.”

Hewitt Young also stands out for its company culture. The team goes out of their way to be supportive and cheerful, winning over customers for their friendliness as well as their competency. “When our phone gets answered, you hear ‘it is a great day at Hewitt Young.’ That is how we try to differentiate ourselves from our competition.” This caring attitude applies to employees as well as customers. “If people are happy, they are willing to work hard for people. The culture we try to build here is to be the number one electrical contractor in town and separate ourselves from everybody else by being proactive with the customer; by telling them it’s a great day. We [also] pride ourselves on quality and job safety.”

Hewitt Young’s community involvement also demonstrates the company’s people-centered values. The business maintains a budget every quarter specifically for donation purposes. So far, the team has worked with a number of charitable organizations including Ronald McDonald House Charities, Camp Good Days, Open Door Mission, Make A Wish, and American Red Cross.

Hewitt Young has been recognized for its safety efforts with multiple awards, including the National Independent Contractor’s Association’s (NICA) zero tolerance award. To ensure safety is always prioritized, the company has hired an outside service to visit its jobsites biweekly. If a safety violation is observed, management has given the service the authority to shut down a jobsite until it is rectified. “I think, by going to that, it has opened the eyes of the foremen that Hewitt Young is taking safety seriously.”

The company also has a robust internal safety program that each employee is required to sign off on and uphold. Foremen give daily safety presentations on the jobsite, focusing on whatever topics are most relevant, which could be anything from scaffolding and live electrical units to sun exposure.

Hewitt Young has executed a full range of projects over the years. Most recently, the team has developed a niche specialty in sports lighting. Installing stadium lights high off the ground takes special skill and understanding. “Some of the challenge that is involved is the design,” says Mr. Hewitt. “When you have a sports lighting project you have to work with your sports lighting vendor very closely because they have to get the design right.” Because the lights are all pre-engineered, everything has to be carefully coordinated from beginning to end to ensure every part is perfectly aligned. “We have to make sure that the bases are put in properly, that we have the proper orientation to the field, that the height is proper, and that they are all aimed properly.”

The team pretests all of the sports lighting to catch any mistakes before installation. “You have a 100 foot pole with 20 lights on it—you don’t want to have to get a big lift over there to try to fix problems after the fact, so we [test] it all on the ground before hand. And so far it has worked out great.”

Hewitt Young has also become involved in kinetic lighting projects. This trendy, innovative lighting changes colors, allowing a building to transform to fit any occasion. For example, “it could be green on St. Paddy’s day or red, white, and blue on Fourth of July.”

One particularly challenging kinetic lighting job required the team to install lights on a building located directly alongside water, making it impossible to access the installation site from the ground. “The lights are halfway up the building and below it is a river,” Mr. Hewitt explains. “So we actually had to have trained electricians go over the top of the roof with ropes and rappel down the building to run the wiring and set the light fixtures.”

Mr. Hewitt reports that the industry is strong throughout the surrounding region. “It is looking up right now. This summer has been extremely busy for everybody.” With increased work comes the challenge of finding qualified electricians, a concern that is seen throughout the industry. “There is a shortage of quality electricians. We are a union shop and even the union is having trouble manning the jobs – not just with Hewitt Young, but with many other contractors.”

The team has to be proactive to overcome the shortage. “We have to be a little more creative with our workforce. We built some teams that will go into a jobsite for a week and support the foreman and the worker that is on that job to try to get that job ahead of schedule. And then they will go off to another job the following week. That is how we have been trying to make it work so far this summer.” Mr. Hewitt adds that, despite the challenge, the increase in available work is positive overall. “That is a good sign, when there is a lot of work.”

Hewitt Young is planning for the increased work and for ongoing growth. The team has recently added several project managers and is continuing to diversify, particularly within the solar energy sector. After successfully launching their own business just 13 years ago, Mr. Hewitt and Mr. Young have managed to grow a small startup to one of the region’s leading electrical contracting firms. Already focused on the next challenge, the team is ready to continue its rapid expansion and respected service.

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.

December 5, 2019, 5:08 PM EST