From a Team of Five to the Largest Self-performing Electrical and Lighting Contractor in the U.S.
Rogers, the Alpharetta, Georgia-based firm known as “Rogers Electric” until a recent rebranding, is on an explosive growth streak. The company’s performance over the past few years has been, well, electrifying.
Founded in 1983, Rogers earned a reputation for installing and maintaining lighting and electrical systems before expanding its services to include HVAC and plumbing systems. Retailers are the company’s leading clients although Rogers also does work for restaurants, financial institutions, distribution centers and other venues. This family-owned firm recently reached a notable milestone.
“We had a five-year plan to double the business. We just completed that. We went from $150 to $300 million. Our owner just put together another five-year plan to take it to $600 million,” says Jason Hayes, Vice President Sales and Marketing.
This isn’t just marketing hype; in 2016, Rogers Electric (as it was then called) ranked number 36 on EC&M (Electrical Construction & Maintenance) magazine’s Top 50 Electrical Contractors list, with past-year revenues of $170 million. This September, EC&M released its 2019 list and placed Rogers in the 29th spot with revenues of $295 million.
Hayes credits this huge leap in revenue on two factors: the company’s ability to self-perform most of its services and “accelerated growth with Amazon, DHL, FedEx,” and other firms.
“We self-perform 92 percent of all the work we do. Typically, when we do need to use a sub, it’s because we’re in a highly unionized market or it’s a specialty trade or a small [project],” explains Hayes.
Much of the electrical work Rogers has done lately centers on “front-end transformations” in huge retail outlets such as Home Depot, Hayes says. Retailers are increasingly eager to equip the front-end of their stores with self-check outs, interactive kiosks and other high-tech systems that require a lot of wiring. On top of front-end retail installation work, the electrical division also offers preventative maintenance and upkeep duties for a wide variety of clients.
The company’s lighting division, meanwhile, has been busy swapping out traditional lighting systems for energy-efficient LED bulbs, among other chores. According to the company website, “Rogers can repair, install, upgrade or retrofit any lighting system anywhere in the U.S.” and offers “on-demand lighting services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
Rogers added HVAC and plumbing to its roster of services in part because of customer demand. Clients who hired the firm to install, upgrade or maintain electrical systems would occasionally ask if Rogers could also take care of related HVAC and plumbing needs, recalls Hayes. The company obliged and now regularly accepts HVAC and plumbing-related assignments.
At present, Rogers operates 13 locations and is eager to expand its international presence.
“One of our strategic initiatives was expansion into Canada and Mexico. Our relationship with DHL, FedEx, and Home Depot pushed us into the Canadian market. We’re excited about that. We’re in the process of acquiring a business [in Canada] that will allow us to have labor and licensing up there,” says Hayes. The company also undertakes projects in Puerto Rico and is in discussions to launch joint ventures in Mexico.
Some of the projects the firm has recently completed are huge in scale. In 2017, Walmart hired Rogers to relocate power to fruit, floral, and bakery cases to accommodate a new store layout. Rogers had done the initial electrical installation for these same coolers. The power relocation assignment covered 2,600 locales and took just under four months for Rogers to complete.
From coffee to senior living
Another 2017 assignment involved RaceTrac Petroleum, a company that offers a chain of gas stations and convenience stores. RaceTrac wanted to upgrade its coffee offering. The plan was to introduce a bean-to-cup coffee program which would result in better java for customers. To achieve this end, RaceTrac needed to upgrade its coffee equipment.
Working closely with RaceTrac, Rogers took charge of the plumbing, electrical, and construction work on the project. The initial contract involved equipment upgrades at 300 RaceTrac locations in the southeastern United States. RaceTrac subsequently commissioned Rogers to oversee coffee equipment upgrades at an additional 180 outlets.
A recent non-retail project involved Brookdale Senior Living communities. Brookdale wanted to convert its facilities in the southern and western states to LED lighting. Rogers was hired to handle the purchase and installation of all the necessary materials. Now, over 40 Brookdale facilities offer better and more economical LED lighting to their communities, thanks to Rogers.
Rogers has also been doing steady work at distribution centers, upgrading such facilities on behalf of courier firms, Amazon and postal authorities.
The scale of these recent assignments is all the more impressive when you realize how tiny the company used to be. In the early days, following its founding by Lin Rogers in the early 1980s, the firm employed fewer than half-a-dozen people.
Big box, big opportunity
“Our business was propelled by the growth of the big box sector – more specifically, Home Depot. We did ground up electrical construction for some 600 Home Depots across the country. When that market constricted and new construction went down, we shifted our focus to a new model, providing on-demand facility services for many of the same buildings we built and constructed,” recalls Hayes.
Lin Rogers, who currently serves as chairman of the company, remains the majority shareholder. His son, CEO Chris Rogers and daughter, Lindsey Schoultz, Chief Human Resources Officer, are minority owners.
The company encourages a family-like work-culture. For example, when the firm achieved the $300 million mark, each employee received a 55-inch TV, delivered to their home, as a Christmas present. This giveaway program (provided in partnership with Best Buy) came on top of normal bonuses as a “big thank you” to staff for their hard-work and loyalty, Hayes says.
The Rogers Charitable Foundation, meanwhile, offers scholarships to the sons and daughters of employees to help cover college tuition costs.
At the time of the TV giveaway, Rogers counted roughly 1300 workers. That number currently stands at 1500 and continues to grow.
Asked what Rogers looks for in new hires, Hayes describes the company attitude. “Because our business is spread out so much around the country, we need self-starters. We need technicians who are technical in their ability to install and diagnose electrical systems [but who can also be] account managers and sales managers. [Our technicians] are at the forefront and touch the customer on a daily basis. Their ability to interact and provide customer service is what’s made us successful.”
Rogers also likes employees who have “a hunger and desire to learn” and are eager to move up in the company, adds Marketing Manager, Ayla Tribble.
“The growth opportunities are there for those who want to work for it. We have quite a few team members who have been here 25 to 30 plus years,” she says.
Any employee who hits the 20-year mark at Rogers receives a Rolex watch, typically worn with pride.
Spurred by the company’s remarkable growth, Rogers developed an online training platform called the Rogers Learning Management System. The Learning System consists of a wide variety of video courses, ranging in length. Courses cover everything from electrical wiring procedures to leadership skills, safety, financial advice, and so on. The intention is to bring new workers quickly up to speed, although existing workers also benefit from the online training material. In total, the company has put together over 130 courses and continues to add more.
Safety is another area that’s comprehensively covered. The firm has an overall Director of Safety plus regional safety managers and coordinators who offer training and help instill essential safety guidelines in workers. The aim is to “be ahead of what OSHA is doing” in terms of safety awareness, says Hayes.
Promotion and marketing is handled in tech-savvy fashion. The firm is active on social media, runs digital ads and attends trade shows. Rogers maintains an in-house photography and videography team and “prides itself on being at the forefront of marketing in our industry,” says Tribble.
Changing the company name was another astute marketing move. The firm decided to drop “Electric” from its corporate handle to better reflect its broader service portfolio, particularly the company’s expanded HVAC and plumbing work, says Hayes.
For all its success, Rogers faces certain challenges. Like many companies nationwide in its field, Rogers is dealing with a skilled labor shortage. Indeed, Hayes says “lack of available technical manpower” is the biggest challenge facing the firm.
“There’s a shortage of labor out there. We have an aging workforce—the average age of our techs is probably 43 years. We need to find a way to bring in the youth that are still interested in working in the electrical trade,” he states.
To interest young people in careers at Rogers, the company does outreach with technical schools in each of its 13 locations and regularly attends career fairs.
The acquisition option
So, where does Rogers stand at this moment in time, and what does the future hold? Well, it’s clear that Rogers has moved into a dominant position industry-wide, and has recognized, strategically, that its previous remarkable growth can most likely only be maintained through acquiring existing businesses.
“We’ve made some acquisitions,” says Haynes. “We bought a small company in Connecticut, an electrical construction firm. We’re strategically looking for smaller businesses in the neighborhood of five-to-fifteen million dollars that we can acquire over the next five years. [Such acquisitions] add to our bandwidth and our customer base.
“We don’t think any longer we can only do this with organic growth. We recognize there have to be some other ventures in play for us to meet that $600 million mark,” says Hayes.
On balance, it appears that, despite the skilled labor shortage, the future for Rogers remains very, very bright.