In the Business of People
Great companies are made, not born. Since it was founded 25 years ago with a workforce of one, California-based Boudreau Pipeline has grown from its base in Corona to include locations in Las Vegas and San Diego, becoming a top business by being a top workplace.
Expanding its services to include utility locating, utilities, and telecom, the almost 400-employee-strong business has come a long way from its early days, says President Alan Boudreau.
Soon after moving to California in the late 1980s, the young Alan began working with his father, learning plumbing from him. “I was the one that liked to play in the dirt, so I learned how to run one of the backhoes,” he says. “I was the shovel guy in the ditch. Instead of renting backhoes, I ran the one backhoe that we had.”
Starting his first rental company called A&B in 1996 as an owner/operator, Boudreau began bidding on jobs, soon leading to his first major project in Rancho Santa Margarita.
There, he took on a project for a large electrical company at the Port of Long Beach. This soon found him working on school infrastructure and other big jobs, including a 400-home project in the Orange County city of San Clemente. “That got us to be able to grow,” he says. “It was a master development.”
With the business growing unstoppably from a one-man operation to a company of almost 400, Boudreau Pipeline today works on projects ranging from about $10,000 for small fire lines into the millions for big jobs that take months.
At present, the company is busy with four projects ranging from $10 million to $20 million. With quality and timely delivery themselves the best advertisement, Boudreau Pipeline doesn’t do a lot of proactive marketing, since approximately 85 percent of its work comes from repeat customers.
“We have built a reputation, and really don’t have to go out and solicit,” says Boudreau. “We turn down anywhere from 45 to 55 percent of the work we’re asked to bid on – we don’t have the capacity to do it.”
Big or small, every job is a reflection of the company’s professionalism and teamwork. This comes across in its strong culture, and an upbeat get-it-done attitude, entrenched in Boudreau’s philosophy.
Internally, employees get votes from their peers for their can-do. Externally, the business continues receiving awards and has been a top workplace for six years running in Southern California. A big factor in the company’s ongoing success is the people who join Boudreau.
“The quality of people that we want to hire revolves around what we call our intangibles. That’s work ethic and willingness to learn, passion and heart,” says Boudreau.
“The team philosophy is hungry, humble, and smart. They all look after each other. No one is above anybody else. They care and take pride in their work. Their values include communication, accountability, owning what they do, and treating people with mutual respect. So when you have those three elements there, it makes for a great work environment.”
… and giving back
For years, a notable element in the company’s success has been its willingness to give back to the community. Before the business’s 20th anniversary in 2017, Alan Boudreau was actively working with different charities and making donations, but then realized that strength in numbers would make an even greater positive impact.
This saw the company holding different charity events every quarter. In time, these morphed into a large single event held annually, a charity car show featuring unique vehicles, crafts, and a barbecue and brews.
At the beginning of the year, Boudreau’s charity committee gets together and decides on the charities that will be their year’s focus; often, these turn out to be the ones that are near and dear to staff.
Although COVID in 2020 prevented the company from holding a charity event, the next year’s one was Boudreau’s biggest to date, supporting the Autism Society of Inland Empire and Leaps and Bounds, which provides equestrian therapy for children with disabilities.
“We had 135 cars and bikes, and over a thousand attendees,” says Boudreau. “It’s a short day, and a lot of planning that goes into a single day that starts at nine and ends at two, but we were able to raise over $53,000 this year, and our entire team gets into it.”
Adding to the efforts of the staff, the company works with the City of Corona. The local fire department brings an old, restored fire engine to the show; there are kids’ areas, and local schools bring their rhythm and dancing sections in for performances.
And instead of handing out run-of-the-mill awards, company mechanics use broken mechanical parts to create unique trophies.
“It’s been great for all of our employees,” Boudreau says. “They love to participate.”
Like other businesses, Boudreau is facing challenges finding skilled workers. Despite this, the company has a three-person team dedicated to recruiting and managed to hire over 200 people last year, netting about 105.
Investing for greatness
Along with getting the right people for the job, Boudreau Pipeline continues making investments in equipment, including The Telebelt®. Resembling a fire engine ladder truck, The Telebelt has a large conveyor belt that extends and telescopes.
This makes it ideal for moving or removing stone, gravel, sand, and other materials and for performing tilt-up work on distribution centers for clients like Amazon and Target.
Along the coast of California, large underground detention systems are required to retain rainwater, allowing it to percolate back into the ground. With pipes up to 140 inches, it is not unusual for these systems to be the size of a football field.
To create these detention systems, a considerable amount of rock and other material has to be filled in around the pipes. The Telebelt allows Boudreau to feed and distribute material over and around these large systems with great efficiency.
Representing an investment of about $800,000 and requiring a specially trained operator, The Telebelt is presently being used on a large project for Hillwood Development. Intended to be a 2.5-million square-foot Target distribution center in Riverside County, California, the project is expected to keep the team at Boudreau on the job for another four to five months.
To meet the growing needs of customers, Boudreau has created several new entities over the years. In 2014, the company launched Boudreau Utility Locating, which works with engineers in locating existing utilities to aid in the utility design for new projects.
Two years later it was Boudreau Utility Services, which often works with mobile-home parks on special programs related to safety.
Then, in 2020, the company established Baseband Telecom Corporation. Working with different providers like Cox and Verizon, Baseband is helping with upgrading infrastructure fiber work, increasing bandwidth, and 5G and other Internet-related services.
Turning 25 this year, the company is working on several initiatives, including an open house for customers and vendors, and the annual car show.
Several years ago, Boudreau set a goal of being completely paperless and digital by 2023 and is in the middle of an ERP implementation and process improvement project.
In the coming years, Boudreau plans to move into new areas including Northern California on the pipeline side, and expand by acquiring other companies. “The growth plan is definitely to have more locations, find other adjacent industries and complementary businesses that we can form to give people opportunities,” Boudreau says. “We are a people company, not a pipeline company.”