White Electrical Construction Company: Celebrating Excellence of Employee-owned Success

Running a successful company today is a tough feat. However, a company able to boast continued success for over 100 years is an even greater accomplishment; and White Electrical Construction Company (White Electrical) has done just that. The Atlanta-based, employee-owned company has proven to be an industry leader by providing the Southeast with a full array of high-quality electrical services.

Initially, White Electrical was a family-owned and -operated electrical contractor for many of the region’s textile mills and burgeoning hydroelectric plants in the early 1900s. Over the decades, White Electrical adapted, specializing in niche work to suit the ever-changing needs of the industry.

The company made an unusual move for a family-centered business in 1993. “The founder’s grandson, Sam DuBose, chose to hire a professional management team,” details Gary Clodfelter, CEO of White Electrical. Clodfelter brought 20 years of managerial experience from a highly regarded Atlanta family-owned electrical contractor to enhance the team at White Electrical. Clodfelter oversaw White Electrical’s transition in 2000 from a family-owned business to an employee-owned success story.

According to Clodfelter, approximately 50 of White Electrical’s 300 employees now hold ownership in the company, ensuring a deeply invested employee-base. The team’s attention to detail and self-awareness of the company’s day-to-day operations only enhance White Electrical’s highly-regarded reputation. “We want to be the best known, most respected contractor in our market,” says Clodfelter.

Now in addition to the company’s main office in Atlanta, White Electrical’s reach extends throughout the southeast with branch offices in Savannah, Ga.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Raleigh, N.C.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; and Birmingham, Ala.

Reputation is Earned Daily

The company’s broad geographic footprint relates directly back to the team at White Electrical. With the kind of work White Electrical completes and the typical clients the company contracts with, employee safety is an extremely important factor.

Clodfelter acknowledges the importance of his employees’ safety, which is why the company has had a full-time director of safety on staff since the early ‘90s; a time when such was rare for a specialty contractor, according to Clodfelter. “At White Electrical, we believe a safe workplace is our moral obligation,” he details.

Additionally, safety is key. “Every employee is expected to hold each other accountable for safety, which also helps the company sustain an Experience Modification Rating 27-percent below the national standard,” explains Clodfelter. White Electrical also boasts a 2012 OSHA Total Incident Rate of 0.74; where the national average is 4.0.

Because the company recognizes safety as a top priority when completing projects, Clodfelter expects the same of the clients in which the company conducts business. “We really are seeking customers where we can work directly for the owner and that need a company focused on safety,” he details. “Every time we work for a company that way, we get better. It’s a self-improving process.”

That in mind, Clodfelter estimates that White Electrical completes on average 3,000 jobs per year. The management team specializes in electrical construction and renovation in both industrial and manufacturing sectors, as well as equipment installation, voice-data-video design and installation. The team’s services are frequently provided to commercial facilities; however, a major portion of White Electrical’s business is in the power sector.

“Power is our single largest industry,” says Clodfelter. “We most recently worked on a new facility for Georgia Power Company that’s burning natural gas. It’s a power generating facility; generating electricity with natural gas. There aren’t any new coal fired plants going up in the south.”

White Electrical takes pride in its ability to tackle even the most complex jobs; the more complex, the more rewarding. This mentality has taken the White Electrical team to new heights.

According to Clodfelter, the company now works frequently with auto manufactures, and big-name clients, at that. Mercedes Benz contracted White Electrical to install 600 robots, which are programmed to complete welding and painting on cars in production at the Mercedes Benz plant. “That was a pretty challenging job,” says Clodfelter. Difficult or not, White Electrical’s highly-capable team delivered.

The management team’s ability does not stop there. White Electrical is also well-versed in troubleshooting and developing creative approaches. Of course, not only a knowledgeable, but supportive and present management staff only complements a team of skilled electricians. This is why when an Alabama-based Honda plant was keyed into increasing production, White Electrical was there.

Clodfelter points out that while the obvious answer would be to speed up conveyors that would cause a series of subsequent problems. “If you increase the speed of the conveyors then the body of a car won’t stay in the phosphate tank long enough,” claims Clodfelter. “That turned out to be an interesting project assessing how to speed up production of Honda’s paint system.”

The company’s collaborative efforts allow for additional areas of specialty. White Electrical is also proficient in: solar panel and solar roof installation, 15Kv power distribution systems, in-plant distribution systems, 250 Kv gas insulated switchgear installation, motor control centers and breakers, generating systems, instrument calibration, fiber optic cabling and splicing, emergency repairs and plant-wide electrical maintenance.

Connect with a Company of Owners

With such an array of specialized services provided, White Electrical’s management team possesses true passion for the business. While many electrical contractors work on sites managed by general contractors, Clodfelter and his team take another approach; yet again setting White Electrical apart from the competition.

According to Clodfelter, White Electrical prefers to work directly with the end-user. “We like to work directly for the owner,” explains Clodfelter. “About 75 percent of our revenue comes directly from the owner. The advantage there is that we become known to the owner and when we do well, we’re rewarded for that.”

Clodfelter adds the company is a process-driven electrical contractor. The staff wants to understand the process of what each client does in order to better serve individual needs. According to Clodfelter, the electricians who work for White Electrical are some of the best in the industry, and really care about that customer relationship.

White Electrical cares about its relationship with the craft labor, too. “One thing about our electricians that’s different from a lot of other places is they are employees, not contract labor,” says Clodfelter. “This means our electricians receive medical benefits, and White Electrical contributes to their retirement plans.”

Clodfelter is proud of where White Electrical stands today. “I think we’re a well-managed company,” he continues. “White Electrical is governed by a board of directors, with a majority of outside directors. I report to the chairman, and he is not an employee. Many family businesses are well-run, but as you move through generations it’s an up and down affair. Most family-managed companies don’t last through three generations. White Electrical is structured for the long run.”

As White Electrical continues to foster relationships with customers and employees, the company feels it’s important to also acknowledge suppliers. For White Electrical, this acknowledgement is done through an annual supplier appreciation luncheon.

“We invite everybody that we call our silent partners that our customers never meet,” says Clodfelter. “Suppliers are very important to us and we couldn’t do what we do without them.” The event makes for an interesting gathering. The attorneys meet our grounds keeper and the bankers eat with our scrap metal dealer. The invitation list grows every year.”

The assortment of strong relationships the company has developed over the years solidifies White Electrical in the industry. Though Clodfelter plans on retiring in three years, he has begun looking at the future of the company. In the meantime, Clodfelter is sure that customers can connect with a company of owners, as White Electrical Construction Company will soon achieve status of best-known and most-respected contractor in the industry.