The Future of Elm part 3 of 4: ‘The best way to predict the future is to create it’

By Bob Bacon

It’s not possible to predict the future. Anyone who says they can is a liar! I’m not a fortune teller or a liar, but I have a good understanding of how Elm has been successful over the last 50 years and how it will be guided into the future.

Peter Drucker, the great business consultant, said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

Elm of the future will be created by all of us and we have shown that together our future should be promising. Those of us that lead Elm will often put forward goals and objectives we hope will move the company to be better. But, it is everyone that makes Elm better by achieving our collective goals.

We have never been a company that focuses on being bigger, but we do try to find more of the right kinds of clients. What we do and how we do things is always being expanded and improved. This is a continuous process and I expect it will not change. Our best ideas for improvements, new services and clients are generated by everyone. I’m happy to admit that I don’t come up with the ideas — I just support them.

Elm has always been a company that wants to keep our customers happy and to do skillful technical work they can count on. Our clients keep calling because they know we will provide great service at a fair price. They consider our services a good value. Elm has never wanted to be the cheapest; we prefer to be the best value. Not all potential clients appreciate our value and will choose to work with other organizations. We think that is OK, because prefer to invest in safety, training, retaining great people and standing behind our quality and workmanship. This philosophy has been working for 50 years and I expect it will keep working. We prefer to be a valued organization than to be a big company.

We do lose clients. We certainly work very hard not to, but it happens. Sometimes like the paper mills we used to work for they close, or they no longer think we are the right solution. The way to think of this is what we are doing today may not be what we will need to do tomorrow. As Tim outlines in his column, this is how we evolve as a company. Not everything works out. Sometimes we don’t get the market right, but sometimes we do. We moved into the solar market with a 10KW project that was $7/watt. PV System costs are about 1/5th of that today. I have included two diagrams we use to visualize how work and projects fit in to the business development philosophy I have just described.

Early on as technical people, we thought we could do anything — the more complex and new, the more exciting it was. We soon came to the realization that doing something you had never done for someone you didn’t know was a very bad idea. Our quality was inconsistent and the financial results were usually horrible. Doing things you have done for people you know is a way better idea.

What we realized about 20 years ago was it is much better to try many small things. Test out ideas and see if they work. Prefab would be a good example. We tried it, it worked. We moved it from the gray trial area into the light green area where it was expanded and is now a valuable part of our core business. The market axis is not only where we do things, but what type of clients.

Good service and consistent reinvestment and renewal of our business is not rocket science, but it is engrained in our company DNA. It’s who we are and should keep us healthy.

Join Elm’s ‘No Sparks’ team for Runway 5K Family Fun run/walk

MARK YOUR CALENDAR!: Join Elm’s “No Sparks” team as they compete in the Runway 5K at Northampton Airport on Sunday, April 23.

The RUNWAY 5K takes place at Northampton Airport on Sunday, April 23. It’s for a great cause, supporting the Treehouse Foundation. Details on the race are below. You can learn more about the Treehouse Foundation by clicking here.

The Treehouse Foundation is a community that supports children, youth and families who have experienced foster care. There can be many hardships in life and it’s unpredictable when or how they may happen. But for foster children, it happens when they are very young, making it hard to move forward. For anyone at Elm who signs up to join team “No Sparks,” Bob Bacon has pledged to donate an additional $50 per team member.

“Growing up, a lot of people help us out along the way,” Bob said. “This is a great way for us to help others as they grow up.”

Let’s support the Treehouse mission of helping kids become valued members of a loving community, providing them with a caring place to go where they can thrive, feel safe and grow!

JOIN our team, CREATE your own, or DONATE what you can to help! Let’s race to change foster care for good!

RUN or WALK with us on April 23!

To learn more about Treehouse

To join Elm’s Team No Sparks, click below!

Be safe — winter isn’t over yet; work anniversaries and more

Management and the Safety Department would like to thank EVERYONE for a great start to the New Year. We appreciate everyone’s participation with Hazard Assessments and Job Box Talks, as well as completing all assigned Safety trainings.

We’d also like to remind you all that winter isn’t over just yet. Remain safe on the roads and always drive defensively!

In February, Elm participated in “Valentines for Veterans” for the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home. Our Holly Lurgio reports that Elm collected and delivered over 70 Valentines on 2/14! Some were mailed in, some were homemade, some came in the shape of fortune cookie and all were appreciated!

Here’s a snapshot of what greeted the Veterans:

On Feb. 1, Elm recently a Veterans’ Luncheon — part of a new program put on by Westfield Veteran Services — and provided some Elm swag for the Veterans to take home.

Veterans and their spouses are invited for a free monthly luncheon put on by the Westfield Technical Academy at their Tigers Pride Restaurant. Reservations are required and they sold out quickly!

Elm’s very own John Bridgman, a Veteran who served with the 104th Air National Guard in Westfield, represented our company at the event and had this to say about the experience:

First, I would like to thank Elm for letting me represent the company. It was a great turn out. As I walked into the school for the first time since I graduated for Westfield Vocational, I met an old co-worker that I hadn’t seen in 20 years. We sat together and caught up on what had been happening over the last two decades. 

The veteran agent gave everybody an update on coming events. She also let everyone know there is a veteran’s support center in Agawam that has free help and new winter jackets for the veterans. She thanked Elm Electrical for supporting the luncheon. Westfield Technical Academy prepared the three-course meal, which was very good. Many of the veterans were able to take home leftovers because they feed us so well. 

The Westfield high school Technical Academy band played while we ate. 

I also saw a few veterans that I served with at the 104th Air National Guard here in Westfield. One of them was Gene Theroux. He has been cleaning head stones of veterans in local cemeteries. To date he has cleaned 6,600 head stones. His group is always looking for help. After I talked to him, my former co-worker said he had signed up to help clean head stones this summer. I then introduced him to Gene. 

This was a great event that was well received by the veterans. Many came up the me to thank Elm for the winter gloves and the note pads.

Another cool thing Elm did was to deliver 80 dozen muffins from the Morrisons Muffin project onto the community. The food pantry came and picked up about 50 dozen that they were able to distribute that same day to area families. The Boys and Girls Club took several dozen to use for their before school breakfast kiddos, Samaritan Inn took 4 dozen, Common Goods Food Pantry at WSU took 6 dozen. Everyone was thrilled with the donation.

Congratulations to the following employees who are celebrating a work anniversary in February!

What’s in your toolbox?

By Tim Rzeszutek

Remember your first day in the trade? Or, maybe it was your first day as an engineer. You felt a little uncomfortable right? A little vulnerable? You stepped outside your comfort zone and what happened? You grew, you got better, you learned something new. Overall, you started to feel a little more comfortable.

For me, this was when I first started as an apprentice, then when I got my electrical license, when I started to run large projects and when I became a dad. It still happens every day and I kind of enjoy it. As an individual I “evolve” which is one of Elm’s core values and continues to add to my tool box.

Elm’s purpose as a company is, “To build a strong, effective enterprise that provides value to its customers, employees, community, and shareholders over the long term.”

How do we accomplish this? By doing what we call “Smart Growth.”

It all sounds real elegant, right? Well, the reality is it’s not always elegant, but in our defense, life is not elegant. It’s about having a plan (or, as a business, what we refer to as a “strategy”). A few years back, we were doing more and more solar and fuel cell work and were subcontracting out the medium voltage work. We were not always impressed with our subcontractor’s performance or coordination and knew that our key customers needed additional and better service for this type of work. So, in typical Elm fashion, we knew we needed to grow to be able to self-perform this work.

How did we finally make this leap? We (Keith) were quoting a project for a Cogen installation at a paper-mill and the project required the upgrade of the existing 13,800-volt incoming mill service and a 13,800-volt feeder to the main output of the cogen. When doing a proposal review with the customer, we (Keith) were first told that it was preferred that the awarded contractor self-perform this and then were later asked if we would self-perform.,, to which we (Keith) replied, “yes, we would be self-performing.”

Now, in our (Keith’s) defense, they never asked if had we ever self-performed this work before. All joking aside, Keith knew where we wanted to head as a company, evaluated the opportunity to grow and expand our current service and took the opportunities we were presented with. After closing the deal, Keith came to tell me he won a new project that I would be managing and, oh, by the way, we need to self-perform the medium voltage work. I think it ended with, “let me know if you need any help with that.”

Yes, that would be the elegance I referred to above. Now you could talk to any generation at Elm and I’m sure they have a story similar to this. Elm taking an opportunity to add to our list services based on where we want to head and pushing the boundaries on what we can do to bring value to our customers. It’s what’s made us successful for 50+ years!

Our successful entry into the medium voltage industry is not because Elm paid for some training and bought the right tools to perform this work. It plays a part in it for sure, but it’s true success is because our crews who were going to do this work took the training we provided and built on that by self-investing. These individuals had already been exposed to this work due to the fact they were managing our previous subs, but they put in extra time researching, reading and learning the ins and outs of this work because it’s what they wanted to do and had a passion to become the best at it. We believe if we continue to hire hard-working, dedicated employees willing to do the little extra that sets us apart from others and are passionate about what we do, we can be successful for another 50+ years! If you have ideas on where Elm should expand, or training opportunities we should invest in to help our greatest asset (our people) evolve let us know.

We want to fill your toolbox with everything you need to be successful!

Elm East completes work at massive cross dock distribution warehouse in Uxbridge and more

Ben Haynes checked in to update us on some projects at Elm East:

Upcoming Projects

ARCO MCP Howland – Andover, MA – 170,000 sq/ft design build warehouse – April/May start

ARCO WP1242 – North Attleboro, MA – 170,000 sq/ft design build warehouse – April/May start

Ken’s PC Hall Cups & Packaging Process Install – February Start – May Completion

  • Installation of electrical on 4 new cup lines
  • Installation of electrical on 4 new packaging lines including robots built by engineering

Ken’s Phase 2 Warehouse Addition – Dock expansion, Cooler Expansion – May Start

  • Work will include power, lighting and fire alarm

Blackstone Logistics – ARCO National Construction – Uxbridge, MA

Elm East recently completed work on an ELM/ARCO design build 607,486 sq/ft cross dock distribution warehouse. The work included 2 – 3000A 480/277V services setup to allow for 5 separately metered tenants as well as an owner metered house power distribution system to serve site lighting, exterior wall packs, common areas/amenities. Elm was responsible for the design and installation of all power, lighting and life safety systems. The facility contains 312 led highbay fixtures to provide 25FC lighting throughout the interior of the building as well as 58 site light poles and 40 exterior wall packs to achieve the desired exterior illumination. The facility will hit the market with 65 fully functional hydraulic dock levelers with provisions to be able to expand and provide 62 more dock locations. Work was completed collaboratively between the Elm East and home office to be able to meet the projects deadline and unique obstacles.

PC Hall Kitchen – Columbia Construction – Ken’s Foods – Marlborough, MA

Keeping the momentum rolling from Uxbridge, Elm began work in the late fall on a new packaging mezzanine as well as a new cup room (a cup room is where they make the dipping sauces). The team is currently in the home stretch, buttoning up lights and getting ready to turn these rooms over to our friends at Ken’s foods. The work of this project was plan and spec and included the installation of new distribution equipment on top of the new cup room as well as the packaging mezzanine, new lighting in both areas as well as fire alarm updates. The team was able to meet the clients schedule even though the general contractor created several project delays that hindered Elm’s ability to get in and “blast it out” as we like to say in the field. All in all this was a successful project and as usual – Elm exceeded expectations.

Continued Support

The Elm East team continues to support several manufacturing customers, including but not limited to:

  • 3M – Rockland, MA
  • Hollingsworth & Vose – Walpole, MA
  • Titleist – New Bedford, MA
  • Ken’s Foods – Marlborough, MA

Just because these projects smell, doesn’t mean they stink! Elm East continues to support the public waste water sector with some of the following projects:

  • Wayland, MA – RT 20 Pump Station
  • Stoughton, MA – Pump Station Upgrade
  • Holden, MA – SCADA Upgrade
  • Chicopee, MA – Solids Handling & Effluent Upgrades

Employee Spotlight: Bobby Bourdeau

Q: How long have you been working at Elm?

A: The end of March will mark one year at Elm for me.

Q: What brought you to Elm/how did you get your start here?

A: Working in construction you hear a lot about different contractors, peoples’ experiences with them and there realm of work. Elm was always talked about very highly for their professionalism, safety and job management. So when I heard from a friend that worked at Elm that they were hiring, I didn’t think twice about applying to broaden my electrical knowledge, experience and furthering my career.

Q: Can you tell us a little about your role at Elm?

A: My current role at Elm is foreman on the new West Parish Water Treatment’s new backwash building. Being a first-time, on-site foreman there’s a lot to learn throughout, between learning and understanding how to go about completing different tasks, such as completing JHAs with the people you’re working with and making sure they know the hazards at hand, and what is needed to complete the tasks at hand. Another thing is ordering material and making sure you have the tools onsite that are needed to complete a given task. My overall role is to keep the jobs moving in a forward direction and planning for future tasks and facilitating them with Elm management and general contractors.

Q: What are some of the things you enjoy most about working at Elm?

A: Some of the things I enjoy most about working at Elm is having the resources to be able to complete tasks safety, properly and timely, as well as being able to reach out to fellow employees and management with questions and getting the help and proper tools to complete given tasks.

Q: What has been one of your most rewarding experiences at Elm?

A: One of my most rewarding experiences at Elm was being told I was running a job as onsite foreman. Being a foreman has always been a goal of mine. As an electrician, we are usually one of the first and last contractors on site, being able to see the entire process of what goes into a job and the end result — in itself — is most rewarding to me.

Q: What do you like to do when you’re not working?

A: Outside of work I enjoy spending my time outdoors doing things such as fishing, hunting, camping, working out and spending time with my family and friends.

The outside of the new backwash building at West Parish Water Treatment facility.

ONE D&C constructs new office building at Piper Electric LLC

One Development and Construction partnered with Dan Piper to build a 7,000 square-foot, 2-story office building to headquarter Piper Electric LLC in Leominster, MA.

The building consists of five private offices, two conference rooms and a flex work area for employees working in both the office and the field. The first floor features a large break area, men’s and women’s locker rooms and shower facilities.

The second floor delivers an open concept floor plan with glass walled conference rooms and a large chandelier over the stair case.

The exterior of the building is a traditional brick veneered to match local architecture. Light brick accent bands and up/ down exterior lighting wrap both the first and second floor elevations adding detail and character. The main entrance welcomes customers with a storefront archway, round tapered columns and a staircase that is constructed from locally sourced granite flats.

Employee Spotlight: Steve Dias from Elm East

Steve Dias (right) — a journeyman electrician and account project manager — works out of the Elm East office in Marlborough, MA.

Q: How long have you been working at Elm?

A: I’ve been at Elm for nine years.

Q: Can you tell us a little about your role at Elm?

A: I am a journeyman electrician and account/project manager at Ken’s Foods in Marlborough, MA.

Q: What are some of the things you enjoy most about working at Elm?

A: I enjoy the challenges of the day-to-day service work and the ability to problem solve and help our customers get back up and running. I also enjoy all the time and effort that ELM puts into its workforce to train them to achieve their career goals.

Q: What has been one of your most rewarding experiences at Elm?

A: Obtaining my Journeyman’s license and becoming the account/project manager at Ken’s Foods.

Q: What do you like to do when you’re not working?

A: I have an 11-year-old son who is very active in sports (football, hockey, baseball), so I enjoy going to his games and practices to watch him and his teammates play.

Q: Do you have a particular hobby or talent that co-workers may not know about?

A: A hobby that I have is fishing. I enjoy fishing in the Swift River for trout with my son and friends.

2022 Driving Fleet Review Did You Know?…

  • Over 1.5 million miles driven
  • 61 Times around the globe
  • 121,252 Trips taken
  • 37,672 Hours spent on the road 

Thank you for your continued due diligence while driving company vehicles, maintaining the proper speed limit, securing loads and completing vehicle inspection forms.

With your input and support, we look forward to a safe and successful 2023!