Getting it Right, the First Time
Jatec Electric has been providing electrical contracting installation service in Edmonton since 1984. The company has an established reputation as a leader of excellence in the installation of underground utility.
Jim Allen, owner of Jatec, started his business in Alberta with a friend, during the aftermath of the recession in the early ‘80s. Many businesses at this time were scaling back hiring and making cuts to administrative costs, and Allen and his associate were part of the “catastrophe of the recession”. Some of the commercial clients that the two friends had worked for approached them, promising them business if they ever went out on their own. Allen says that the start was a little slow: “We had $200 between us to start the business, and off we went. We had a vision, just not the capital. But we had a line up of clients that were ready to do business with us.” Jatec has since been providing Albertan clients with sound utility installations, and the business has flourished – Jatec now employs about 75 people.
Allen says that the company has dealt with the ebb and flow of the economy fairly efficiently, and has been responsive to changes in the competitive landscape of Jatec’s business. “We started as a commercial contracting firm. But as time went on we were able to attract senior level engineers, which led us to change our strategy. Now, we’re strictly committed to underground high voltage work and our commercial work is nil.” Things have changed, and so has the internal culture at the company.
Business based on trust
“We used to have an ad hoc way of running things here. But we built more and more relationships with clients who wanted more, and there came a time when we had to stop, and ask ourselves: How can we be a better business?” Allen adds that employees know their roles in the company, and take pride in ownership of their responsibility, which makes them a more committed staff ready to take on any challenge. “The secret to our culture is that everyone takes pride in the business and where they are in the company – whether it’s human resources or out in the field. We are a business based on trust.”
The company prides itself on its service to its customers, making sure they do every job with the same level of commitment. This way they build trust and ensure the customer comes back a second, and even third time. “Customers do business with us because we communicate with them. Whether it’s good or bad, we’re up front no matter what. Nothing frustrates a customer more than inconsistency or the inability to communicate. And often concern for cost comes second to good customer service. It’s the little things that count.”
A growing clientele
Jatec deals almost strictly with Western clients, not venturing outside the province. They are currently involved in several projects with developers who need them for wiring and erecting streetlight poles in sub-divisions. They also work with city utilities and have bigger contracts with municipalities.
The company continues to demonstrate success in Edmonton, Leduc, Sherwood Park, Stony Plain, and Spruce Grove. They recently have been called upon to take on infrastructure projects, which should help as the economy shifts into a decline situation. “The government is planning to pour money into infrastructure, which could very well be where many future contracts come from. But the private industry is quite nimble during these shifts, so no matter what happens we still expect lots of work from the private sector.”
Health and safety come first
Allen assures that health and safety is of paramount importance to Jatec. “We’ve done really well in terms of our health and safety regulations. We achieved 100 per cent on our safety audit last year, which is a tremendous accomplishment for us. But it wasn’t an easy go, we had to transform our work environment to adapt a philosophy built on safe operations. It has definitely helped our bottom line to put safety at the front of business.”
Jatec maintains a Certificate of Recognition (COR) from the Alberta Construction Safety Association.
The company is also considering drug and alcohol testing to go with their safety training – a trend Allen says is sure to pick up. “Many organizations take cues from the bigger shops, and some of those companies are testing employees and incoming contractors for drug and alcohol before they even step onto the work site.” He adds that this type of testing is warranted, as 47 per cent of all workplace accidents that lead to injuries usually involve alcohol. Many companies have started to engage in post-accident testing.
Testing for substances has become increasingly important for firms that want to drive to zero accidents and harm in the workplace. This may be another way that Jatec evolves its business. Either way, the company plans to always “do it right, the first time.”