From four to 300: the story of Arizona's top electrical contractor...
What began as a small family-run operation in a garage has become one of Arizona's best places to work. Indeed, DP Electric now works with major clients, including some of the state's main healthcare providers and government agencies.
From four to hundreds
Formed in 1990, electrical contractor DP Electric covers a diverse array of industries, from Renewable Energy to Mission Critical.
When DP began, it was operated by four men in a garage in Arizona. Although it's still family-run, it has now grown to a company with more than 300 employees.
Vice President, Scott Muller, has been at the company for 23 years. He explains that the plan was always to expand. "The growth of the company is based on the growth of the people,” he says. “We anticipated doubling every five years, and it's basically done that."
Some of DP's first projects were in the telecommunications field, installing electrical distribution into data centers throughout Arizona. These were mission critical projects that required DP’s assistance for both the design and the build, as they were carried out while the buildings were operating 24/7, that could not see a disruption in power or service.
The company has worked on healthcare clinics, hotels and government buildings. This has earned many successful relationships with some of the most well-known national developers and contractors such as DPR Construction, as well clients like the American Red Cross, RYAN Construction, Arizona State University, and government agencies including the US Department of Agriculture, the Department of the Air Force, and the Arizona Department of Health Services.
In the last year alone five of its projects were up for Arizona Commercial Real Estate awards (AZRE).
An especially impressive accomplishment is the CyrusOne data center. This site broke national records in 2014 when the 120,000 square feet data center took just 107 days to complete. From ground-up, a job this scale would usually take twice the time.
This is a project DP is particularly proud of. "Our mission critical work on the big data center projects will have approximately 250-300 electricians onsite,” Muller adds. “These are very large, very fast-paced, very demanding projects that we have been involved with for about four years and going strong."
DP is currently working on Sky Harbor International Airport's Terminal 3. "That's about a $13 million job,” Muller confirms. It is a technically challenging project within an operating, international airport. DP has been involved with the airport on and off for about 20 years now."
Technology and speed are a key to success at DP. All field managers, as well most of their lead men, carry tablets and smart phones to facilitate real-time communication. Each device is loaded with the most current construction software and remote data storage. “Cloud” services allow our field managers to clearly and quickly communicate with project engineers, architects, and supervisors. The goal is to create and share blueprints, contracts, schematics, and other vital documents in the building information modelling (BIM) process whenever necessary.
Health and safety
Health and safety is an area of pride within the company. It boasts impressive statistics: 750,000 consecutive hours have been undertaken injury-free since 2014.
"Safety is the primary goal," Muller says. "We have three safety managers who continually watch our projects. If the project is off site we'll station a safety representative out there on that particular site. We drug test everybody in the company on a random scale all throughout the year."
One of the advantages DP has is the calibre of its staff. When asked what stands DP apart from the rest, Muller says "definitely our people, we try to look forward, and retain the best in the valley”.
"When you have a project that needs clarity of pricing, as no architects or engineers are infallible when bidding a project, our team looks for the missing or incomplete scope of the plans and exposes them, rather than waiting for the contract and submitting change orders."
The company is able to boast a tremendous 80 percent repeat business rate. Muller explains why: "DP is not a subcontractor, we are a trade partner. Our people stay involved in a project from pre-construction all the way to the close.
“It's grown to an area where we are the sixth top rated general contractors in the state of Arizona right now, rated as one of the best places to work by the Chamber of Commerce."
The company empowers its staff. "We're one of the top paying electrical companies in Arizona,” Muller continues. “We're an open book with the financials, so that everybody knows where their projects are and where the money is. We give them a sense of ownership within the company."
This extends to training too. "We retain people by continuous training,” adds Muller. “We work with them on skills in the areas that they want to grow in. Say you have someone who comes in as a journeyman and he wants to be an estimator in our pre-construction department, or a project manager - we give him or her tools and the time to achieve those goals.
"We have training for every level from the first year apprentice in the trade through the apprenticeship program—which is four years," he explains. "We do this through a professional program that we're associated with through the Arizona Builders Alliance Group, which is a huge player for our company. They have training from everything up to the executive level."
Work in the community
DP not only looks after its people, but extends its altruism into the wider community. The company is involved in many charitable endeavours. The executives, including Muller and DP's owner and founder Daniel Puente are on the boards of several charities, including children's organizations CASA Academy and Future for Kids.
Among the others it supports is the Ace Mentorship Program - the Architecture, Construction, and Engineering initiative that's offered as a free after-school program giving mentorships to high-school age students interested in the design and construction industries. DP regularly hosts poker tournaments for the charity - last year's event raised over $7,000.
Such involvement in the community is all the more worthy given how competitive Muller says DP’s market is.
"Our company alone has spawned off four other companies from our employees that grew and grew, and decided to go off on to their own. So we train and build, we don't care if somebody's coming in to learn the business to start their own company, as long as they produce for us, and they're honest with us, we're going to help them build to their dream."
This year has brought phenomenal growth. From last year's revenue of $45 million, Muller predicts 2017 will yield around $63 million.
With this amount of profit he doesn't see a need to move into other states at the moment. "There's enough work for us to do here for the foreseeable future," he says. "Arizona is one of the fastest growing regions in the US. Right now we have around 150 people moving here a day. There's enough growth in this valley for us not to have to go into the other states."