There’s something to be said for consistency, and it’s one of many reasons this Rockford-based specialist has enjoyed a long and prosperous history of serving local customers.
There’s something to be said about consistency when looking for success stories in the business world.
Yes, changing with the times is necessary to stay up-to-date and relevant. But the comfort of knowing exactly what you’re getting is also a big draw for customers. Which is why Wilson Electric Company in downtown Rockford has survived and thrived.
Still housed in the modest two-story brick building on Madison Street that it’s called home since it opened in 1919, Wilson Electric is a staple in northern Illinois. It provides electrical work for all kinds of customers, including commercial business, healthcare, industrial and residential ones.
“Anything from multi-million dollar buildings to outlets at a house,” says Louie Maffioli, the company president.
And he should know. Maffioli has been with the company for 44 years.
“I came to work here as a first-year electrical apprentice in 1973, and worked in the field as an electrician until 1986,” he says. “The owners at that time asked me if I wanted to come into the office and do estimating/project management. I thought that would be a new challenge and I’ve been in the office ever since. I was promoted from estimator/project manager to vice president of electrical operations to president.”
And with those many hats, Maffioli learned how to keep Wilson Electric rolling.
“We don’t try to be the market leader by bidding every job,” he says. “We’re selective in the projects we bid, trying to match up our strengths to certain projects. We try to be the market leader in quality, as we pride ourselves in the work we do.”
Another key to success is finding the right employees, he says.
“I think we’ve made good decisions with the people we’ve brought into the office as management. That makes a huge difference in how a company is built.”
Vice presidents Steve Drummond and Paul Maffioli are partners at Wilson and have a combined 70 years of experience with the company. That includes both field experience as electricians and office experience as estimators/project managers.
Another partner is CFO Joel Kortemeier, who has been with Wilson for 24 years. He echoes Maffioli’s mantra on success.
“I think going the extra mile, making sure it’s done right and not taking shortcuts is a big part of our success,” Kortemeier says. “We pride ourselves at Wilson on our quality of work and I think our customers understand and appreciate that work ethic.”
Wilson Electric employs 45 to 50 people with a staff of 10 in the office. This includes a service department that consists of eight workers who take on most of the smaller projects.
“We have construction electricians that go out on the larger jobs that can be as long as a year-plus,” Maffioli says.
The electricians may be Wilson’s best form of advertising due to the close relationships they build with their customers.
“Guys in our service department consider the people they work for as their own customers,” Maffioli says. “They give them their card and say ‘Call me day or night.’ Our service electricians know their customers’ facilities best and realize a direct call to them is the quickest and best solution for a customer’s electrical problem. They’ll take care of it. And that makes people feel very comfortable.”
Maffioli likes to think that form of customer service is sort of a pay-it-forward attitude born from the way the company treats its employees.
“We care about our employees and that message is getting out,” Kortemeier says. “Most of our employees have been here a long time and they stay because we treat them well and we care about them.
“The word on the street is that Wilson is good place to work,” Kortemeier adds.
Through his years at the company, Maffioli has learned many lessons.
“One of the most important lessons is trying to match our company’s areas of expertise to the projects we bid,” he says. “We make a strong effort not to bid jobs that have a high risk factor.”
“You can overextend your resources,” Kortemeier adds. “Know your abilities and know where you stand financially on what you can and can’t do. We can’t take on a $10 million electrical job. We don’t have the resources and we know that. Some may think bigger is better, but we haven’t really expanded our sales force, over the years, knowing that two or three more sales guys won’t guarantee more success.
“You have to find your niche. Sometimes doing that may mean having a little slower year in revenues, but it’s better than going out on the ledge and getting overextended. That’s what helped us in the long haul.”
It’s a working plan that has kept Wilson Electric rolling for 98 years.
“Long hours and hard work, that’s what it takes,” Maffioli says. “It doesn’t grow by itself and it doesn’t sustain by itself. You’ve got to put in a lot of time and effort. I think that’s what we’ve done and we’ve done it well.”
Emil Maffioli and Paul Wilson started Maffioli-Wilson Electric in 1919. They stayed in business together until around 1925, when Emil was no longer involved. Louie Maffioli says there’s no clear record as to why Emil got out.
“It’s just a coincidence that I came to work here,” Louie says. “I didn’t know the history of the company until I started in 1973. I found out then that five brothers came over from Italy and Emil was a son of one of them, so he is a distant cousin.”
And the Maffioli name will live on within the company when Louie retires.
“We have a succession plan with the management team,” Kortemeier says. “We all have several years of experience, so when Louie leaves, it’s not a bunch of new people trying to figure things out.”
Louie’s brother Paul has been an estimator/project manager for 17 years and Steve has been an estimator/project manager for 24, so the future management team has been intact for several years. Louie’s 35-year-old son Nik has been part of the Wilson team for the past five years working as an estimator/project manager.
“So we’re getting some younger blood in here as well, which brings a lot of technology ideas to the table just because of his generation,” Kortemeier says. “It’ll give us those fresh ideas. It’s a good mix.”
The Wilson Electric Co. legacy of success is well-positioned to live on.
“I think the future is really good,” Louie says. “We have a good reputation. We do good work for a fair price and all the people that work with me think the same way. I can see the company continuing its success for many years to come.
“I’m proud to be part of this company,” Louie adds. “There were some real forward-thinking and hard-working people that came here before me and I’ve been able to continue that legacy.”