True Partners in Progress
A General Contractor-Like Service Model Powers Expansion for Coastline Electrical Services, Inc.
When Eric DePiazzy and Keith Smith started Coastline Electrical Services, Inc. in 2003, they knew they didn’t want to be just another subcontractor, installing and repairing electrical systems; they wanted to be an integral part of every build team.
“We studied potential clients and partners, typically general contractors on commercial projects, and saw a gap in the relationships,” explains DePiazzy, President of Coastline Electrical Services. “Most subcontractors just did their job and went home. We believed we could improve the overall project quality by becoming a true partner in the process.”
To achieve that collaborative connection, DePiazzy and Smith developed their business model to seamlessly fit into a general contractor’s workflow. It’s a partnering mindset that has led to impressive growth, customer satisfaction and expanded services, while also building tight bonds amongst the company’s leaders and their employees.
Ties that Bind
DePiazzy was introduced to all things electrical while still in high school. By the time he was 20, DePiazzy had gone through his apprenticeship and also worked as a superintendent and a project manager. He got his master electrician license at the age of 24. At the time, he and Smith, a senior electrician with 20 years of experience, worked for a local company. Ready to branch out on his own, DePiazzy talked Smith into starting Coastline Electrical Services at a time that happened to be midway through the housing bubble and when the construction business was booming.
DePiazzy says, “Keith is the perfect business partner for me. He gave me freedom to focus on growing the business while he focused on managing the jobs. At the time, I talked to any builder that I could get to listen to me.”
In the first two years, Coastline Electrical Services’ jobs were predominantly residential, such as tract home development. Then it moved into small commercial build-outs. These projects included electrical work for restaurants, retail, hotels, churches and automotive dealerships and shops including multiple Discount Tire stores. Then, as word spread about their quality services, the business grew. By 2005, the duo was able to hire more staff, thanks to a growing number of satisfied customers and partners.
By 2008, the company had 30 employees, though it has retained its family feel. The family ties began with Smith, who has known DePiazzy his entire adult life. The company controller is also a family friend.
“All positions are filled by someone we know and trust, friends and family—and we treat everyone with that kind of respect when it comes to opportunities,” DePiazzy explains. “For instance, our project managers and superintendents all come up through our company as tradesmen and we provide the education necessary for success. It’s part of our core culture.”
Even DePiazzy’s mother and sister-in-law have been drawn into the business. Now retired, his mother was the first office administrator and still handles billing and payroll. His sister-in-law is the current office administrator.
“Our business is not just about price, but more about the quality of work and fairness.” Eric DePiazzy, President, Coastline Electrical Services, Inc.
Resilience and Relationships
DePiazzy believes it’s the company’s focus on relationships and the organizational general contractor-like service model that has helped his team succeed even during difficult times. Part of Coastline’s service delivery approach is that they do the job just like the general contractor. For instance, they have project managers, foremen, superintendents and technicians just like a general contractor.
“My project managers have iPads linked to a project management system tied directly to a specific project,” adds DePiazzy. “With this model, we’re more efficient and a better trade partner. Even communication and collaboration have exceeded our expectations. Often, we know what’s going on at a project before the general contractor, and we are in a position to help resolve issues before they become potential delays.”
Contracting Solutions, Inc., a design-build general contractor, agrees. Jim Quintal, President of Contracting Solutions, recently stated, “Many of the projects we have completed together were both complex in nature and had accelerated delivery schedules. Coastline Electrical handled these projects with ease.”
The more collaborative business model is key to building long-standing relationships and family-like bonds with clients and project partners. DePiazzy adds, “No matter how big we’ve gotten, I won’t give up clients/contractors that I have worked with for the last 15 years. We treat everyone the same whether it’s the guy that builds one home a year or a general contractor that builds multimillion- dollar commercial projects. Our business is not just about price, but more about the quality of work and fairness.”
Those bonds helped Coastline Electrical Services survive the recession and have sparked geographic growth for the company. From a business perspective, the organizational model is exceeding even DePiazzy and Smith’s expectations. The Virginia-based company has completed a number of residential, industrial and commercial projects that range from new custom homes, remodels and room additions to tenant build-outs, new construction hotels, restaurants, military contracts, mixed use developments, apartments and commercial/industrial lighting upgrades.
New Pipelines of Progress
DePiazzy adds, “Our goal is to establish a more stable and diverse clientele and to continue growing our reputation so that we can maintain our size through the next recession when it comes.”
He and Smith’s five-year goal is to bring in a sustainable $20 million in annual revenue in electrical work. They’ve also expanded their trade services to include a plumbing division. Earlier this year, the company won its first three contracts for plumbing services. The plumbing side is expected to add another 25-50 percent in revenue to the business annually once it gains momentum.
While the corporate headquarters remains in Newport News, DePiazzy and Smith are expanding operations. They opened a second office in Richmond in January 2018, which currently has 25 full-time employees. By the end of 2018, they’ll have another office in the Washington, D.C., area.
DePiazzy concludes, “We’re excited about the future. I’m proud of the team that we’ve put together, the work we complete and the opportunities we have for growth. We truly are a family business, wired for success.”