While serving from 15-20,000 active customers in the Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia areas at any given juncture, John Holt, President of Holt Electrical Contractors, Inc., takes care of issues related to his team of master electricians and professional electrical technicians, attends to the details of his contracts and deals with customer service issues as the head (for the past 25 years) of the company’s residential service division.
In addition to the high level expertise provided by his electricians and staff and a firm commitment to quality installations and dependable services, the Gaithersburg based executive takes pride in the fact that he is carrying on a powerful legacy of a true family run organization. His brother Paul, a master electrician, is department head of the commercial division, while their father James, a master electrician, continues to focus on selling and servicing generators and designing and building systems.
James, followed in his father (Carroll) and grandfather’s (Frank Holt) footsteps in the electrical field. After his service in the Navy, where he gained expertise working with generators, James was responsible for diversifying Holt’s services to include commercial and residential customers and generator sales and service. James was also the president of IEC Chesapeake (Independent Electrical Contractors Association in 2012-2013 and serves on the Montgomery County, Maryland Electrical Board.
“It was James’ idea to make Holt a more balanced organization, so that we could expand beyond just being a commercial electrical contractor,” says John. “He had the vision to realize that we needed to be involved in different aspects of the industry, keeping the focus on our core mission while also diversifying to provide residential services, a full service department, generator division and building and designing.”
Other Holt family members are longtime employees of the company as well. “I love coming to work every day and seeing my parents, brother and brother in law,” John says. “So many people go months, even years, without seeing their family members. But the family atmosphere we have created here extends to our beloved employees. Many of the guys I work with in our service group have been here anywhere from 24 to 40 years and we consider them extended family members. Their longevity is a tribute to the culture of our company.” And given our family ties to the military, Holt continues to support members of the military and received the Patriotic Employer Award in 2014.
In addition to providing customers with state of the art customer service, John (along with Paul) has the great privilege of bringing the Holt Family’s legacy of electrical services into its fourth generation and third century. James Holt’s grandfather Frank was involved in the laying of underground lines and bringing electricity to street lights and homes in D.C. in the late 1800s; research shows that the Edison Electric public utility conversions from gas started in 1881 and the second phase via Pepco was in 1896. Though John cannot be specific of the dates of his grandfather’s involvement, the August 2013 listing for Holt Electrical Contractors, Inc. in Washingtonian’s “Contractors You Can Trust” said that the family has been in the electrical business since 1898.
In the early 1900’s, as the conversion from gas to electric became the standard in more street lamps and homes, and the need for home appliances and electrical devices grew with emerging technologies, the company transitioned into more commercial applications that were used in both commercial and residential use. John’s grandfather Carroll Holt was involved in the management of large construction projects and mainly commercial enterprises.
John grew up in the family business, keenly aware of the legacy and the importance of his role in being part of the Holt legacy. But electrical services were more than simply an obligation – it became his passion, as well as an ongoing opportunity to spend quality time with loved ones. “As soon as I was old enough to drive,” he says, “I became a truck driver, bringing materials and equipment onto construction sites. I worked in that capacity every summer when I was home from college.”
After attending college in Boston, he returned to the Metro D.C. area to run the company’s service department; he later began running the residential division. When Paul graduated with an engineering degree, he began running the commercial division. These have been the Holt Brothers’ domains since 1990.
Over the years, John has helped build Holt Electrical Contractors’ reputation as a powerful resource whose influence extends beyond its growing core area that incorporates the DC Metro area, northern Virginia and Maryland suburbs – from Baltimore, MD to Fredericksburg, VA. Its generators division, a dealer for top manufacturers including Onan and Kohler, has been called to go into hurricane devastated areas, including the New Jersey area impacted by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, Delaware, West Virginia and North Carolina. Holt’s emphasis on training and the vast expertise of its team earns them many referrals from other electrical contractors who lack the resources to complete certain jobs.
“I’m proud to say we have highly skilled people here at Holt, factory trained on multiple systems,” says John. “My dad saw into the future where a diverse set of electrical skills would be required. If you have a tough problem, you need a versatile electrician with brains and expert knowledge and capability to solve it. That’s what our niche is. We also have specialized tools and equipment that other contractors lack, and have staff members trained to use them. That’s why other companies rely on us to help them.”
In addition to Holt Electrical Contractor’s hands on emphasis on excellent customer and employee relations (aka “people skills,” an area John excels in), John attributes the company’s growth to its focus on quality and focus. “We’re not out there as a jack of all trades, and master of none,” he says. “We’re electrical contractors, electrical industry experts. We don’t do plumbing or install air conditioners. A lot of companies in the service arena advertise that they do all these things. That’s because they don’t have longstanding employees like we do, they have subcontractors who possess those skills. We are involved in a lot of areas of electrical contracting, but that is the core of what we do – and we stay on top of all the new technology and training that is available to us.”
According to John, another of the key elements that has kept Holt thriving well into the 21st Century has been making sure those resources keep pace with rapidly emerging technologies. In 1990 when he launched his career with Holt, for instance, many people living in older homes lacked air conditioning. Customers needed their electrical systems updated to accommodate modern air conditioning systems. There were also a lot of old houses that had been built with aluminum wiring that needed updating, correcting and rewiring for safety purposes.
The dawn of home computers, cell phones, larger televisions and the fast pace of internet technology has also been a huge factor these past 20 plus years, and Holt has wired thousands of homes to accommodate the extra power these systems require. “It’s all about increasing capacity,” says John. “Say a home built in 1950 had a 100 amp panel. Now with air conditioning, flat screen TVs, phone charging and computers, we have to ‘heavy up’ to 200 amps or greater with a larger panel.
“On the commercial side of the business, we have wired many structures from the ground up, from warehouses to golf courses, office buildings, retail stores and restaurants,” he adds. “We also rewired the entire waterfront of D.C. We are always keeping an eye towards the next big thing coming down the pike that will involve major electrical work. Electric cars are the latest growing trend, whose sales have almost tripled in the past two years compared to ten years ago. People have charging stations in their homes, and many municipal parking lots provide charging stations. For both commercial and residential customers, solar panels and energy management systems are other big things that represent the next phase of the electrical business.”
A foundational part of Holt Electrical Contractors, Inc.’s customer service aesthetic is their 24-hour emergency hotline, with real live human beings that are knowledgeable about various issues - most likely, a member of the Holt family. They are there to help and, if need be, to connect the customer in crisis to on-call technicians at any time of day or night.
John says that while there is always a great deal of pressure involved in living up to his family’s great legacy while helping expand their business to meet greater demand and 21st Century technologies, it is his pleasure to ensure that the visions of his father, grandfather and great-grandfather are respected and built upon.“The Holt name was good before I got here and it needs to be that when my time is done,” he says. “My family, team and I accomplish this by going out of our way to take care of our employees and customers. If you take care of those two things, making sure the customers are happy and that our cherished employees want to stay for years and grow along with us, everything else takes care of itself.”
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