“Sequoyah” may look like an alternate spelling for the species of majestic trees that grace the landscape of the western United States. Actually, Sequoyah was the name of a Native American who is the only individual ever known to have single-handedly invented an entire “alphabet” (more exactly, a “syllabary” made up of 86 characters) that was adopted by an entire nation. Sequoyah devoted many years to the goal of producing a written form of the Cherokee language. In recognition of this noble accomplishment, “Sequoia” trees are named for him.

While it began in 1988 as Rainier Electric, Sequoyah Electric, Redmond, Wash., was later renamed in honor of one of its two founders, who was of Cherokee descent. For this month’s coffee break, we sat down for a chat with Sequoyah Electric’s Chris Nichols, the vice president of special projects.

As we travel around the United States, stopping to interview some of the country’s top-rated electrical contractors (ECs), we frequently see plaques and trophies marking prestigious accomplishments of many kinds. But this is the first time we have encountered an EC celebrated as one of the  “100 Best Places to Work For 2015” among all of the companies in its home state.

A leading business magazine in Seattle ranked Sequoyah Electric among the top 100 in their large company category for 2014–2015, based on confidential surveys collected from over 10,000 employees in firms of all sizes and compiled by an outside research organization. We are especially proud in winning because of the 10 important criteria by which the entries were evaluated: communication, performance standards, training and education, workplace environment, responsibility and decision making, hiring and retention, leadership of executives, rewards and recognition, benefits, and lastly, corporate culture. All of these criteria match up with our core business philosophy.

Read More
We often see ECs who, no less than sincere about their company’s core principles, produce a lengthy mission statement that nobody in the company, including the person who wrote it, could ever recite by heart. Sequoyah Electric sums up its basic philosophy in three punctuated words in the tagline of the company logo.

“Performance. Trust. Value.” Those are the pillars of our belief. Our passion for innovation and dedication to serving our customers and community is apparent in all we do. We believe in our vision: “Recognized leader through performance, trust and value.” It inspires us to achieve more and serves as the guide for how we operate our business now and how we will carry it into the future. Our mission is equally as simple and powerful: “Building relationships through customer focused solutions.” We live and work by these values in our everyday business.

We regularly preach to ECs in this column about the wisdom of building a customer base, developing recurring revenues, and enjoying predictable profitability from a strategically focused, service-centric approach to electrical contracting. That seems to be what’s going on in a large part at Sequoyah Electric.

I could not agree more about the importance of developing and maintaining a solid customer base. Every contractor has their way of doing business and has some semblance of a customer base. But we think it takes more than those two bare-minimum factors. Our goal is to build long-term relationships that bring our customers maximum value. Building relationships applies to our field and office employees equally, and we support all of those relationships by being trustworthy and performing time and time again for our clients. It almost seems cliche that our vision and mission tie so closely with our culture and our approach.

However, the reason they are so similar is because we wrote them based on our culture and established core values. Often you see companies going about it in reverse, trying to design a culture around stated values that they thought, well, at least sounded good.

We never ask the contractors who we interview here to give away any of the fine details or secret recipes to success that may have gotten them to where they are today. But we constantly hear from grateful readers who tell us how something in a certain story inspired them to modify some aspect of their company’s operating methods that ended up making a big difference.

Our secret? Really, it is the way in which our employees truly care about our clients. It is our culture of encouraging continuous improvement, burnishing our brand and solidifying our relationships. Project and client performance is the key. We seek to outperform expectations, bring creative solutions to complex problems and put the best team on the field every time we are given an opportunity. If there really is a secret, it is never letting your guard down in any of these critical areas. We need to do our best every single time. All the time. It’s a tall order, but it’s what counts the most—consistent performance every single time.