Metamorphosis and Success: MONA Adapts to Changing Marketplace

As one of the nation's largest electrical firms, MONA Energy and Technology recognizes that energy restructuring can make or break the industry. "We see deregulation as the most exceptional business opportunity and threat of our lifetime. How we embrace this fierce competition will determine our future," says Mark Mona, president and CEO of the namesake company ranked 43rd among the nation's largest electrical firms by Engineering News Record (ENR), with more than 3,000 customers and nearly 1,200 separate maintenance contracts on an annual basis. Beginning in 1995, Clinton, Md.-based MONA began to develop its strategic plan to deal with deregulation's challenges in a way that would allow the company to continue to serve its end-users. First, the company began researching the potential effects of deregulation and its accompanying threats and opportunities. Mona became active in the legislative process in nearby Washington, D.C., to ensure the company fully understood deregulation's effects. During this time, Mona shared what he learned with the company's senior management. In 1997, MONA Energy, LLC was formed to provide energy and business solutions for customers ranging from efficient technology systems to analyzing power consumption and representing customers in the purchase of power. This newest operating company is actively providing energy consulting, engineering, and innovative solutions in conjunction with MONA Electrical Service, Inc. "Our goal is to provide performance contracting for energy efficiency solutions such as energy management systems," says Bob Wilson, chief operating officer (COO). Since its incorporation, the company has been making presentations to customers to educate them on how deregulation might affect them and to demonstrate how MONA could provide energy solutions in the deregulated environment. Mona has also been speaking on the subject at national conventions for such organizations as the Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA). Today, the company offers its customers various consulting programs, including energy asset management, performance-based contracts to reduce energy demand at customers' properties, real-time metering services, and the installation of energy management equipment. "For the future, we plan to integrate energy services into our core businesses and will both team and compete with the energy companies entering the market," Mona says. "We see ourselves as our customers' source for integrated electrical, energy, and building technology services," adds Wilson. Humble beginnings In 1966, Vincent "Cap" Mona completed his JATC apprenticeship training in Clinton, Md., and with no financial backing, a single truck, and a vision, began his own company. "He wanted to provide more than commercial electrical installations. He was determined from the beginning to provide personal service and innovative solutions for his customers," says son Mark Mona. Twenty-five years later, annual sales had grown to $25 million, and MONA employed about 300 people. The company had already begun to focus on diversifying its services, and was divided into two separate companies; MONA Electrical Service, Inc. and MONA Electrical Construction. Also by this time, the second generation of family members was assuming operational leadership. By 1992, that transition was complete, and Mark Mona was appointed to his present position. The recession experienced by the industry, coupled with a family crisis, led him to return the company to its core values. He developed a new vision for the future. "It was then that we established a mission statement, a new leadership and management team, and a new management style," explains the younger Mona. By 2000, the company will have $62 million a year in total sales, 600 employees (480 of whom work in the field), and 130 service vehicles. The emphasis on diversification led MONA to branch out into four separate operating companies under the MONA Energy & Technology parent organization. Four distinctive operating companies The utility deregulation effort pushed by MONA Energy LLC is merely one of four branches within MONA Energy & Technology. MONA Electrical Service, Inc., was established in 1986 as an offshoot of the original MONA Electric Co. "The change was driven by the need to allow the new company to focus on its separate service customers," explains Mona. MONA Electrical Service provides electrical service and maintenance in existing buildings and facilities. The company's electricians are divided into operating teams that focus on servicing and maintaining power and lighting systems and generators, providing switchgear maintenance, power system testing, infrared imaging, power quality testing, and disaster recovery and advanced metering services. The company has 225 employees and 130 service vehicles that provide 24 x 7 emergency service. Sales are projected to reach $21million in 2000. MONA Electrical Construction, Inc., was also part of the original firm before being separated in 1986 into its own operating company. With $27 million in annual sales and 275 employees, this company provides new construction services for large electrical and building systems installations in world headquarters facilities for such operations as MCI, Sallie Mae, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). "MONA Electrical Construction installs traditional electrical systems and provides building technology solutions, including fire alarm, life safety and security systems, building automation and data communications systems, and intelligent building systems," Wilson said. MONA Technologies, LLC, was formed in 1993 as part of MONA's effort to broaden its presence in the building controls technologies market. "The future of building control systems will be driven by the global technological revolution of convergence," predicts Mona. This trend will ultimately create highly intelligent buildings that will be Internet based and capable of remotely communicating with and controlling facilities. Originally part of MONA Electrical Service, Inc., the company provides complete building technology infrastructure solutions, including building control technologies, fire and life safety systems, and security and data communications systems in existing facilities. MONA Technologies projects 2000 sales between $10 million and $12 million and will employ 100 people on staff and in the field. Account managers deal directly with customers and coordinate the resources of all four operating companies to present seamless, single-source solutions for customers' infrastructure needs. "It is the breadth of the services we offer that enables us to provide these integrated solutions," says Wilson. What makes the company truly unique, however, is that all the operating companies are dedicated to serving their customers' electrical, energy, and building technology systems needs for the entire life cycle: from pre-construction and design-build services to consulting, financing, installing, managing, maintaining, and systems operation. The evolution of the operating companies has been a natural development of MONA's focus on diversification and innovation. "The revised leadership structure that began in the early 1990s stimulated the flow of new and creative ideas that naturally developed into an environment where innovation could flourish," Mona said. It was that new leadership that also developed a team approach to the company's reorganization and a renewal of its core values and commitment to the community. Giving back "As a family company, we believe it is our responsibility to give back to the community," Wilson says. The centerpiece of the company's community values is its participation in the "Christmas in April" program. Cap Mona founded the local county chapter of the program in 1989. The goal is to renovate and repair the homes of low-income, elderly, and handicapped homeowners. The work may include painting, carpentry, plumbing, electrical, cleaning, or yard work, and is completely voluntary. MONA also adopted a local high school in 1992. Assistance from the company has included collecting Giant Food Store receipts for free computers, speaking to students about entering the workforce, providing space for guidance counselor training, offering four computer systems, and placing ads in the school's yearbook. In addition, MONA has participated with Bishop McNamara High School since 1993 in a yearly internship program for nine accounting students. The interns spend one week working in the accounting department during normal working hours. They are assigned a mentor, and are given an initial interview, an exit interview, and a performance evaluation. Future plans The company plans to expand its consulting and program management services as its customers' national presence grows. "Our goal is to work more on a business level and to consult on our customers' programs as they relate to their electrical, energy, and building technology systems," he explains. It will also offer more consulting and design-build services, and strive to become its customers' single source for solutions. "Incremental changes alone will not make the company a champion of the future. Our success will be measured by our ability to improve, innovate, and stretch as a complete organization," Mona adds. Use of the Internet to deliver information is a critical element in MONA's strategic plan. The company's Web site at regularly provides the latest company news and items of interest. Other information available on the site includes a review of available services, company history and philosophies, the ability to solve billing problems via e-mail, and price quotes. MONA also posts a service request form on its Web site. "The form can be filled out online and a truck is dispatched to handle the request within our normal two- to four-hour guaranteed response time," says Wilson. MONA foresees having each one of its service mechanics in the field with his or her own laptop, affording them the ability of logging onto the company's main server through wireless telephones. "This way, they can easily get information on prices, generate proposals, or get any other kind of information the customer needs," says Mona. The company is also using the Internet to recruit employees. "Recruitment over the Web is fast replacing newspaper ads," Wilson observes. MONA Energy and Technology is committed to providing high-quality services that use innovative engineering solutions to improve people's lives. "Our ultimate goal is to understand, support, and advance our customers' missions, stay true to our core values, and to become a world-class energy and technology organization," Mona said. In redefining the company's place in the market, Mona said: "We want to avoid defining ourselves for the future as an electrical contractor, and instead seek to position ourselves as an energy and technology company." Driving Home Training and Safety "We recognize that everything starts with the principle that each individual is fundamental to our success," says President Mona. The company has established two primary programs through which it provides training and education for its employees. The MONA Academy was established in 1993 and features 13 required courses and five electives on topics including problem solving, planning, motivational techniques, estimating, safety, and cost control. Since its inception, the Academy has hosted more than 200 classes with about 1,000 students total. The "Share the Knowledge" program offers one-hour seminars that provide employees with a forum for exchanging information. The program also welcomes outside speakers, such as vendors that introduce new products to the MONA team. MONA also offers in-house seminars addressing topics such as computer software, a 50 percent tuition reimbursement on pre-approved classes for full-time employees, outside seminars sponsored by building industry organizations, and open access to their library, which houses videotapes, audiocassettes, and books on topics ranging from assertiveness training to conflict management. The MONA safety program also stems from the company's core value of caring for its people. Its goal is to establish a system for safety procedures, educate employees of proper safety procedures and safe work methods, and have zero time lost due to injuries. "We have more than an economic incentive to keep our workplaces safe. Primarily, we have a moral responsibility to ensure that no MONA employee is hurt or injured," Mona says. BREMER, a freelance writer based in Solomons, Md., contributes frequently to Electrical Contractor. She can be reached at (410) 394-6966 or by e-mail at

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