Hard-Wired for Service: JM Electrical’s founding family relies on communication and keeping things simple
Paul A. Guarracino
Title: President and founder, JM Electrical Co.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, Wentworth Institute of Technology, 1972
Shortly after starting his own company in the mid- 1980s, Paul Guarracino walked into his first big job and almost walked right back out.
The task was repairing a Copley Square hotel’s heating system. His first sight was a frozen fountain in the lobby.
“I was debating whether I should have just left then and there,” said Guarracino, founder and president of Lynnfield-based JM Electrical Co., who declined to identify the hotel in question.
He stayed, and JM Electrical finished the repair in time for the hotel’s soft opening that spring. Delivering on that first job cemented the first of many client relationships that would take Guarracino’s automated systems and control-wiring company from two to 150 employees, run today with help from his three sons and his brother.
Its latest projects include the Partners HealthCare’s headquarters under construction in Somerville’s Assembly Square, work on Millennium Tower in Boston’s Downtown Crossing and a recently finished installation at Vertex Pharmaceutical’s dual waterfront towers. The company generates revenue in the range of $25 million-to-$50 million per year, he said.
“The company even today gets its work the same way,” Guarracino said. “We get it by focusing on customer service and, a lot of time, scheduling. We’ve never missed a scheduled completion date in 30 years.”
Guarracino’s oldest son, Matthew, remembers growing up with guests at the dinner table who he later discovered were also customers. His father blurs those lines, attending clients’ weddings and anniversaries, really “more like friends than business relationships,” his son said.
“He really places a ton of value on those relationships, and realizes they’re essentially the lifeblood of the company,” Matthew Guarracino said.
Guarracino also instilled in Matthew and his two brothers the same values that influence the company: communication (“always reply to a customer’s phone call that same day”); personal attention (“treat every job like it’s your only job”); and follow-through (“if you promise something, make sure you deliver on it”).
“We have a saying, ‘You’re only as good as your last job,’” Matthew Guarracino said. “In a quiet way, he tends to earn people’s respect, and he does it less by talking and more by action.”
Paul Guarracino believes his company’s success in attracting talent comes back to this strong reputation; he said JM Electrical adheres to the tradition of mentoring hires. Some have been with the company for 20 years, first as apprentices and now serving as mentors for new hires.
Turnover is low.
“We take that very seriously,” Guarracino said. “We have to create basically our own workforce.”
Guarracino remains adamant that JM Electrical knows its place and owns its niche.
“We don’t want to be everything to everybody,” Guarracino said, comparing JM to a general contractor. “We just want to focus on what we do, and do it well for our customers. And that’s what’s served us for 30 years.”
The Guarracinos expect continued demand, particularly from pharmaceutical companies, colleges and universities.
“They seem to continue building, and can’t seem to get those buildings up fast enough, which is good for us,” Matt Guarracino said.
As with any family business, the question of succession planning is top of mind. The process is underway, but Paul Guarracino has yet to tip his hand on who’s in line for the top job once he retires.