Michael Blanchard – Vision Electric & Plumbing
Michael Blanchard gets a charge out of building long-term working relationships.
As the owner of Vision Electric & Plumbing, he’s cultivated plenty of them with agricultural producers for more than 25 years. Now as the company adds commercial electrical and plumbing to its service offerings, he says he and his team always think long-term as they bid on new projects throughout Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, South Dakota and beyond.
That means the first electrical or plumbing job Vision Electric & Plumbing does for a new customer should lead to a long-term relationship and continued work, Blanchard says.
“There are so many companies wanting to build partnerships, not just work with the low bidder. They see the value of that, and we do, too,” he adds.
By diversifying its services during the COVID-19 pandemic, Vision Electric & Plumbing has increased its annual revenues to more than $30 million, and Blanchard says this year’s goal is to earn as much as $40 million. By 2030, he hopes the company will have as many as 700 employees and $250 million in annual revenues.
“We’ve had success because we live up to our core values of a customer-first approach with a can-do attitude,” Blanchard says. “We live up to the values of doing the right thing with a positive approach because we know relationships matter.”
Taking on the jobs
Blanchard founded what would become Vision Electric & Plumbing in 2001 after building control panels for a pump manufacturer and installer in Iowa. He says the company’s willingness to take on difficult jobs paid off almost immediately as he worked with Iowa Select Farms, the state’s largest hog processing operation, to pull wire for one of its facilities.
More than 20 years later, Vision Electric & Plumbing and Iowa Select Farms continue to work together on new construction or expansion projects. Blanchard says owners Jeff and Deb Hanson share his and the company’s values and have become like family to him.
“They’re great, down-to-earth people that have built this huge company in their lifetime—which is a pretty amazing task in itself,” he adds.
Blanchard also explains that electrical work in agricultural production is unique for a few reasons, whether it’s hogs, cattle or poultry. The biggest reason is automation—Vision Electric & Plumbing’s electricians need to understand how to wire the automated gathering and processing systems without engineering drawings and plans that are part of commercial and industrial construction.
Also, hog production sites such as the one Vision Electric & Plumbing is wiring for Iowa-based Ag Property Solutions in Watertown, South Dakota, are built for year-round use with inside temperatures ranging from 70 to 80 degrees, depending on the season. Keeping hogs indoors helps keep pork lean, Blanchard explains, because they’d need more fat to live outside during the winter.
The new South Dakota facility, which will house 8,500 sows (and their litters), is also unique because it is all steel, a construction method that’s being adopted in the industry because of insurance concerns about flammable structures and the cost of replacing them and the livestock.
Making new connections
While Vision Electric & Plumbing has provided expertise and customer service so well that it gets 80 percent of the agricultural production jobs in the region—often without bidding on them—the COVID-19 pandemic required the company to diversify into commercial and industrial work.
Pork production facilities were shutting down, not expanding, and Blanchard hired Dan Moeller as a commercial division manager to oversee job estimating and planning.
Blanchard’s son-in-law, Marcus Pitts, linked the company with The Opus Group, a national family of commercial real estate development, construction and design companies headquartered in Minneapolis.
Ironically, it was the plumbing work led by project manager Dan Needles at the 302,300-square-foot River Road Logistics facility in Council Bluffs, Iowa, that impressed The Opus Group. Blanchard says the company had never installed plumbing in a warehouse facility.
Since then, Vision Electric & Plumbing has provided plumbing and electrical installations and wiring in three more facilities. Blanchard says the company’s flexibility in meeting two-stage work schedules is crucial, too.
“We do the outer shell wiring early on in the project, and then as soon as there’s a tenant into the space, we do the finish work,” he says. “No other company can meet the short deadlines like Vision.”
Blanchard says Vision Electric & Plumbing had long established its customer-first core values but has been working with tools from consultants at Entrepreneurial Operating System for about five years to refine them and provide a framework for embodying them.
“Writing the values down and ensuring they’re shared makes running a business much more enjoyable,” Blanchard says. “To live it helps get rid of daily hassles most businesses have.”
Diversifying into commercial and industrial work has increased revenue, and the company is also expanding its locations.
In August, Vision Electric & Plumbing will move into new headquarters in Clive, Iowa, tripling the building size from 11,000 square feet to 33,000 square feet of office and warehouse space. The company has a second office in Fremont, Nebraska, and will open a new office in South Dakota later this year. That will help the company reach new customers and support current partnerships in South Dakota and Minnesota while Agriculture Operations Manager Mike Collison taps into opportunities as agricultural production rebounds.
Blanchard says he enjoys traveling with his wife, Karla, and spending time with family, which includes eight grandchildren.
“Karla is a huge factor in the success of the company because she is such a settling influence who balances my life,” he says. “In my day-to-day, I spend a lot of time developing new relationships if they fit our core values. The right partner gives you a restful and solid home life that’s so important to have.”
View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. VII 2023 Edition here.
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