Published On: Friday, 18 May 2018
Houle Electric Partner Lights Up National Stage
By Robert MacDonald
VICTORIA - Nobody was shocked when Houle Electric’s Ross McLean won the 2017 CCA Trade Contractor Award.
On March 14, McLean was standing on a stage in front of industry leaders from across Canada, being honoured as one of the most distinguished trade contractors in the country.
It was the 100th annual conference for the Canadian Construction Association (CCA), which recognizes companies, associations, and individuals across Canada that promote and enhance the nation’s construction industry.
McLean, partner and Southern Vancouver Island Regional Manager for Houle Electric, was recognized due to his many years of volunteering in various capacities.
The event, held at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, hosted over 1000 individuals from all across Canada, including general contractors, government representatives, suppliers, trade service providers, and association representatives. All of these were representing an industry valued at $73.8 Billion nationally for 2017 and 10% of BC’s GDP.
“I was very honored to be recognized at this particular event, as it marks the 100th year of the Canadian Construction Association,” says McLean. “I was honored that there were so many who came before me, and that made me to focus on the upcoming group of people who need to be mentored and encouraged in the trades.”
This isn’t the first time McLean has been recognized by his peers. Prior to this recognition, he was the recipient of the BC Construction Association’s (BCCA) Distinguished Service Award in 2016 in recognition of his contributions to the growth and stature of British Columbia’s construction industry.
All this recognition comes after years of volunteer efforts in the regional and provincial construction community.
In addition to his tenured career at Houle, McLean was the founding director of the Construction Foundation of BC, and helped launch the Project Shop Class, a good-will effort to enhance high school shop classes.
He has served as Board Chair for both the Vancouver Island and British Columbia Construction Associations, and was the first Industry Co-chair on the Deputy Minister’s Industry Infrastructure Forum.
McLean has also been involved in many of Houle’s community building contributions. Houle Electric is involved in supporting the Broadmead Care Society, HeroWork, and the Cerebral Palsy Association of BC, building a school in Haiti to train locals in various trades, and supporting various local sports teams through sponsorship and volunteer coaching.
McLean also participates in the Steptember program, where Houle challenges employees to walk 10,000 steps a day for the month of September, raising money for the Cerebral Palsy Association of BC.
“Cerebral Palsy directly affects our employees as well as a son of one of our servicemen, so it hits close to home,” he says.
McLean’s extensive volunteer work supplements a long-tenured career, a majority of which has been spent at the same company - Houle Electric.
“I’ve been employed by Houle Electric for a total 35 years, and have been an owner for over 30 years now,” he says. “I grew up on the tools as a journeyman, worked toward my red seal, and I’ve been off the tools for a while - longer than I’d care to admit.”
“One way I got to where I am today is by being sincerely interested in people and focusing on their needs - either as a customer or as a team member,” says McLean.
McLean recalls two major mentor figures who helped shape this attitude: Robert Lashin (current Houle Electric CEO) and Frank Pighin (company founder Lionel Houle’s brother-in-law).
“Robert Lashin was a true mentor and leader to me. He inspired me with his enthusiasm, as well as his ethics. He made the company a great organization to work for,” McLean says. “Frank Pighin is now retired, and he apprenticed at Houle in the 1940s. He showed me how to have a strong work ethic and integrity.”
One of the reasons McLean loves working with Houle is their people-first approach. “The customers keep coming back to us, and they refer other people,” he says. “We are now service oriented and technology driven.”
McLean describes himself as a “downside up, outside in manager.” “Downside up” means that team members on the bottom of the company inform decisions to the top of the company. “Outside in” denotes the principle that those on the outside (customers) inform the direction to the inside (the company).
This principle is helping to propel the company into the future. With annual revenue of over $200 Million per year, Houle Electric is operating out of seven different BC locations.
They have expanded their operations to include security systems, Audio Visual systems, integrations programming, and have been key planners on both the North Island Hospitals and Penticton Hospital projects.
“Even though we take on these massive projects, we still respond to the smallest calls,” says McLean.
Both the success of Houle Electric and the success of Ross McLean are the result of an attitude that puts people first.