Experienced Employees Make the Difference for New York Contractor

With a heavy focus on particularly difficult jobs, experience is especially important for Kandey Company.
Experienced Employees Make the Difference for New York Contractor
Kandey Company crew members Frank Owczarczak and Brett Finn locate an underground utility at a job site.

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Kandey Company not only embraces challenging jobs, it seeks them out. That’s been Joe Kandefer’s methodology for growing his New York-based site and utility construction business over the years — besting the competition by bidding for work others won’t go after in the first place.

A key part of tackling difficult work constantly is having experienced employees.

“The guys in the field are the most important thing we have,” Kandefer says. “We have a lot of good equipment and that’s important, but without the guys that can go out in the field and work, and get things done professionally and safely, it doesn’t do you any good.”

The company has some employees who have been on board since the 1980s, so although the experience is plentiful, Kandey Company also has to constantly think about how to replace longtime employees as they retire and still retain some of that experience.

Building experience begins at the sources the company uses to find potential employees.

“We’ll usually get them right out of an engineering school, or out of an apprenticeship program at one of the local union halls,” Kandefer says.

The employees working out in the field typically come through either the three-year laborers union program or the five-year operators union program.

“We keep an eye on those programs, we find the good candidates, and if they fit the bill, they stay on with us,” Kandefer says. “It’s like a revolving door until we catch the right people.”

Kandey then relies on its more seasoned workers to help advance young employees’ knowledge and experience.

“We’re trying to keep our demographics over a wide age group,” Kandefer says. “That way you filter the new guys in with the guys who are experienced, and the experienced guys are teaching the younger guys the means and methods. We have people who have been with the company since the early 1980s, so we try to have the younger people take over different tasks to learn through our system and keep growing as the older guys retire. We had about five people retire the last few years, so it’s just trying to keep the influx of new blood in the business.”

Beyond passing along knowledge and experience in-house, Kandey takes advantage of training opportunities offered by the union halls. The company uses the winter months to put employees through refresher courses or anything required to maintain certain certifications an employee may have. And when any new equipment is added, the company makes sure a manufacturer’s rep comes out so that all the operators who will be using that equipment clearly understand the controls and the technology.

But above all, Kandefer says, the key to having a solid core group of employees is to ensure that a knowledge transfer occurs within the company.

“We’re trying to get our mixed demographics in the field, in the office, and in ownership,” he says. “I have a son-in-law in the business and I have a daughter who just started in the business to work on the administrative end. Sooner or later — within the next 10 years — I would hope that they have a good grasp on it so I can sort of start getting away.”

Check out these additional articles about Kandey Company that have appeared in Cleaner magazine: "Positioned for the Future," "New York Contractor Seeks Out a Challenge," and "How to Win the Bid."


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