Homegrown Skills and Service
Ray Martin leads Gedney Electric with integrity and focus on communication
Picture a young boy skating on a pond in White Plains, New York. He watches a nearby electrical contractor’s shop, intrigued by the energetic employees, shiny trucks and ladders. He decides then and there that someday he will be an electrician. His parents, Ray and Patricia Martin, instilled a positive work ethic in their son, Ray, and his sister, Patricia (Milk). They both played competitive sports and held down paying jobs during high school. That level of commitment prepared him for a successful future.
A decade later, that young man, Ray Martin, started a five-year apprenticeship with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Fellow electrician and mentor Liam Sullivan told Ray back then, “It is time to move on. You can’t stay here.” Liam had recognized that Ray’s ambitions and skills qualified him to be more than a worker. And while Ray loved his work, he felt as though there was no more progress he could make as an electrician. He was also frustrated with the temporary nature of the work.
Ray went on to get his electrical license and started work with Solar Electric Systems Inc., owned by Peter Borducci. Ray says, “Peter Borducci taught me everything there was to know about the business. I credit my success to my father, Ray Martin, Peter Borducci; and lastly the experience and character I picked up on my own along the way.” He adds, “I truly hope I will have the same positive effect on people that cross my path as they have had on me.” In May 2000, after five years with Solar Electric Systems, he decided to start his own company, Gedney Electric.
Gratitude for Hometown Support
Ray Martin loves White Plains—and never left. He even named his company after one of his favorite streets in town, Gedney Way. “I am thankful and humble to the people of White Plains for their support and business over the years,” Ray says. So many people have helped him, especially as he first started out. Dan McLaughlin, of Benfield Electric Supply Company, supported him in good times and bad. Fortunately, early on he established a relationship with Patrick Smith of Orange Bank and Trust. Through them, Gedney Electric has been able to operate at a much higher level. He says he would be remiss if he did not make mention of his wife of 26 years, Julia Harnedy Martin. “She has always been my greatest supporter and fan.”
From the beginning, he realized that running a business was about more than knowledge and skill of the trade. He tells his employees, “The whole thing is not about electricity; it is about communication.” Service work is 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and if someone from Gedney can’t get to a customer immediately, Ray calls to tell them, “You are in the rotation.” That means Ray is aware of the situation and will get to it as soon as possible.
“It is important to face tough situations head on with honesty and integrity,” Ray adds. “We will return for a problem with as much fervor as we had while trying to get the job in the first place.”
Ray takes pride in his workforce. “We are a family,” he says. “It is my goal to look out for them on the job and off. Everyone has life problems, and we try to help in any way we can.”
He also believes that there’s a specific position for each employee—a job for every level of experience and ambition. He started solo in 2000, but his team has grown over the years and now includes a satellite office in the Bronx, New York. He currently employs 13 electricians, helpers and office workers.
Ray’s right hand man and Superintendent, Henry Majano, put himself through college at night while working days at Gedney Electric. He attended Westchester Community College and received an associate degree in applied science and computer-aided drafting (CAD). He is now Lead Estimator and Project Coordinator.
The main Gedney Electric crew includes 15-year employee Foreman Mario Umanzor, as well as Ruperto Calixto, Helber Hoyos, Agusto Ramirez, Vinnie Fragoso and Abner Gonzalez, who have each been with the company for five to 10 years. While Ray says that he would hate to lose any of them, he likes seeing people prosper. “If they chose to leave for a better position, I would shake their hand and wish them luck, knowing I had helped them achieve their dreams.”
Communication is Key
Communication is a two-way street. As a member and President of Westchester County Licensed Electrical Contractors Association (WCLECA), Ray learned to both listen and speak comfortably in public. Carmine Lippolis, Owner of Lippolis Electric and past President of WCLECA, brought him into the organization, introduced him to many contacts and helped push the trajectory of Gedney Electric forward.
“The first time I had to stand up in front of a group of my peers, I was shaking. I knew I had to be knowledgeable and speak from a position of accuracy,” he says. But he progressed. “Everyone should take a public speaking or acting class to help with self-respect and leadership skills. Life is about constantly polishing yourself. When it comes right down to it, self is the only competition you truly have.”
His work with WCLECA required strong knowledge of Robert’s Rules of Order, and he also learned to guide people with diverse backgrounds, experiences and ambitions in the same direction. He says learning to listen taught him to pause and let complex situations play out.
When it comes to dealing with his own employees, Ray selects people who are willing to learn and who don’t balk at doing difficult tasks. He tells potential employees up front what the job entails. Ray says, “All new hires are told to be ready to use a shovel and handle some concrete.”
Gedney Electric rarely hires subcontractors, preferring instead that employees cut penetrations or dig trenches for conduit as needed. By keeping resources in-house, Ray explains, the company is able to ensure quality control and prevent scheduling problems.
Supporting Local Organizations
Ray has developed strong relationships within his lifelong community. He often helps out elderly neighbors or a homeless shelter that needs a little help with repairs. Many people just can’t pay, and Ray could not leave them in good conscious without heat or electricity. He supports essential workers by donating to White Plains Public Safety for both fire and police, as well as the White Plains Tigers Youth Football League. Another cause near and dear to his heart is the Blythedale Children’s Hospital in Valhalla, New York. “They do important work helping local children,” Ray says.
He joined The Blue Book Network when he first went into business but found that he was juggling so much that he wasn’t utilizing it as well as he could. More help in the office has allowed him time to reconnect. “My mentor, Lee Casseday, is very involved. He calls me every week and puts me in touch with people I should know.” Ray likes the personal connection that helps build relationships, and he looks forward to meeting people in person after interacting only virtually.
A Turning Point
In 2013, Ray was focusing on mostly residential and small commercial jobs. The United States had been slowly coming out of the Great Recession, and the timing was right to change the direction of the company.
Gedney Electric was offered a large project by Lighthouse Living, a real estate development company specializing in multifamily housing in Westchester County, New York. After looking at the project, which included the main feeds, elevator and fire alarm systems, he turned it down. But then he said to himself, “Ray, you can turn this down and wire houses for life, never stepping out of your comfort zone or you can give it a go, no matter the cost. You can deal with either—success or failure, knowing you have tried.” (He later discovered that three people had recommended him based on their knowledge of his integrity and professionalism in previous jobs.)
He felt that he would be wasting his time and talent if he didn’t seize the opportunity that this project offered. He also knew that he would drive by the building every day, and it would serve as a constant reminder of the missed opportunity if he didn’t accept the job.
Since then, he frequently points out the completed building to his only son, Liam, named after his mentor. “We made that,” Ray tells his son. Even though his son was young, he wanted him to recognize it as a testament to a major turning point for what he and the business was to become. Since that first successful collaboration, Gedney Electric has worked with Lighthouse Living on seven additional buildings.
Building a Legacy
Ray has worked hard to build Gedney Electric over the past two decades. He says, “At times, it felt like you were building the plane as you’re flying it.” Since the early days, as he slowly added trucks, tools and manpower, he has known that he wanted to leave a legacy for his son. During the past few summers, in fact, Liam has worked in the warehouse, the field and office. Liam currently attends St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, studying business.
While Ray would love for Liam to take over when he retires, he doesn’t want to push him into a career he doesn’t want. He knows that his son has a good sense of individualism and integrity and will chose his own path wisely.
And while things have changed since the late 1980s when Ray started his apprenticeship, he looks toward the future knowing that Gedney Electric will provide professional service with honesty and a personal touch for years to come.