Almost anyone living anywhere across the globe can recognize New York City. But for Tony Mann ’86, that recognition is personal. That’s because his company, E-J Electric Installation Co, is behind some of the city’s most iconic buildings and much of its infrastructure.
“My kids joke that everywhere we go in New York I’m pointing out my projects,” Mann laughs. But “everywhere” isn’t an overstatement.
Not only does E-J Electric maintain all of the traffic signals and street lights in Manhattan, but it’s also behind many of New York’s cultural centers, such as Yankee Stadium, Barclays Arena and the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. And when the city was hit by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, it was E-J Electric that rebuilt its electrical grid.
Mann’s grandfather took the helm of E-J Electric in 1912, roughly 13 years after the business was established. His father followed suit by becoming the president and CEO. Though Mann studied electrical engineering at Tufts University and spent many summers working in the field for the company, he wasn’t certain that he would follow his grandfather or father’s footsteps.
“It was always in the back of my mind since we talked about the business at family dinner tables,” he recalls. Still, it wasn’t until he attended Kellogg and worked at Proctor & Gamble between years of business school that he fully recognized he wanted to stay in the family enterprise. “That's when it clicked that I really wanted something entrepreneurial and E-J was an opportunity for me to go out on my own and not be in a large Procter & Gamble-size corporation. Plus, the excitement of seeing things built is fun.”
He joined the company as a project manager and eventually worked his way up to managing all operations. He crossed a milestone when he ran a large project for the Long Island Railroad. It was complicated and challenging, but ultimately helped him grow and cemented for him that he was in the industry where he belonged.
Mann has several reasons to be proud of his tenure at E-J Electric — he’s continued the family tradition of running the oldest independent electrical contractor in the country, has overseen an expansion from 200 to 1,600 employees and has advanced the company in several new markets — but he’s proudest of helping to facilitate the teamwork he learned during business school.
“Kellogg taught me how much success is tied to the whole team,” he says. “We've built a group that is the source of our success. I tell everyone that our assets go home at night because our assets are our people.”
Kellogg also stressed a holistic approach that Mann brings to every project. “We need to look at the whole environment and the impacts of all the decisions that we make when driving the business forward,” he says, adding that watching how projects make a difference in people’s everyday lives is a significant motivating factor. Plus, not every dad can show his children one of the world’s most well-known cities when they ask about his job.
“I go around New York and there's project after project that we're working on now or have worked on in the past,” says Mann. “It’s exciting to point that out to my kids.”