We pride ourselves on manufacturing processes that secure the growth and sustainability of artisanal production for the future by innovating modern techniques that enhance and refine the hand-built approach as opposed to replacing it. And at the center of all of that? Our unparalleled craftsmen, whose talent, energy and commitment to teamwork drive the whole operation. Here, four of our brightest stars share their inside accounts of what it’s like to work at The Urban Electric Co.
On The Urban Electric Co. manufacturing philosophy...
Jonathan: Everytime I think or talk about The Urban Electric Co., these words come to mind: modern design and current aesthetics.
Desiree: The daily pursuit of perfection.
Tim: Evolving is one of the words I always come back to. Agile is another, because that’s something we’ve been working really hard on for many years—developing a culture of agility to enable people to flow to the most value-adding place in the organization at any given moment. Flow is also key: People should be flowing, products should be flowing, all in a seamless motion so that we’re able to meet and exceed expectations. That’s why we’re here.
My: My three words? Made to order. What we do isn’t about stocking light fixtures; it’s about building every piece from scratch, a process that begins only after a customer orders it.
Tim: Most people don’t operate on a made to order, custom basis—and that’s true both in the lighting industry as well as in the realm of modern manufacturing in general.
Desiree: Our clients appreciate that something is made just for them, no one else.
On the meaning of Always Proud. Never Satisfied.
Jonathan: Always Proud. Never Satisfied. is our internal motto, and it means everything to me. When I build something, I want it to be the best that I can possibly build. When I look at my creations, I see art pieces, not just lights. Fifty years from now, a hundred years from now, I want to have delivered something so perfect and distinct and personal that you could pull the Cosy or Factory or one-of-a-kind fixture that I built out of a pile and say, ‘That is Jonathan Jenkins’s work. You can tell by the crisp edges, the beautiful welds, the fact that there are no kinks or flaws that he made that light fixture.’ That’s my Always Proud. Never Satisfied. moment.
Everything in here, everything that comes out of Urban Electric is a piece of artwork, whether it was built just once or recreated in multiple variations a hundred times, whether it was built by one person from start to finish or part of a larger collaboration that helped bring it to life. Each of our efforts represent an art form, and every skill is essential—from designing and engineering, to the person who takes the time to select parts and materials and then ensure they are dent-free and stay that way for the duration of the project, to crafting, finishing and shipping.
Desiree: I couldn’t agree more. Each piece carries many different fingerprints, and every single step is equally important. There is no part of what we do that gets special or singular emphasis, because if we did that we would certainly let other aspects of our work and the process slide. And nothing can slide here, as far as we are concerned. Everything has to be in top form and executed at the highest level.
Tim: I would say that the Always Proud part of our motto starts internally and then radiates out in layers: We are first proud of who we are as a team because that’s how we measure our work, our ability to deliver what we say we are going to deliver and the success of our internal culture as a whole. We’re proud of who we are in the community, and how we engage and represent ourselves there, as well. And, of course, we’re really proud of who we are to our clients and to the design world.
But like Desiree said, none of that changes our constant pursuit of improvement. If anything, the things we’re proudest of are the things that drive us to do and be more. Each and every one of us comes to work knowing that we could be doing something different today than what we did yesterday to continue to elevate those experiences that define our business, from the way we interact and learn from each other to how we engage with our clients.
The Never Satisfied part is all about continuously evolving and improving and growing together.
My: When we hit our quota at the end of the day and that little green light comes on to let us know that we’ve made our numbers, it is the absolute best feeling. I’m not necessarily satisfied, but I am gratified. There are people outside of the company who depend on us doing what we need to do so they can do what they need to do—put lights in homes, in restaurants, in hotels—and we never forget them.
On mentorship and professional development...
Jonathan: My proudest moment was when this guy on my team who I had been working with and mentoring for three years built a fixture from scratch and the only question he asked me throughout the entire process came at the end, when he turned to me and said, “How does it look?” It’s hard to describe a feeling like that. This was someone who had had a bit of a slow start, and his advancement and accomplishments are indicative of the entire Urban Electric culture to me. We look out for each other. We’re proud of each other. And we work together on things, never against one another. We compete with ourselves only, but in the best and most positive way. Even when I find myself getting a little jealous watching someone execute a skill or do something in a new way, it’s only because I’m impressed and inspired and recognize that I don’t know how to do what they do.
Desiree: Or you see them do it faster, or in a smarter way than maybe you’ve been doing it, and it’s a revelation and helps reshape your own approach the next time.
My: Exactly. We feed off of each other’s creative energy. We also cross-train to develop multiple skills, which naturally creates efficiencies. And the learning flows both ways—newcomers bring fresh eyes and perspectives. It’s all about the big picture and doing whatever is going to make us better.
Tim: In 2017, Dave challenged us to reflect on the why of The Urban Electric Co.: Why do we do what we do? In 2018, we set out to articulate that mission. When the final version was shared, I can honestly say it was a day I’ll never forget. What resulted was a core value statement about removing the barriers between people and possibilities. And that, to me, defines everything about us, from our apprenticeship program which fosters career advancement and long-term loyalty to our commitment to recognizing and highlighting superlative work and employee behavior to continuously refining our customer experience to serve our clients at the highest possible level.
On always raising the bar...
Tim: We really never think about our competitors in the traditional sense because, in our minds, we don’t have any. And I’m not being condescending when I say that; it’s simply that we are creating new standards of craftsmanship and building a company and a culture of modern American manufacturing that just doesn’t exist anywhere else. Now, we do borrow some insights and aspects of our approach from companies who specialize in lean manufacturing, but only to the extent that those efficiencies also enhance our ability to create the heirloom-quality products, expand our customization offerings and maintain high-touch relationships with our clients. What we’re doing here is so different than what any other company, any other industry, is doing that it’s less about comparing ourselves to another organization and more about pioneering our own methods and fine-tuning those as we go along.
Jonathan: The ability to learn on the job, to constantly be learning, even if it means experimenting and failing, is what makes this place so special.
Desiree: I love that every day we come in here and are presented with a new opportunity and a new challenge, not just to create something new but to do it better, to be better, than the day before. We still look back on everything we’ve done and appreciate and recognize our successes, but going forward we are always focused on improving and elevating. There is always room to grow, and that notion inspires me each and every day, all day.
Interested in learning more about the UECo. culture? Head over to our Culture & Careers page.