BF Joy LLC
Underground infrastructure. Under control.
Business View Magazine interviews Melissa Koehler, President & CEO of BF Joy LLC, as part of our focus on the underground utilities sector.
BF Joy, LLC, a veteran-owned, small business specializing in the installation, maintenance, and rehabilitation of underground infrastructure for the public and private sectors, has been a part of the makeup of Washington D.C. and surrounding areas since 1917. The company was founded by Bernard Frank Joy who used to haul wood, coal, ice and feed to D.C. homes via horse-drawn wagons, as well as topsoil from the Joy family farm to some of Washington’s monuments, street medians, and park grounds.
“We started as a storefront in Washington, DC.,” says Company President & CEO, Melissa Koehler, the first non-family member to run the family-owned, fourth-generation firm. “If you were to map this on Google, it would be near the shortstop at the Washington Nationals baseball stadium. From there, we began renting trucks to the local public utility company. And shortly thereafter, we started installing power distribution lines underground. We were the first contractor to do that underground work in Washington, DC, and we’ve been doing it ever since.” In fact, the company has laid underground infrastructure for many of the area’s most iconic structures, including the White House, the Capitol, the Pentagon, Nationals Park, and many Smithsonian museums, to name a few.
Today, BF Joy, LLC has about 220 employees, a new headquarters in Washington, DC, an operating yard in Hyattsville, Maryland, where the company was previously headquartered, and another new yard in Baltimore. It services the District of Columbia and most of Maryland and Virginia. According to Koehler, BF Joy’s work is split between the private and public utilities in the DMV area, including PEPCO (Potomac Electric Power Company), Columbia Gas, Dominion Virginia Power, and BGE (Baltimore Gas and Electric); and general contractors working on most of the major projects going up in the general vicinity. The company also performs fiber optic cable pulling, installation, and splicing for government agencies, including Verizon Federal.
Although one of the legacy firms in its marketplace, BF Joy bids on all projects, like all the other underground service companies. “It’s very competitive work and yet that’s only part of the equation,” says Koehler. “Most of our work requires an extensive pre-qualification process, as well. Our customers look closely at our collective experience and sometimes the specific experience of our crew members to make sure we have the competencies to do the work. They want to know they can trust us. They’re going to look at our safety program, our quality program, as well as recent, similar-type projects that we’ve performed, and they’re going to confirm our financial stability. All of those things come into play – with safety, quality, and experience as non-negotiable.”
Koehler believes, however, that, in the long run, people are the chief differentiating factor between BF Joy and its competitors. “Everybody’s got the same equipment” she notes. “The difference is the team that we put in place to service our clients. We spend a lot of time ensuring that we’re picking the right people, and then we continue to invest in them. Our team has to be smarter, better-trained, and possess a stronger sense of customer service and care for the community. We realized a long time ago the importance of building the team. The objective at BF Joy is A-Team only – a B-Team is not good enough. One initiative that we’re really focused on in the next one to two years is to further develop a robust training program where an employee can self-navigate both the online and on-the-job training. We believe in our trade; we know it’s a great option for a whole lot of people, and we will make the investments in those that choose this as a career.”
Meanwhile, Koehler also is focused on its new operating yard in Baltimore and how the company can use the new location to further penetrate the local market. “Although it’s only 20 miles up the road, it’s a whole new market for us and we’re really excited about moving into that space,” she reports. “We already have a small relationship with the public utility company in Baltimore, and we’re looking forward to building relationships with the general contractors there. Long-term, I would hope that we would be an established, sought-after, underground contractor in the Baltimore market with a solid, operating business unit there. We’re also pursuing a certification that’s meaningful in the District, which is called a CBE – a Certified Business Enterprise certification. This certification will add significant value to the work we do in the District. We’ve recently applied and are excited to see what additional opportunities it brings.”
Over the years, BF Joy has endeavored to keep up with the technological advances in the sector. For example, it was the first company to utilize a hydraulic backhoe and the first to install PVC pipe. It was also an early adopter of handheld devices for our field supervisors. Today, Koehler says that one of BF Joy’s priorities is giving its site supervisors, project managers, and superintendents more control over their job sites with a strong “real time” field management system – seeing it as a value-add for its clients, and another competitive advantage.
“The jobs are getting so complex with safety and quality issues and more regulations,” she explains. “So, we’re constantly looking for ways to have technology advance the way we do things. We want to work quicker and smarter. We’re trying out new technologies and always look for ways to innovate and improve our processes – for example, GPS with geo-fencing; we’re using dashcams in our vehicles; we’re also using an app called Whip Around for our pre-trip and post-trip vehicle inspections. We’ve implemented a new learning management system and platform. We’re also looking at business intelligence – there’s a lot of interesting software out there to explore. We’re doing everything we can to provide the best team with the best solutions to ensure excellence for our customers.”
BF Joy also supports its local community in a variety of ways. The staff participates in national campaigns, such as the United Way, the March of Dimes, and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The company also belongs to organizations that boost the professional community, including the Associated Builders and Contractors, and the National Utility Contractors Association (NUCA). “We’re a big supporter of NUCA of DC,” Koehler states. “That chapter opened in 2012 and we were a founding member along with a few other peer companies. NUCA has been incredibly valuable to us.”
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AT A GLANCE
BF Joy LLC
WHAT: A supplier of gas and power distribution services
WHERE: Prince George’s County, Maryland
DC Materials, Inc. – www.dcmaterials.com
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D. C. Materials Inc. of Maryland specializes in the business of concrete recycling, sand, gravel, topsoil, and landscaping supplies. For over 50 years, our experienced team has focused on producing high-quality aggregates for a wide variety of construction applications throughout the Metro Washington, DC area. Since our operation began, we are proud to have provided more than 20 million tons of recycled materials to the surrounding community.
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