The next generation for Roy I. Snow, Inc.
by Toby Haber-Giasson
Roy I. Snow learned the electrical trade by working in the shoe shops with his father, Roy A. Snow. With a thriving shoe industry and little competition, Roy I. founded his own company in 1947. Together with his wife Gertrude, they built up their business to support a dozen employees.
The Snows taught their kids a strong work ethic. Son Dan recalls, “My dad put me to work at age 10, washing fixtures in the warehouse.” Later, Dan studied Electrical Engineering in college, and worked alongside his father for 30 years.
Dan’s wife, Debbie Snow, insists he was shown no privileges. “He got the dirtiest jobs; he earned his way.”
“It was a gift,” Dan says of his dad’s professionalism, “to learn from the Master.”
And Dan learned other lessons from his father, how he often helped customers during tough times. “He would accept pickles, a chicken or a pie for payment.”
Dan and his wife Debbie formally took over the company in 2005. Debbie sought to bring Roy I. Snow, Inc. into the modern century. And so an office that still had rotary phones moved from manual bookkeeping to online accounting software, and ditched beepers for cellphones.
Roy I. Snow, Inc. is on top of the latest industry rules and regulations, as well as new market opportunities. When the shoe industry dwindled, they fostered a more diverse customer base. The company ventured into commercial the bulk of their business. National accounts- which currently number over 20- form a lucrative revenue stream. Residential work, which many electricians don’t want to take on, comprises about 20% of billings.
Despite all his success, Snow didn’t forget the lessons from the Master about helping others. Behind the scenes, says Steve Wallace, CEO of the YMCA of Auburn-Lewiston, soft-spoken Dan Snow is a “rock star.” As a YMCA board member, Dan has donated thousands in pro bono work caring for the Y’s historic building, but he’s done so much more than wiring.
“Actions speak louder than words,” Wallace reports. “Dan has spent countless hours securing sponsorships and scholarships, and looking over plans for the new YMCA and different scenarios for our Outdoor Learning & Education Committee. I can’t even begin to quantify the value of his experience and contacts in putting together these plans.” Wallace adds, “Dan’s been the genesis behind us starting a new Health & Wellness Pathfinder’s Club for teens. We just received a $25,000 grant to start the program this fall! Without Dan’s push, this program wouldn’t be starting.”
Wallace is surely not the only one who is grateful that “Dan Snow is a man who chooses to make a positive difference, instead of just talking about it.”
Unlike his father, who retired at 83, Dan Snow has been looking forward to moving on. He wanted to see his electrical business continue, but none of his three daughters had gone into the field. Yet eldest daughter Danielle and youngest daughter Des both wanted to see their parents’ business continue, too. Both also wanted to move back to Maine.
Desiree was working in local government as Assistant to the Manager for Hoke County, North Carolina, where she became a jack of all municipal services. Two managers came and went while Des ran schedules, budgets and several departments. But last summer, Desiree moved back to Maine to become Operations Manager for the family business.
“When Danielle said, ‘Let’s run the family business together,’” recalls Desiree, “I jumped at the chance.”
Danielle Snow had gone to Silicon Valley 20 years ago, penetrating the vortex of the tech industry. As a senior executive at Grand Rounds, she helped establish their East Coast office in Lewiston last summer. She will head up Grand Rounds in LA while serving as Board Advisor to Roy I. Snow, Inc., and visit GR headquarters in San Francisco monthly.
Dan Snow will retain his title as President until he retires at the end of the year. Until then, he provides invaluable mentorship, sharing his life-long business experience with the next generation.
Wired for success
Desiree is going “all in” on the family business, running operations in the office and working toward licensure. Already an Electrician’s Helper, she is taking courses for a Journeyman Electrician program. She will then undertake four years of supervised fieldwork under a licensed electrician before she can sit for her exam.
This could be a good move both for Desiree and for the firm. Economic forces have made it hard to find an electrician nowadays. Since few young people are going into trades, the average age of an electrician is close to retirement age. As baby boomers retire, there aren’t enough young workers to take their place. Because of the shortage, the trades pay much better than first-time jobs for college grads.
“I only wish I had gotten into it sooner,” laments Desiree, “I worked here in my early 20s before I went to college for graphic design- and I haven’t ever used that.”
But Debbie Snow thinks the company is definitely benefitting from Desiree’s training in graphic design. “Her creative flair shows up on our website, our business cards and forms. They have a more cohesive look with the company’s new branding.” (See their logo on bottom of article).
Any weekday will find Desiree in the office fielding phone calls from A to Z: contractors, residents, and inspectors. She has to decide what the problem is, and who can solve it. Then she makes the schedule for these “trouble calls” and coordinates workers who will do the service.
Generally it’s first-come, first-served, with the exception of an emergency. If someone is without power, or without heat in winter, that call gets bumped up.
Larger-scale work comes in via Requests for Proposals (RFPs) and from GCs (general contractors). Desiree also scours the internet looking for government and private projects to bid on. To work up a quote for a national account, a Journeyman or Master assesses the situation and diagnoses what needs to be done. Desiree gets pricing from a supply house and makes a quote for the client.
Another stream is homeowners preparing for sale. “When someone wants to sell their house, their wiring may need an upgrade, like if they have an old knob and tube system.”
Weekly, Desiree holds professional development meetings with all the electricians on safety topics. She also conducts weekly meetings with her father and her two estimators, to go over projects in the bidding and construction phases.
Every good electrician surely needs an outlet, and Desiree Snow has some very interesting ones.
Back in North Carolina, Desiree skated with the Rogue Rollergirls league. One night, they did a promotional event with a men’s wrestling company. She said, “I can do that,” and started training to wrestle. In 2008, Snow began a five-year reign as Mia Svensson. Women’s wrestling was a novelty on live shows, so Des was competing through Ring Wars Carolina almost every weekend, while still skating with Rogue Rollergirls. Not every Electrician’s Helper is a two-time champion of the Allied Independent Wrestling Federation women’s title, in 2012 and 2013.
Since returning to LA, Desiree has joined the local roller derby team, the Androscoggin Fallen Angels. How does she find the time? “It’s difficult to fit in,” she admits, “but I needed an outlet just for me.”
Bird on a wire
Perhaps Desiree was uniquely qualified to make a most unusual service call to ground and wire a light– in a swimming pool. The pool was partly drained but Des was in the water up to her chest. She needed both hands to do the work, so the supervising Master Electrician made a makeshift swing to suspend her. The city inspector was there, too, admiring her amazing feat!
Daughter Danielle had a different path back to the family business. Growing up, Danielle liked going out on jobs with her dad. It was fun to tag along and tour construction sites. But her passion was debate. Her coach at Lewiston High School was Joan Macri, now Associate Director of College for ME-Androscoggin.
“She was all curls and shy,” recalls Macri, “but she had a mind like a steel trap. Danielle was underestimated as a debater, but she could take them down- and take them down hard.” Macri remains a lifelong mentor and friend.
Danielle started college at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, in Massachusetts. Her grandparents still owned the family business at a time when Grandma Gertrude required extensive medical treatment. A loyal Snow, Danielle took a year off from school, to fill in until she returned.
After this period, Danielle returned to college, this time at University of Maine at Orono, studying Communications. She stayed there to pursue a Master’s degree, focusing on intercultural conflicts. It was there Danielle met her husband, Derek Ribbons, a software specialist. After graduation, Derek had an offer from Hewlett Packard in California, so the couple moved to the San Francisco area in 1999.
Tech was booming in Silicon Valley in the late ‘90s, and Danielle was the right person at the right time. She joined a start-up called TiVo, a digital video recorder manufacturer, and spent eight years there, moving up to Senior Manager of Consumer Applications.
Husband Derek says Danielle is a great operational problem solver, but her magic power is working with people. “It’s a hard skill, practiced with mutual respect and transparency.”
Danielle left TiVo for Vudu, Inc., an internet movie delivery service. Beginning in 2007, she served as Director of Service Operations. While there, she earned an MBA online, thinking it might allow her to help the family business someday.
In 2011, she landed at Reputation.com, an internet image management service, cofounded by internet entrepreneur Owen Tripp. As leader of the Reputation Defender product line, Danielle made quite an impression on Tripp. “You can get the impression that Danielle is soft-spoken,” cautions Tripp, “but she’s strong, savvy and incredibly principled.”
In 2013, Tripp asked Danielle to join his new venture, Grand Rounds, which connects patients to specialty care. As Senior Vice President of Patient Care, Snow directs a medical care staff of RNs NPs PAs, records, and all sections that manage patients virtually.
“Danielle is committed to getting work done but looking at how we do the work, for our employees and our patients,” says Tripp. “After meeting her parents, I see where it comes from.”
Those very parents, Debbie and Dan, are now looking forward to retirement. They have big plans for grandchild time at their camp, as well as travel, golfing and gardening.
The legacy of Roy I. Snow, Inc. is riding on new shoulders now. It seems the Snow family likes their “mom and pop” business just fine.
“I can’t envision working for someone else now,” says Desiree. “That’s a driver in keeping it successful, because I don’t want to work for anyone else again!”
Roy I. Snow
11 Library Ave, Auburn • 207-782-3734