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Leader keeps Victor firm charged for growth

His family has played a prominent role in Michael Tambe’s professional life.
Not only do members of his immediate family work in his business, Tambe Electric Corp., but his father provided the opportunity for Tambe to start in the electrical contracting field more than 40 years ago.
Tambe, now 64, is president of Tambe Electric. The Victor-based business ranked fourth on the most recent Rochester Business Journal list of electrical contractors and has roughly 150 employees.
"It’s been a good run," he says.
Tambe graduated from East High School in 1965 and went to work with his father, the late Angelo Tambe. The elder Tambe had turned part-time electrical work into a full-time job after the optical grinding company he worked for in Rochester moved to the West Coast.
The younger Tambe says he cut his teeth doing residential electrical work in Rochester.
Tambe incorporated Tambe Electric in 1973, originally running the operation from his home in Webster. It remained in Webster until the 1980s, when he bought property in Victor.
The site is not far from Tambe Metal Products, the business owned by his brother, Frank.
Tambe Electric’s facility in Victor began as an 8,000-square-foot building, but today it is nearly twice that size.
Tambe is not surprised by the company’s growth.
"I always thought I would be successful, but I didn’t know when or how," he says.
It was in the 1980s that Tambe began working with local contractor John DiMarco of the DiMarco Group on a town house project in Brighton. The two hit it off and continued working together on additional jobs.
"As his business grew, our business grew," Tambe says.
Tambe Electric’s projects include residential buildings of multiple units, nursing homes, institutions, stores, warehouses, housing and offices. The customers mainly are in Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse, but some are in Pennsylvania and at Fort Drum in Jefferson County.
The business is divided into commercial, industrial, service and telecommunications divisions. Of those, industrial and telecom are growing fastest, Tambe says.
The company has provided electrical construction and tele-data services for local customers, including Rochester Institute of Technology, the Highlands at Pittsford and the U.S. Postal Service’s Henrietta facility.
Tambe declined to disclose annual sales but said there has been year-over-year revenue growth.
While the industry was affected by the global recession, as well as the loss of stature of Rochester’s traditional Big Three-Bausch and Lomb Inc., Eastman Kodak Co. and Xerox Corp.-the general contracting business continues to grow.
"Rochester is resilient," Tambe says. "The competition is tougher and we have to travel farther now for business, but we keep going."
Tambe also boosted business by networking and meeting other people in the field. The job at Fort Drum, for example, came out of a chance meeting during a golf outing, and Tambe Electric has been working at Fort Drum for the past eight years.
"The older you get, the more people you meet," Tambe says. "In this business, face-to-face time is important."

On the job
Tambe usually begins his day around 8 a.m. and starts each Monday morning with a sit-down meeting with his service managers. The group discusses what happened the previous week at the business and what is coming up.
Family pictures, including one of his wife and daughters, are prominently displayed in Tambe’s office. A picture of former President Ronald Reagan also is on display. Tambe, a self-described patriot, calls Reagan an inspirational figure.
Tambe usually leaves the office around 5 p.m. but often attends, or plays host to, social events with customers in the evening.
He said he relies on his team to do its work and help the business grow.
"I’m anything but a micromanager," he says. "I try to empower people, but I let them do their jobs. It works well for me."
That hands-off style is something Tambe admired about DiMarco. He describes DiMarco as a visionary and role model.
"I liked his management style," Tambe says.
Ultimately, a company’s success comes down to its employees, Tambe says.
"You can be the most brilliant person in the world, but if you don’t have good people, it doesn’t matter," he says.
Tambe also is flexible, and takes a change of plans in stride.
"You go with what happens and react to the changes," he says.
While he does not hover, Tambe is available to help both employees and customers. If you go the extra mile, the effort is repaid tenfold, he says.
Don Bausch, vice president of marketing at Rochester-based Kovalsky-Carr Electric Supply Co. Inc., has known Tambe for more than two decades. The two met through work but have become friends.
Bausch is impressed with the way Tambe handles himself in business, adding that Tambe puts an emphasis on customer service.
"He knows how to build relationships," Bausch says.
Tambe’s wife, Connie, who previously worked in accounting, is involved in the financial side of Tambe Electric. Also working there are the couple’s youngest daughter, Stacey, and sons-in-law Marcello Battisti and Mike Russell.
The best part of the job is seeing the business grow, Tambe says.
"I never thought it would get this big," he says.
The most challenging is the financial part of the business and balancing expenses with the timing of cash flow from projects.

Building trust
Thomas Dolan, a retired Xerox Corp. executive, met Tambe in the early 1990s at a social gathering in their neighborhood. Dolan and his wife quickly became friends with the Tambes.
Although Dolan moved in 2007 and now lives outside this area, he remains friends with Tambe. He describes Tambe as a family man, friend and great communicator.
Dolan believes Tambe’s personality helps make him a successful business leader.
"He’s a down-to-earth guy who can be trusted," Dolan says. "When you meet Mike and talk to him, you know he will be able to deliver."
Tambe also creates more than a business relationship with his customers, Dolan says.
"He becomes a trusted friend," Dolan says. "Mike is someone who people know will be there and back up what he does."
Giovanni LiDestri, president and CEO of LiDestri Foods Inc., was another of Tambe’s neighbors. The two played golf together at the course in their development.
"Both of us were high-handicap golfers, so we instantly hit it off in shared misery at our golf scores," LiDestri jokes.
LiDestri also believes Tambe is a great business leader.
"He has never forgotten where he came from as he grew the business from humble beginnings, and has always been grateful for his success," LiDestri says. "He runs a lean, non-bureaucratic company and treats all his employees like family members."
Tambe has always looked to grow and innovate, LiDestri says, and is not afraid to step out of his comfort zone and seek jobs outside the area.
"He was able to develop a model where employees had steady, stable work, unlike the traditional model where there is a lot of seasonable variability in employment," LiDestri says.
The Tambes live in Victor and enjoy spending time with their daughters, Andrea, 40, and Stacey, 37, as well as their sons-in-law and six grandchildren, Michael Tambe says.
The couple enjoy traveling and made a recent trip to Las Vegas. They own a condominium in Florida, where the Tambe crew often gets together to celebrate holidays.   Tambe is a member of the Genesee Valley Country Club.
The role of family will continue to be central in Tambe’s business, he says, and that extends beyond his kin.
Many workers are long-standing employees, and the company holds get-togethers during the year, including a clam bake in the fall and picnic in the summer.
"We run the business like a family," Tambe says.

Michael Tambe
Position: President, Tambe Electric Corp.
Age: 64
Education: East High School
Family: Wife, Connie; married daughters Andrea, 40, and Stacey, 37; six grandchildren
Residence: Victor
Activities: Family time, golf, travel
Quote: "If you give a little more than you expect to get back, you get back a lot more than you gave."

7/27/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.


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