A Service-Based Company in a Service-Based Trade: An Interview with TriStar Elevator

ElevatorInfo recently traveled to Nashville, Tennessee to speak with Stacey Jackson, owner of TriStar Elevator and Brandon Jackson, TriStar’s Vice President. Headquartered in the suburb of Columbia, TN, TriStar’s crew of 14 IUEC elevator constructors install and service conveyance systems across the middle-Tennessee area. Described as “a full-service elevator company,” TriStar provides residential and commercial services including modernization, repair, and new installation.

While Brandon started his career as an elevator constructor years ago, the decision to launch a new elevator company as a family business was fairly recent. “We started this four years ago – it’s very hard, but it’s very rewarding as well,” said Stacey.

Being an IUEC-affiliated elevator company was a priority for TriStar from the start. “We are an independent union company. We look at each one of our employees like they’re a family member,” said Brandon. “When we hire somebody, we want them to succeed – so being able to provide that workplace for them – (that’s important) to me, knowing that everyday they’ve got a company that wants them to work safe, wants them to go home safe – and we have resources to make that happen.”

Stacey spoke about how the reputation of IUEC-trained mechanics as highly-skilled and safety-focused has benefitted TriStar when it comes to securing new work. “When a potential customer finds out that we are a union company, it changes the game in the fact that they know what they’re getting. They know the safety procedures, the training – they’re going to get good-quality workers.”

Brandon described it as an investment. “A lot of our larger, new equipment installations – our contractors, that’s one of the first questions they ask. ‘Are you a union company?’ And when you say yes, they realize we have resources to find employees that are trained. We’re not hiring off the street, we’re hiring people who have come through an apprenticeship program. They’ve been properly trained and have those elevator safety resources and that safety background to do the job right.”

While in many cases non-union elevator constructors aren’t required to participate in any formal training program before beginning work in the field, upon hire, IUEC elevator apprentices are immediately enrolled in the industry’s most comprehensive education and training program through the National Elevator Industry Educational Program (NEIEP). NEIEP administers a four-plus year USDOL Registered Apprenticeship with hands-on training in the classroom and 8,000 hours of supervised training under the direction of an experienced mechanic. Once an elevator constructor completes their apprenticeship and passes a capstone Mechanic Exam, they can keep learning through NEIEP’s continuing education courses, available online and in classrooms nationwide.

NEIEP training prepares apprentices and mechanics not only to work on the latest conveyance equipment on the market, but also to service, troubleshoot, and repair older equipment that many elevator constructors encounter on their service routes. Brandon describes how having access to this type of education and training when he was just starting out made him a well-rounded elevator constructor ready to handle whatever type of conveyance equipment his customers needed help with, and how it drove him to prioritize staffing TriStar with elevator constructors who have diverse and varied field experience. “While TriStar is a younger company, we have years of experience,” he said. “Most of our mechanics are 10 years plus – and we have a great new group of young workers coming into the trade,” he said.

Describing his own experience as an apprentice and field mechanic, he said, “I learned how to work on generators, I learned how to work on relay logic – and I think that’s something that a lot of people are losing sight of. We as a company pride ourselves on being able to work on that because so many other companies have lost a lot of that over the years. I feel like that’s one thing we’ve done well at TriStar elevator – we’re able to go in where other companies couldn’t necessarily keep the equipment running. We have the experience level to go in and still maintain that equipment. I learned from someone, and we’re doing the same thing – we’re trying to make sure that our apprentices are learning those skills.”

While in Tennessee, ElevatorInfo staff visited several of TriStar’s active job sites including one at a major airport, one at a busy parking garage, and another at a building under construction on lower Broadway in the heart of downtown Nashville. We were impressed with both the state-of-the-art systems they were installing in the new building as well as the meticulously clean and neat machine spaces around the elevator systems they were maintaining.

The knowledge that TriStar employees are taken care of by a generous benefit plan is also a plus for Brandon and Stacey. The IUEC provides the best health care coverage there is for its members and their families, without extra premium costs. Through the National Elevator Industry Health Benefit Plan, their employees have access to medical, prescription drug, mental health/substance abuse disorder, dental, vision, and hearing benefits well beyond what other companies offer.

Top-quality education and training, a robust health care plan, and the security of a reliable plan for retirement through the IUEC’s Pension, Annuity, and 401K benefits allow the elevator constructor apprentices and mechanics who work for TriStar Elevator to focus on getting their work done without the worries or distractions that workers at companies without this security may face. Consistent quality work and attentive customer service are the result.

“(With) a company like TriStar as an independent, you get specialized care – we do better with our goals in customer service. We answer the phone, we respond to emails, this is a service-based company, a service-based trade,” said Brandon. “When we can take that elevator off of that property manager’s mind, they can worry about the rest of their building. When we can take that elevator installation off of the project manager’s mind… we’ve done our job.”

To learn more about the advantages of becoming IUEC-affiliated or about hiring an IUEC-affiliated company like TriStar Elevator to install, service, troubleshoot, modernize, repair, or inspect your elevators, escalators, or other conveyance equipment, contact ElevatorInfo.