Donna Kolb Boesl
Sparking a new chapter in the story of a local, multigenerational family business
Donna Kolb Boesl is the CEO of Walter Electric, a full-service electrical contractor that serves customers in the Baltimore–Washington, DC metropolitan area. The company is named after Donna’s grandfather, Walter G. Kolb, who started the family’s original electric company in 1925. Donna established Walter Electric in 2015 after leading the prior family business for almost 20 years. In its current incarnation, Walter Electric has earned recognition as a top service provider in Maryland, winning an ABC Contractors Award for Excellence, and recently placing first in the “Electrician” category in Baltimore magazine’s Best of Baltimore Readers' Poll 2016.
EDWIN WARFIELD: Why did you name the business after your grandfather?
DONNA KOLB BOESL: We were trying to come up with a name and Walter had not crossed my mind—just had never crossed my mind. We actually hired a company and had many meetings, discussing. They asked a lot of questions, and we went through a lot of different names and logos. The color, I knew: I wanted orange and blue. My husband and I both had agreed that those were the colors we wanted to use. The company came up with the logo and the name, Walter Electric, with the slogan “Wired to Work.” As soon as they did, it resonated. It really tugged at my heart. It’s an old-fashioned name. People feel, without knowing Walter, that they trust Walter, and it tied into our core values of honesty, and respect, and trust, so it was a great fit—great name.
Q. What do attribute to your continued success?
A. The culture is one which you can create your own, where everyone follows the values of respect, honesty, and trustworthiness. It’s a feeling of family among everyone who works with us. We have amazing people who work here. It wouldn’t be anything without every single one of them. They are a huge part of the success of our company. And it was an opportunity to do the right thing, take care of your customers, and also take care of your employees along the way. You take care of your employees and your customers, and the rest will all work out.
Q. What kinds of customers do you serve?
A. Residentially, we do a lot of work for homeowners and service work—whether it’s as simple as an outlet not working to installing recessed lighting, or rewiring someone’s home. And then we do a lot of work for property management as well, in their apartments or condo associations—same thing with the service work, where it’s an older building and we need to replace all the outlets or upgrade the wiring. And then our commercial division is a separate division that handles tenant build-outs—we do a lot of work for the larger companies on their tenant build-outs—and also in malls—stores in malls—as well as commercial buildings such as the one we are in now.
We do work for St. John Properties. We have done work for them since the day we opened, and we are also a tenant, so that’s a nice fit. We do work for McKenzie, HPW; some of our property management: Allen & Rocks, Maryland Management, Bozzuto—any companies that we deal with. We’ve been truly blessed because we’ve had relationships with people from these companies for many, many years. I’ve gone to a lot of networking events over the years and had that rapport with them prior to opening, and they trust and knew the type of service that we did, and we took care of them and continue to take care of them.
We do work in the entire Baltimore area: Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Anne Arundel County, Howard County; and then we also do work in the Washington market down in Prince George’s County, Montgomery County, DC, and Northern Virginia. Most of our work is in the Baltimore area, but we are expanding to the other areas as well.
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