It had been a frustrating day for Mike Abbott as he spent hours searching fruitlessly for some critical pipes in the former Mercy School of Nursing. Finally he called his father Jim who remembered installing those conduits when the building was under construction in 1969. “Look behind the closet in the corner,” he told his son. It was not the first time two generations of Abbotts worked together to solve a tough problem.
In multi-generational family companies, the first generation often flies blind to give succeeding generations the gift of sight. Jim Abbott graduated from Timken High’s electrical shop program and became foreman for a number of commercial electrical contractors in the area. To help care for his young family, Jim bought a laundromat at Meyer’s Lake, then a car wash.
By 1978, Jim was ready to leave a solid union foreman’s job to start Abbott Electric out of the back of his station wagon. 41 years later the move looks like a stroke of genius, but nothing was certain at the time. Looking back son Mike Abbott knows exactly how his father made it work. “He was the hardest working and smartest business person I’ve ever been around.” Apparently, the Timken High shop graduate was born with an MBA, or at least an uncommon dose of business sense.
Son Mike surpassed his father in academic achievement, graduating from Notre Dame with a degree in Electrical Engineering, but got his business acumen from the School of Jim Abbott. When Jim’s work ethic took Abbott Electric as far as possible, he began acquiring many of the same companies he’d worked for in the past.