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Kyle Colin – Elliott-Lewis Corp.

Elliott-Lewis GC helps set terms for the company’s growth

Kyle Colin knew a fair bit about the varied operations at Elliott-Lewis Corp. from providing outside counsel to the company on worker’s compensation and insurance defense cases.

Then he joined the company in May 2022 as its first general counsel and really learned the extent of the services the Philadelphia-based company offers throughout the tri-state region of Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey.

Elliott-Lewis, which is nearing its 120th anniversary, is a family-owned company that occupies the facilities management, mechanical construction and HVAC service sectors.

The company manages facilities at the Philadelphia International Airport, the Pennsylvania Convention Center, the Philadelphia Family Court and Reading Terminal Market, to name a few.

Kyle Colin | General Counsel | Elliott-Lewis Corp.

Kyle Colin | General Counsel | Elliott-Lewis Corp.

Its Sautter Crane Rental subsidiary has a fleet of about 85 cranes to support its mechanical construction projects such as installing rooftop chillers and cooling towers as well as servicing utility, infrastructure, telecom and construction customers. Its subsidiary A.A. Duckett Inc., provides HVAC installations and servicing in New Jersey.

But while there’s been plenty for Colin to support and learn about the operations, his work creating the in-house legal department has also helped the company operate more efficiently and improve how it creates and manages contracts.

“I’m here to make sure everyone else’s jobs run smoothly and watching our exposure,” Colin says. “It’s very much a collaborative effort. I’ve got to be humble and take people turning my recommendations down.”

Building and maintaining

Founded in 1905 by Thomas H. Lewis, Sr. and Frank R. Elliott, and currently led by president and CEO Bill Sautter, Elliott-Lewis has offices in Glassboro and Whippany, New Jersey, as well as Nazareth, Pennsylvania. Sautter Crane Rental, led by Sautter’s brother, Robert, is also headquartered in Philadelphia.

Sautter Crane Rental has had some unique projects along the way—in 2012, the company supplied the cranes that connected the cable so Nik Wallenda could walk a tightrope over Atlantic City’s famed Boardwalk.

As part of its mechanical construction division, Elliott-Lewis also provides plumbing construction services for commercial customers. The company’s design-build work includes green and sustainable projects such as geothermal and building a rainwater harvesting system for a nonprofit customer.

Kyle Colin | General Counsel | Elliott-Lewis Corp.

Since joining Elliott-Lewis, Colin has been organizing the process and management of contracts and working with business teams to refine the terms and conditions that should be part of the agreements. It’s a steady workflow for him—Colin may see as many as 50 contracts per month and reviewed more than 150 outstanding agreements when he began at the company.

In some ways, adding the technology, including a “jobs app,” for a contract management system was the easiest part for Colin. He worked on it with a process specialist Elliott-Lewis had hired to help develop the operating structures to accommodate the company’s growth.

Collaboration is crucial

The contract management system adds transparency, but Colin emphasizes it’s what’s in the contracts that’s crucial. He works with members of the business units to determine and mitigate risk factors and ensure contract terms are fair to all parties.

For instance, with facilities management agreements, accounting for responsibility for areas such as water leaks is crucial, as are providing safety and security at the airport and Family Court.

On the mechanical side of operations, Colin says he works with sales teams and project managers to ensure proper payment provisions. Together, they analyze the scope of work for a job because it can take a year to receive HVAC equipment and systems due to enduring supply chain difficulties. Contracts for mechanical work also need to be properly indemnified to protect against equipment failures or construction mishaps.

Kyle Colin | General Counsel | Elliott-Lewis Corp.

The contract process involves more than customers because Elliott-Lewis also has an extensive list of approved subcontractors it uses and Colin has been refining those service agreements in terms of shared risk.

“I’m a team player. I don’t distance myself,” Colin says. “I’m on the front line. This is a support role, not a leading role.”

Thriving in a second career

“This is actually my second career,” Colin says about his legal work.

The native of Fairfax County, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C., earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Mary Washington in 1999 and became a consultant for what’s now PricewaterhouseCoopers, helping customers implement enterprise resource planning systems.

Colin remained in his role when the consulting arm was sold to IBM, but he says law school had been on his mind even when he graduated from Mary Washington. However, he needed to be sure he wanted to attend—and could pay for it himself.

So, when he got tired of the travel needed for his consulting, he enrolled at Widener University School of Law in 2003 because of its strong corporate law program.

Kyle Colin | General Counsel | Elliott-Lewis Corp.

After earning his J.D. in 2006, Colin practiced privately at firms in areas including personal injury, worker’s compensation and maritime law. It was during his tenure at Kent & McBride PC, beginning in 2013, in Philadelphia that he began working with Elliott-Lewis. However, Colin says getting recruited to join the company was done in a month—he was told the company wanted to bring its legal services in-house and he was the attorney it wanted.

“I wasn’t considering the idea but they had always been one of my favorite clients because it’s a homegrown Philly business,” Colin says.

He joined Elliott-Lewis in May 2022, and after about a year of “reactive” work and legal management, Colin expects to spend the next 18 months or so being proactive by building the structure for the legal department.

“The leadership has brought on people in support roles because it’s a commitment to grow our business lines and the organization appropriately,” Colin says. “The goal now is to continue to keep our growth going in a sustainable way.”

View this feature in the Vanguard Winter I 2024 Edition here.

Published on: November 22, 2023

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