Service-Oriented From Day One

It was just another beautiful Thursday afternoon in San Francisco when someone on an upper floor of a gleaming downtown office tower, taking time out for a quick game of bean bag toss, put a little too much arm in his delivery, hit a sprinkler head on the ceiling, and set off the building’s emergency sprinkler system. In addition to soaking everything and everyone, the water found its way into the raceway for the main electrical distribution bus riser. Shortly thereafter—kaboom!—an explosion rocked the place, the power went off on every floor, and the building manager placed an urgent call to McMillan Electric Co., San Francisco.

McMillan Electric is a full-service electrical contractor with an impressive range of installation and service capabilities in electrical, data communications, security systems and audiovisual integration. Working around the clock, the McMillan Electric team installed a temporary electrical riser through an airshaft, reconfigured power feeds and repaired some damaged switchgear, restoring power within 24 hours of the incident. Monday morning, all of the tenants returned to work as though nothing had happened. Weeks later, McMillan had this 18-story structure operating again with a replaced bus duct riser and headend distribution completed in record time.

In 1987, Bill Musgrave’s first electrical contracting job was driving a delivery truck. He joined McMillan Electric in 1999. Today, he is president, and he credits his early role as a purchasing agent at another company with providing a strong foundation for understanding construction costs and logistics in electrical contracting. We visited with Musgrave for our latest coffee break.

For a service-oriented electrical contractor, there is nothing like a great coming-to-the-rescue saga such as the bean-bag-toss story. What can you tell us about McMillan’s way of doing things that made such a quick fix possible?

From its very beginning days in 1965, McMillan Electric has been completely dedicated to delivering highly responsive service in answer to customers’ needs. Today, while the company has the capacity to take on the most challenging construction projects of all sizes, McMillan is committed now, more than ever, to advancing its service capabilities. We have always thought of our service-division operations as our “business card.” So, when we got that call, we were ready to go. When the message came in—“Building down!”—we had a whole bunch of McMillan team members who could hardly wait to join the rescue effort.

Every customer requires reliable electrical power to maintain their business operation, but that seems like an understatement compared to the situation with some of your high-tech customers whose business is to provide the world with online, cloud-based services that demand 100 percent uptime. How do you manage to be prepared 24/7 to take care of them on a moment’s notice?

The very first consideration in our state of readiness is our concern for safety. From the earliest days of our company, workplace safety has been a primary focus at McMillan. We are passionate about maintaining a 100-percent-safe working environment. Immediately thereafter comes the question of function. What is required to ensure our customers’ electrical systems are up and running to meet their most critical needs? To deliver on all of our promises towards that end, we place a high priority on logistics. What will it take to guarantee that the right things are in the right place at the right time? Above all, we want to put them in the right hands—by promoting a company culture that places a premium on hiring and retaining top-flight electricians.


Ultimate success of any organization requires executive leadership to guide the continued growth and ongoing development of everyone on the team.


On major construction projects, smaller service work and everything in-between, the kind of smart materials management that you have described is essential to achieving good labor productivity. With regard to your electrical-service operations, what can you share with us about how smart materials management has contributed to the success of your service delivery?

Here again the solution begins with assembling a team of “A” players. We set the bar high in our hiring and promotion practices. Specifically, when it comes to smart material management, you should never underestimate the value of having capable people in the roles of purchasing agent, truck driver and warehouseman—in other words, the ones who will make it happen. With the right people in place in those essential roles, you can achieve smart material management in two ways: first, by seriously investing the proper effort in preplanning and, second, by putting everything on wheels to get it to its point of installation.

But it takes more than just selecting, recruiting and hiring talented people. Ultimate success of any organization requires executive leadership to guide the continued growth and ongoing development of everyone on the team. Nothing makes me more proud than seeing how we have accomplished that objective at McMillan Electric.

McMillan Electric presents a complete history and background of the company at

Ultimate success of any organization requires executive leadership to guide the continued growth and ongoing development of everyone on the team.

About the Author

Andrew McCoy

Service and Maintenance Contributor

Andrew McCoy is the Preston and Catharine White Fellow and Department Head of the Department of Building Construction in the Myers-Lawson School of Construction at Virginia Tech. Contact him at

About the Author

Fred Sargent

Service and Maintenance Contributor

Fred Sargent is an electrical industry consultant focusing on service expertise. He can be reached at

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