Like many owner/managers in
electrical construction, Chastain is a
second-generation member of his firm as
well as a graduate of an apprenticeship
training program. After becoming a journeyman electrician, he progressed through
field supervisory and management positions before becoming a company officer.
What sets him apart from most of his peers
is that, for several years, he was the company’s service manager.
It’s so nice to meet the president of an
electrical contracting firm who once ran
the company’s service department.
I did not merely run the company’s
service department. In fact, I started
the service department.
As you may know, we dedicate this
column exclusively to promoting the
virtues of having a good, strong field
service organization. We believe that
every electrical contractor (EC) ought to
strive to have a well-run service operation.
At Miller-Eads, our whole company is
like a service department. The virtues
that you have attributed to a service
department represent the principles
that we have worked very hard to instill
throughout our entire organization.
You have probably heard us talk about
the importance of developing recurring
“Recurring revenues” is an essential part
of the way we do business. At Miller-
Eads, fully 90 percent of what we do
can be categorized as “repeat business.”
Most of our work is negotiated with cus-
tomers who have grown to rely upon us
and depend upon us over many, many
years. Because of their confidence in
us, a significant number of them opt out
of a bidding process in favor of coming
right to us to solve their electrical system
requirements whenever needs arise.
It sounds as though your company’s
reputation has permitted a very enviable
style of service.
That’s true. We do not run a so-called
“24/7” operation. Except to cater to
our established customers, we do not
respond to emergency call-outs.
A brief stroll through your facilities
indicates that you have given some
serious attention to preconstruction
Absolutely, we are investing more and
more effort into kitting. With each new
job we are increasing our focus on prefab.
Where does it make more sense to do the
work, if you have a choice—ankle-deep in
mud out on the job site, or in the orderly
environment of the shop? Of course, getting to the point of truly benefitting from
preconstruction activities and shop work
requires a change of mindset by some
people. It requires planning. It forces you
to have to look ahead.
We have pointed out in earlier columns
that what you are describing all falls
under the general heading of “material
We agree. One important initiative that
we have undertaken has involved negotiating blanket contracts with preselected
vendors to provide about 1,700 day-to-day commodities on a sole-source basis.
We issue RFQs [request for quotes] in a
well-defined selection process to pick
those vendors. It works. While we still
will go out for quotations for materials
for certain bid-work projects, the lion’s
share of our purchasing goes through our
We have reached the point at which we
can reveal to our readers the second fact
that we discovered in our “coffee break”
conversation with you.
Sure. Much as it has been a pleasure to
visit, I don’t drink coffee.
WHEN CHRIS CHASTAIN TOOK TIME OUT TO TALK WITH US, he revealed
two facts about himself that we highlighted and circled in our notes in preparation to
write this column. The first is a special part of his personal work history. The second
is a surprise that we divulge at the end of this column.
SERVICE/MAINTENANCE BY ANDREW MCCOY & FRED SARGENT
Start With Service
Coffee break with Chris Chastain, president, Miller-Eads Electrical Contractors
CON TRAC TORS, Indianapolis, was
established in 1969. Today, with nearly
200 employees and experience in
commercial, industrial, institutional
and utility electrical construction, it
has earned the trust of a large, loyal
client base representing a variety
of prominent facilities, including
hospitals, universities, office buildings,
utility powerhouses and even some
historical landmarks. Always striving to
keep pace with market demands, the
company is devoted to training its team
on the latest in installation techniques
and emerging technologies. In
addition to being the first EC in central
Indiana to perform a fiber-optic-cable
installation, it has remained at the
forefront of process control, robotics,
multiplex networks, equipotential
grounding systems, and low- and
medium-voltage distribution. —F. S.
SARGEN T, president of SGT LLC, a long-time veteran of the electrical contracting business,
is based in Pittsburgh. He can be reached at email@example.com. MCCOY is associate
professor in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies at Virginia Tech. Contact him at