Turning On the Lights

D.D. Mac Electric

There’s nothing “showy” about D. D. Mac Electric, according to the company’s profoundly humble owners, Mike and Brenda Moyer. To them it’s all about family, right from the start.

Mike Moyer’s father was a bricklayer, and a man with vision. He knew the trades, and that the lifeblood of the modern world was electricity. All four of his sons became electricians.

But even Moyer Sr. didn’t foresee the recession. And that’s where Mike found himself in 1978: happily married with a child on the way, but no job prospects. Every day, he went out looking. “I just drove around the neighbourhood. Then one day I saw this home with a broken electrical service. It was dangerous — hanging off the side of the house.”

He pulled over and knocked on the door. The home-owners knew of the problem; they’d called the electric company — but nothing had been done.

Mike said he could fix it right away, and quoted a price. His neighbours said yes, and by the end of the next day the job was done. Then, with the $200 dollars he’d made, he started his very own business, and named it after his wife.

Today, more than 40 years later, Mike and Brenda’s business — which now Includes D. D. Mac Electric — has grown to help design and build exceptional productions, including one of FedEx’s largest distribution centres, buildings and power supply for automation systems for Amazon, and a recent cutting-edge project for GoodLeaf, including a fully-automated indoor vertical farm. The company can employ up to 100 workers. And though few are relatives, they’re all still family.

“That’s just the way it is,” Brenda shrugs. “We’re all in this together. Our General Manager, Ann, she started when she was 16 years old, in the accounting department. And now she’s been with us for more than 30 years. She grew with the company. We really couldn’t function without her. It’s like that with so many on our team. That includes project managers, electricians, office estimating… ”

“Honestly,” says Mike. “I can’t think of them in terms of employees. We have one goal. And we trust each other implicitly. Really, if anything, sometimes I feel like I work for them. I’ll go in, and Wendy, who’s in charge of purchasing, she’ll just give me shit — and me, I’ve got to take it…”

How many company presidents can (and will) say that? Even the title President doesn’t work for him. “It’s not on my business card. Just my name, number and email.”

What about the name of the company?

“Oh right, I guess that too!”

As in many industries, the business cards say a lot about the people. But, perhaps more interesting is what the people have to say about the business cards.

For example, Don Gordon, President of Cooper Construction who has worked in every facet, at every level, of his company — from student apprentice to field engineer, to superintendent, and eventually President — says this at the mere mention of D.D. Mac Electric:

“Here’s the thing: One business card doesn’t do business with another business card. One logo doesn’t do business with another. People do business with people, and they do so because they trust each other. Like family. That’s why I work with D.D. Mac. It’s why I’ve been doing so for over 40 years now — dozens of projects. I can put my trust in Mike, and then, because he trusts his team, I can put it there, too. I know they’ll never let me down.”

Pressed on the specifics of such trust, Gordon is eager to elaborate, in a way that suggests what company presidents really see when they step back for a moment:

“It’s about confidence, reliability, the ability to forecast and then adapt. This is what allows me complete trust in every facet of what D.D. Mac Electric does. From their budget, to tender, to the shop drawings, then the right products ordered on time, all the way to the impeccable workmanship — I never have to second-guess. They know what to do, and they know how to deliver. They’re not going to over-promise, and they’re not going to miss a deadline. We can count on their projections, just as they can count on ours. It’s a symbiotic relationship that way. That’s why I’ll always go back to D.D. Mac. That’s why our two companies keep working together.”

But construction isn’t always easy. What about when things get tough?

“That’s the real test of a working relationship, of course,” says Gordon. “The construction business is a very satisfying business; however, it has many challenges to overcome. That’s the nature of it. It is how you jointly overcome those challenges, and how you communicate, that separates a great company from all the others. D.D. Mac are who you want next to you in the trenches, when the going gets tough,” he says.

“Furthermore,” says Gordon, “they’re also who you want by your side in a client meeting, and we regularly bring them to the boardroom table, without a second thought. Our clients are impressed with what D.D. Mac have to say, which enhances the trust that they place in us.”

With approximately 400 electrical contractors in Southern Ontario alone, D.D. Mac Electric are in the midst of a ridiculously crowded and competitive field. Yet they don’t spend a dime on advertising.

This, of course, falls in line with that core disbelief in “showiness.” They succeed, instead, on reputation, word-of-mouth, and repeat customers. As Vice-President of Estimating, Steve Zeitler puts it, “Our relationship with our customers is very close, caring and trusting. It’s repeat, it’s intimate, and it’s open.”

But for those more outside the family, what exactly does D.D. Mac Electric do?

In the industry, the key term is “Design Build”. This means that D.D. Mac starts on a macro level, all the way out, embracing the whole electric grid and how the power hits the street, then the entrance, zooming in and in and in — all the way to the position and style of the plug on the wall, or the fixtures, light-bulbs, dimmer switches, and lighting control systems. From blueprints to opening day, the reach and flexibility of a full-service electrical contractor like D.D. Mac Electric is invaluable.

“Our approach,” explains Zeitler, “allows the client to tailor the lighting in terms of cost and design, look and performance. We show them five different ways to light the same space. We perform all the photometrics, we do a 3D rendering in the space. We can take a fly-through of the building and see what effects different designs would have on the space, all while working with the architect.”

Of course electricity, as Mike Moyer’s wise bricklaying Dad knew, is by now behind everything — not just the walls. Neither the alpha nor omega of any construction site could exist without it. And many of D.D. Mac’s contracts involve a vision, understanding, creativity and workmanship of electricity so complex as to seem overwhelming. It’s enough to make someone long for something binary, and visual. Like the flicking of a switch.

Kelly Hawkins, a stellar D.D. Mac project manager of 15 years, has no problem focussing on the more showy, if not simpler, parts of the business. He worked the recent GoodLeaf project, one of the company’s most ambitious ever:

“It was massive. 4,000 light fixtures, six lamps in each fixture. That’s 24,000 LED bulbs! And they’re all there to germinate the seeds: 1 million seeds on a 14-day growth cycle. The moment we flipped that switch — the feeling was indescribable.”

That said, 25 year DDMAC veteran Jay Barlow, another project manager, is happy to give a description:

“Shock and Awe!” he says. “Perhaps shock is the wrong word from an electrician to describe it, but the point is, nothing looks complete until the lights turn on. All that work, but until that shining moment, that’s when the project completion comes into perspective.”

Though they still won’t dwell on the showy stuff, the Moyers do agree.

“Of course there is that feeling,” says Mike. “When you’ve been working on it forever, and finally it’s time. Everyone’s there, just waiting — maybe for the hydro hook-up — so you still haven’t even tested everything, but now it’s about to happen. There’s one master switch. You hold your breath… Then, click.”

May 18, 2021, 7:02 PM EDT