Frank McShane Celebrates 30 Years at City Electric Supply
In 1990, Frank McShane joined the Tamlite Emergency Division, providing emergency lighting support for the sales teams and branches that included quoting, design installation, drawings, and commissioning.
“It was an interesting start,” Co-Vice President of TAMCO Frank McShane reflected. “Here I was starting a brand-new job at 26, our second child had just arrived a few weeks earlier. I didn’t know this would be the start of the rest of my career.”
At the time, John Allden, who would later become the Managing Director of Tamlite Lighting UK, brought him on to work for the Tamlite team. In just a few short years, Allden and McShane would start climbing the ranks, taking any opportunity that came their way.
By 1996, Frank became the Factory Manager at Tamlite Emergency operation in the UK and oversaw its daily operations for the next nine years.
In 2005, McShane had an opportunity that would ultimately change his and his family’s lives for good. The late CEO and Founder Tom Mackie tasked McShane with a vision of his own: build upon the Tamlite brand in the United States, an operation that was already a few years old at the time.
Today, TAMCO houses all six in-house brands (Tamlite, Centaur, F4P, MCG, RPP, and Fusion) under a 411,000-square-foot facility in Port St. Lucie, Florida.tho
What started 15 years ago as a small manufacturing operation with some additional vendors for disruption products, now functions as a massive distribution, manufacturing, and warehousing center for all 500+ branches across North America.
“For me, the opportunity was never easy,” McShane said, reflecting on his 30-year career and TAMCO’s incredible growth the past 15 years. “There are going to be moments you struggle and moments of great success. As long as you know that, you will be successful in the long run because it gives you the courage to push forward.”
It’s almost impossible to summarize an entire career in a few words, but McShane returned to a common refrain that many other VPs at City Electric Supply have said before.
“Right people, right place, right time,” he added. “When you see these visions turn into something real, it gives you hope, fulfillment, and understanding about what life is about. I’m blessed and certainly lucky to have experienced so many of these things in the 30 years I’ve been with the company. It takes a bit of luck and a lot of hard work, but it’s never given. It’s earned.”
The Early Days
Before the Port St. Lucie facility that now houses all six TAMCO brands, before TAMCO ever launched in the U.S., it all started with Tom Mackie’s vision and a three-and-a-half-hour conversation with Frank McShane.
“Where to start?” McShane asked. “In early January of 2005, I put my name forward to take on the leadership role at Tamlite in the U.S., and I had just returned from a vacation in Florida over the holidays.”
It was almost that simple. After that, everything happened in the blink of an eye.
“I had a call with Tom Mackie on a Thursday morning, and before I knew it, I was traveling from the UK to West Palm Beach, to Tampa, and to Port St. Lucie to get a feel for what Tamlite would be in America,” he said.
By the end of January, Tom Mackie and McShane met up to discuss what he thought. It happened to be the quickest three and a half hours of his life.
“He said, ‘Frank, look, here’s what’s going on. I need you to build me something that’s meaningful and going to stand the test of time,’” McShane recalled. “Mr. Mackie had a very clear vision of what he expected to happen with Tamlite in the US — quality products, establish ourselves and our reputation. They were visions that sounded simple, but they were big.”
That moment would mark the first time someone passed a vision down to McShane. It had an immediate impact, and he wanted to make sure that he didn’t let Tom Mackie down.
“Before that moment, I always felt I could do something bigger,” McShane said. “After talking with Tom Mackie, I just felt empowered. He had so much faith that you could do something, the last thing you ever wanted to do was fail the great man.”
Getting TAMCO Off the Ground
The most memorable part of McShane’s journey as he helped launch TAMCO was probably the one he’d like to forget the most.
“After January of 2005, the next three months was a lot,” McShane explained. “It was like being handed the keys to the castle. The next thing I know I’m back in the UK, working on selling the house, telling the kids and the family we’re going to be moving 4,000 miles away to the U.S., all while traveling to China and Turkey to learn more about the business.”
Turkey. That’s the part of his 30-year career McShane will never forget.
“Right after we landed and got through customs in Turkey, John Allden and Tom Mackie tell me that the U.S. factory was on fire. My first thought was that they were joking,” McShane admitted. “You hope something like that is a joke because you don’t want anyone to be hurt. It was a very scary moment not knowing and not being able to do anything.”
What seemed like a disaster on the surface actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise — even if it didn’t feel that way at first. Frank McShane talks about it like a phoenix rising from the ashes, a new beginning.
“Looking back now, it was a chance for a fresh start,” McShane said. “At the time, it felt like the end of the world. I didn’t know if I was doing the right thing for my family.”
They ultimately lost about 20,000-30,000 square feet at the factory due to the fire. Fortunately, no one was hurt, and the actual fire sparked another one inside Frank McShane. Over the next few years, he helped rebuild 20,000 square feet of the damaged facility, and TAMCO was back on track.
“After that, I knew I could help change the direction of the business and make an impact,” McShane said. “Things kept coming along and I didn’t give up. In the end, we used this chance to find pitfalls and weaknesses. We fixed quality issues, listened to what the customers told us, and we used this to make things better. It was truly eye opening.”
So even after the fire, McShane never gave up. He became even more passionate about the vision for TAMCO and used this moment to start off with a clean slate. City Electric Supply also used it as an opportunity to double down on the success of its in-house operations by investing more into Tom Mackie’s vision.
By 2007, they rebuilt everything. TAMCO rose from the ashes, almost literally.
And then 2009 hit.
“Really?” McShane laughed. “We did all this, had millions of dollars in sales, and after all this, now there’s a recession?”
It comes as no surprise that McShane, TAMCO, and City Electric Supply pushed through the recession. They kept driving forward as they always had and came out of the recession stronger than ever.
“From 2009 to 2014, we constantly re-invested in ourselves,” McShane explained. “We brought on more tools and more people onboard. We welcomed in new visions and new passions, and we were manufacturing in America. There was a level of intensity and excitement around TAMCO that was never there before, even back in 2005.”
The Business Today
At the North American Manager’s Conference in 2014, nine years after that first conversation with Tom Mackie about TAMCO, everything came into focus for McShane as he sat on a bench outside his tradeshow booth.
“Knowing that was a 9-year journey, realizing that we built something meaningful that we could sustain. I think that was one of those moments in life where you realize you achieved something that can’t be destroyed or taken away,” he said. “It wasn’t just products; it was a group of people working together as one.”
And just as today’s CEO Thomas Mackie has said time and again, it’s the people at City Electric Supply and TAMCO that make up its greatest asset.
Frank McShane definitely agrees, and he’d even take that a step further. He’s most proud of being in a position to give opportunities to others, especially as he’s seen firsthand how CES and TAMCO has impacted the lives of thousands of employees.
“For sure, the people are the best part about the business today,” he said. “What’s unique about this company is that if you get the job done and believe in the organization, it becomes such a big part of your life. Your success becomes your family’s success.”
And just when McShane thought that TAMCO came together, Thomas Mackie had his own vision he wanted to see.
“In 2017, Thomas Mackie asked what my thoughts were on one big new building to house all six TAMCO brands,” McShane said. “By late 2017, the project was already rolling. In September 2018, we had a ground-breaking ceremony. By January 2020, we had moved into the building. This was truly an inspiring moment to see just how dedicated and committed CES can be when we all share a common goal.”
Building the new Port St. Lucie facility was a huge responsibility, not just for the company, but also the team of people that played a part.
For McShane, the new facility featured two important milestones in his career. First, it was about completing Thomas Mackie’s goal. To see it come to life while knowing that it meant even more opportunity for TAMCO and everyone at CES. Second, it was an extension of Tom Mackie’s original vision back in 2005. A way for Thomas to continue his legacy in a meaningful way.
Once again, everything seemed smooth sailing for McShane, until March of 2020.
“Just when things were coming into place, COVID-19 hits,” he said. “After the fire, after the recession, after finishing the Port St. Lucie facility, here came the next roadblock. Even though it was and still is a huge challenge we have to overcome, it didn’t change the core of how we tackle our problems. We plan, we take action, and we push forward.”
But no matter what happens, McShane continues to come back to one thing: the people at City Electric Supply and TAMCO, and the impact he’s been able to have on the lives of others.
“That’s the most rewarding part of where we are now,” he continued. “It’s incredible to believe that you’ve had an impact on hundreds of lives. Just by coming into work and trying to help the company move forward. The success that you have, you can pass on to others.”
But, it’s not just the people that Frank McShane has cherished the most. He has plenty of memories and adventures with Tom Mackie, Gary Smith, and John Gray in China that he’ll remember forever.
“We’ve ended up in some crazy shindigs, having some crazy nights out. One night, I even danced with a snake around my neck,” he laughed. “Each journey with those guys, I’ve shared some of my greatest stories and moments with them.”
If you ask Frank McShane what he’s most grateful for, it won’t just be unforgettable nights halfway across the world. He’s mostly grateful for how close his family is to City Electric Supply.
Much of the McShane family works for CES. His son, Thomas, is the CMO at City Electric Supply. His wife, Julie, is personal assistant, and his son-in-law, Anthony, is a commercial director at TAMCO for the lighting division. For a time, his daughter even worked for him as well!
“I’m just very proud and fortunate that my family is such a big part of this family. It doesn’t seem very long ago that Thomas McShane and Thomas Hartland-Mackie were singing in a karaoke bar together! It was clear we are not singers!” he laughed. “But it just showed how deeply everyone at CES cares for one another, family included.”
It’s those types of memories that have stuck with Frank McShane the most. Even with the challenges and the successes, it’s what family means to CES that has made everything worth it.
For McShane, seeing what he and everyone else at TAMCO have been able to achieve in 15 years — and the rest of his career so far — has been nothing short of a miracle.
“If we can achieve this in 15, imagine what we can do in 30!” he exclaimed. “It’s fun to look back on it now, starting out with guys like Gary Smith, John Gray, and Jim Lawson. It’s interesting how you remember these people that grow in the company around the same time that you did. You hear people talk about these names, but you never imagine that’s going to be you one day.”
Now with 30 years behind him in his career and plenty more still ahead, what are some secrets he’d be willing to share for those looking to grow their own careers within CES?
It turns out to be some pretty great advice.
“The first one is to work hard,” he started. “Second one is to listen and learn. The third is to always be passionate about what you’re doing and always do your best. Just do what’s right in that moment in time and make sure it’s the best thing you can do. It’s not one thing that will get you or make you successful. It’s a combination of things. Don’t ever lose excitement about that.”