Cool, calm and col­lected

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - BUSINESS - BY PAULA BURKES Busi­ness Writer pburkes@ok­la­

Ac­cord­ing to its CEO Craig McEl­wain, Ok­la­homa Chiller has a rep­u­ta­tion for mo­bi­liz­ing and re­spond­ing quickly.

Ac­cord­ing to its CEO Craig McEl­wain, Ok­la­homa Chiller — a 12-year-old, Tulsabased heavy com­mer­cial heat­ing and air con­di­tion­ing con­trac­tor — has a rep­u­ta­tion for mo­bi­liz­ing and re­spond­ing quickly.

When a chiller, pump or boiler fails, it in­vari­ably tends to go out late at night or on week­ends, he said.

“But when that hap­pens, we look for ways we’d want to be ser­viced, and get the cus­tomer up and run­ning quickly,” McEl­wain said.

The cus­tomer­fo­cused com­pany was just the op­por­tu­nity the MBA-trained ex­ec­u­tive sought after his for­mer job was down­sized a few years ago.

Along with pro­vid­ing main­te­nance, emer­gency ser­vice and re­pairs, Ok­la­homa Chiller retrofits fa­cil­i­ties, spe­cial­iz­ing in crit­i­cal sys­tem change­outs with no down­time, he said. It also ser­vices and in­stalls au­to­ma­tion con­trols, and of­fers a va­ri­ety of rental equip­ment from one-ton spot cool­ers to 500-ton air­cooled chillers.

Ok­la­homa Chiller em­ploys 36, in­clud­ing three at its branch in Del City. Cus­tomers in­clude In­te­gris Health, Baker Hughes, Tulsa Pub­lic Schools, Tulsa Zoo and the City of Tahle­quah.

From the area of­fice at 3737 Tinker Di­ag­o­nal in Del City, McEl­wain, 48, sat down with The Ok­la­homan on Mon­day to talk about his life and ca­reer. This is an edited tran­script:

Q: Tell us about your roots. A: I grew up in Clare­more, with two older broth­ers. My mother worked for RCB Bank and my fa­ther was a fire­man who was killed in the line of duty when I was 15. One of my broth­ers fol­lowed in my dad’s foot­steps and be­came a fire­man. The other is a fu­neral di­rec­tor. My mom re­mar­ried and still lives in Clare­more.

Q: What were the high­lights of your child­hood?

A: I played all sports, in­clud­ing ten­nis and golf through high school grad­u­a­tion. I still golf, but play more ten­nis. My first job was in ju­nior high, in­spect­ing and

re­fill­ing ex­tin­guish­ers at schools and man­u­fac­tur­ing plants. My fa­ther had a fire ex­tin­guisher busi­ness on the side, so I worked for him,

Q: You’ve worked for sev­eral com­pa­nies since earn­ing a fi­nance de­gree from Ok­la­homa State University. What’s been your over­ar­ch­ing line of work?

A: Busi­ness de­vel­op­ment. Upon grad­u­a­tion, I worked five years with Sam­son Re­sources in­de­pen­dent oil com­pany in Tulsa. I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I im­me­di­ately pur­sued an MBA at TU, which Sam­son, for­tu­nately, paid for. I sub­se­quently worked for Sun Pipe­line, and then nine years sell­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions prod­ucts for Wil­liams Com­pa­nies. Most re­cently, I worked for Road Sci­ence, which spun off of SemGroup after the com­pany’s 2008 bank­ruptcy. Road Sci­ence sub­se­quently down­sized the com­mu­ni­ca­tions piece I worked on.

Q: What led you to join Ok­la­homa Chiller?

A: A friend in my Sunday school class worked for the ac­count­ing firm that serves Ok­la­homa Chiller, and knew its founder and pres­i­dent John Clay­bourn. John, who’s an OSU IT grad­u­ate, was look­ing for some­one to help him run the com­pany. Mean­while, I was look­ing to get out of the cor­po­rate en­vi­ron­ment and do some­thing with a small com­pany. I joined as CEO in Fe­bru­ary 2015. It’s been a good fit. John fo­cuses on men­tor­ing and de­vel­op­ing new tech­ni­cians, while my pri­mary fo­cus is on strength­en­ing and stream­lin­ing pro­cesses.

Q: How does Ok­la­homa Chiller dif­fer from other HVAC com­pa­nies?

A: We re­al­ize that our cus­tomers’ fa­cil­i­ties were specif­i­cally de­signed and op­er­ate uniquely. So, all of our ser­vices are tai­lored to meet the spe­cific needs of our clients. Some of our larger com­peti­tors like Trane and Car­rier are also man­u­fac­tur­ers and have equip­ment to sell. But we’re not wor­ried about sell­ing equip­ment, and can work on every brand. Our mis­sion is to build re­la­tion­ships with our cus­tomers, and have the cus­tomers’ best in­ter­ests in mind. We lis­ten and try to re­ally un­der­stand. Most times, our cus­tomers are not ex­perts on their own sys­tems. A cus­tomer, for ex­am­ple, might sim­ply need a new com­pres­sor ver­sus a new chiller. We watch for retrofitting and all other options.


Craig McEl­wain joined Ok­la­homa Chiller as its CEO in Fe­bru­ary 2015.

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