Cool, calm and collected
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.