Family Affair

Issue 19, July 2013

Strong family ties, dedicated, customer-focused employees, and an appreciation for a great steak are all part of the success of northwest Kansas-based Crawford Supply. With a defiant attitude toward superstition, Cecil and Brenda Crawford opened their oilfield supply business on April 1, 1986, in Plainville. From that humble beginning with just three full-time employees, the enterprise has since grown to 55 employees, with additional locations in Hays, Hill City and Lenexa, Kansas, McCook, Nebraska and Denver, Colorado.

While Cecil and Brenda are no longer involved in the day-to-day operations, a trio of sons is actively involved in the company’s management and growth. “We’re basically a glorified hardware store for the oilfield,” said Dan Crawford, General Manager at the Plainville location. “We sell pipe, casing, fittings, valves, down hole pumps, bridge plugs and packers, and we’ve recently added a coating division, CeRam Kote, where we’re able to coat our fittings, tubing and anything else that is metal, making them last longer out in the field.” Dan’s brother, John, is the CEO of the oilfield division.

While the oilfield supply business can be cyclical, due to wild price swings in the price of crude, Crawford Supply was able to diversify its business as a result of a cookout in 1993.

“We were on a family vacation out in Idaho, visiting my parents’ best friends, and they were barbequing out by the pool,” recalls Dan. “They threw steaks and chicken on, and continued to talk, and dad was saying, ‘aren’t you going to flip the chicken?'” Dan laughed, remembering the family’s introduction to Traeger wood pellet grills.

“It was the best steak my dad ever had, and when we returned home, he called the manufacturer and wanted to order a grill, but they don’t sell direct, so he had to become a dealer,” Dan chuckled. “He ordered seven grills to become a dealer.”

Dan’s brother, Scott, is the president of Crawford Supply’s ever-expanding Traeger division that has grown from a single dealership in 1993, to being the distributor for the Traeger line of grills for Kansas and 15 other states from Colorado to Michigan, and North Dakota to Louisiana. In addition to managing the network of dealers, the company also operates warehouses in Hays and Lenexa, Kansas, Englewood, Colorado, and Omaha, Nebraska.

In addition to growth, and expansion, Crawford Supply has experienced many technology changes, according to Dan, who is also the company’s IT Manager. “We have our central office here in Plainville, and we used to do all of our tickets at Plainville by manual typewriters and calculators,” explained Dan.

Click here to watch the full episode,
or catch it on Nex-Tech TV, channel 100.

“Finally, we got on computers and the Internet in 1992, and Nex-Tech has really increased our technology with the high-speed fiber; we’ve got fiber to all our buildings, and have metro Ethernet which really increased our network speed,” said Dan. “I can be sitting in Hill City using a computer and it’s like I’m sitting at my desk (in Plainville).”

Crawford Supply utilizes Nex-Tech’s state-of-the-art fiber network that according to Dan, has transformed the way they communicate. “With our new phone system, all phones are tied together, so I can pick up and call my Hays office, and it’s just like dialing the office next door to me, with no long distance, using Voice over IP, (VoIP) technology,” Dan said.

With diversified products and services, quality employees, and modern technology, Crawford Supply is well positioned for years ahead. “We’re always advancing our technology,” said Dan. “Work smarter not harder; technology can play a big role in allowing companies to run more efficiently.”