Published on January 20, 2019
Distinguished Alumni Award recipient the face of global manufacturer and distributor for oil and gas industry
Mark McNeill (Marketing ’82), as the president and CEO of The Stream-Flo Group of Companies, has likely been fighting jet lag since the mid-80s. For the past, 30-plus years, he’s been the face of Stream-Flo to the company’s clients around the world.
McNeill was initially offered the opportunity to drum up business overseas not too long after he graduated from NAIT. Introducing their products into potential markets, however, was not an easy feat in what was becoming an increasingly competitive global economy. But it was a challenge he met head on.
Stream-Flo designs and manufactures products—including wellheads, valves and frac trees—which control the pressure and flow in wells for the global oil and gas industry. The company provides their services from installation to abandonment, reconditioning and maintaining their products throughout the lifespan of the oil well.
Simply put, McNeill says, think of their products as an “expensive kitchen tap”.
Today, the company has customers in 65 countries, including the United States, the United Arab Emirates, China, France and Brazil. And, even though the company’s headquartered in a landlocked city, they’ve dramatically grown their customer base for their subsea chokes and valves—in fact, today their products can even be found thousands of metres under the sea just off the coast of West Africa.
Not bad for a family-run business, conceived and built by his father, Duncan McNeill, some 54 years ago in a modest, single shop.
“He started the business, retired at 84, but is still very much concerned about our employees,” explains McNeill, who adds without hesitation that his father's work ethic, ambition and values inspire him to this day. “He still asks for updates to make sure I’m doing the right thing.”
It’s pretty clear that family is ranked pretty high on the list of priorities at Stream-Flo. In fact, McNeill still remembers a time when he could greet every employee by name. He started with the company in 1979 when his father asked him to come to work for him.
A company built on family values
There were just 30 employees when McNeill first stepped into the Stream-Flo shop. He began with the company sweeping floors then moved on to the machines manufacturing the company’s valves and wellheads.
A year later, still working full time, he enrolled in classes at NAIT, graduating from the Business Administration – Marketing program in 1982. He went on to work in Stream-Flo’s Brooks and Estevan offices, expanding his knowledge of their field operations. McNeill found his niche, however, when he took on a role in sales.
Just a few years earlier, Stream-Flo acquired Master-Flo, a company that served offshore drilling companies. Not too long thereafter, they were considering a move into the international market. Risky venture, but it was a decision strongly backed by senior leadership—and hinged on McNeill’s unwavering belief in the company’s products. It was a move that would pay off.
The first of the company’s international offices opened up in London in 1984, followed by Southeast Asia in 1986—accomplishments not without its share of sacrifice on McNeill’s part.
He lived in Indonesia for more than five years. And since then, he’s spent anywhere from one to three weeks at a time in any given country to take their product to new markets. He cultivated strong customer relationships that lead to the growth of Stream-Flo’s customer base—so much so that the company was recognized as Exporter of the Year by Alberta Venture Magazine in 2010.
Conducting business in the global economy, however, has its share of twists in the road with some pretty steep learning curves, says McNeill. Adjusting to the cultural and political differences can range from simple things like traffic to the complex like dealing with legal regulations such as customs.
As president and CEO, he still visits their offices abroad regularly, but he’s increasingly committed to spending more time at home base to keep business running smoothly. The company now has 1,200 employees, all depending on his leadership, particularly during economic downswings.
Despite the company’s profound growth, McNeill nobly continues to uphold strong family values. “We may have 1,200 people working for us, but that equals to 4,000 dependents. We are responsible for the employee, the partner and their children.”
Giving back to the community is deeply rooted in Stream-Flo’s culture. The company offers an unconditional scholarship to the children of its employees. “I think it’s important to give back to the community," says this year's Distinguished Alumni Award recipient. "You also have to give back to the people who put in the long hours some of these people put in. It’s really the employees who make our business successful.”
Under McNeill’s leadership, support for the community remains as important today as it was for his father. Both he and the company regularly support causes like the Stollery Children’s Hospital, local food banks and cancer research at the University of Alberta.
That generosity has also extended to NAIT.
Over the years, the McNeill family has made significant donations toward endowments in support of scholarships and to create the Duncan McNeil Centre for Innovation, an incubator for entrepreneurship and product development. NAIT gratefully recognized the McNeill family’s support at Calgary’s National Philanthropy Day Awards Ceremony in 2008.