The Professional of the Month whose career we highlight in this edition is the Mexican executive Pedro Machain Garza.
By Álvaro León Pérez Sepúlveda
Born 57 years ago in Guadalajara, Machain studied Industrial Engineering at the Universidad del Valle de Atemajac, later graduating as a Business Accelerator at the University of Texas at Austin.
The successful businessman, who is also president of the company Ecochillers, agreed to talk with ACR Latin America about his life and his almost four decades in the HVAC industry.
How was the beginning of your professional career?
My working life began at Gilbert Copeland in 1987, as a Service Engineer and then as an Application Engineer. In 1988, when I finished college, I was appointed manager of a branch in Mazatlan, where I worked for a year and a half. Then, I was assigned to general management until 1992, when I founded my own company. From there we worked as contractors, making refrigeration systems and condensing units. After that, we expanded the business and did bigger projects.
What motivated you to found your current company, Ecochillers?
By 2005, the deterioration of the ozone layer was worsening and manufacturers were turning to making large equipment, which was more in demand, as well as small equipment for residential use. There was a huge gap in the market for three- to 50-ton chillers, and we filled it by using refrigerants that didn't harm the atmosphere. That's how Ecochillers was born.
What challenges does Ecochillers face today?
Our main challenge is to expand into North American markets such as Canada and the United States. We have been operating in the United States since 2010, but it is a very demanding market. Although it is true that we sell projects there year after year, we continue to work to strengthen ourselves in the medium and long term.
And Latin America?
Around 30% of our sales are made in Latin America, where we are consolidated through a solid network of distributors. In the United States, we also started a distribution network three years ago and we have started to see the results. However, we know that it is a market that is perhaps a hundred times larger than Latin America and now we want to strengthen our position in it.
How would you describe your leadership style?
Although we have a defined organizational chart, our collaborators are close to all the members of the General Management. My children work in the company and we want each employee to feel part of a big family because you can have a well-paid employee, but if they are not comfortable or satisfied, they will be indifferent to the improvement processes.
What do you do to raise awareness and motivate your workers?
We have people who have been with the company for 25 years and we want them to grow. 10% of those who started in production now hold engineering positions or manage our services in Latin America and the United States. These positions are filled with people who started out at basic technical levels, becoming service engineers in Mexico and other parts of the world.
What route do these people take to develop their skills and grow?
Every year we open a school within the company, with a private teacher who helps those who wish to complete primary and secondary school. We have people who have finished university while at Ecochillers: they used to work here part-time and they are now fully with us, after graduating. There is no better school, because studying and working is living the reality of the world of work. For me, that helped a lot. We also run an eye health campaign, so that the families of our colleagues have the right to a pair of glasses and an annual check-up.
Even when there are conjunctural situations?
That's right. During the pandemic, for example, we didn't reduce wages and kept our entire workforce. In addition, we took out extralegal insurance for major medical expenses for everyone, while supporting colleagues and their families who had to enter private hospitals because of the emergency.
To what do you attribute being recognized as Professional of the Month?
What sets us apart as a team, because I can't just talk about myself, is our commitment to the development of clean and energy recovery technologies. We've been doing this for 13 years and we believe we're going to make a big splash in North America, following the ban on combustion systems to generate heat. Large manufacturers will have similar initiatives, but their processes are slower and we respond very quickly to market changes and regulations.
In which business verticals do you have energy recovery projects?
As a general rule, what is done in the U.S. and Canadian markets is then replicated in the Mexican market. In this way, we have large heat recovery projects in chillers in the tequila and beer industry, as well as in hospitals and pharmaceutical laboratories in Mexico, although the country does not yet have legislation in this regard.
Are these projects profitable?
Yes, but it's not just about economic well-being, it's about holistic well-being. If we look at catastrophes like the floods caused by the rains in Libya, which is a desert country in Africa, we understand that climate change is a real issue.
What is the current landscape of the HVAC industry in Mexico?
There is a remarkable evolution and we have more and more users. In addition, we get better components and systems, thanks to the arrival of manufacturers in the country. Today we generate wealth by adding value to the electronics and aerospace industries; as well as food, drugs and liquors that are export products. Local refrigeration, heating and pasteurization mean that we are no longer just a garden where others harvest.
How would you describe, Peter, your more familiar side?
I come from a middle-class family and I have made it through my efforts. I have been married for 35 years and in my home we value the Latin American notion of the family unit. Therefore, I consider it a blessing that my three children liked the operation of the company and that they work at Ecochillers. The youngest is still studying marketing, but he already works with our marketing staff. I also have three grandchildren with whom I share a lot.
What do you do in your free time?
We take family trips in the winter and summer, every year. We rent a hotel or a big house and go anywhere in the United States or Mexico to spend fifteen days together. I'm not as sporty as my older kids. In that sense, I look like the youngest, because I like to travel and get to know any part of Mexico. I also love to try all the food. I think the only thing I haven't eaten is cockroach and cat (laughs).