There’s nothing more important in life than happiness and health
By Donna Zibresky | Photos by Chris Digerati | Interview by Sandra
Craig Wallwin relaxes in his chair, overlooking the lake and enjoying fine cheese with his favourite wine.
The spectacular view at his Muskoka cottage makes for a beautiful afternoon where I spent some time getting to know the man behind Wallwin Electric. As an influential businessman and one of Barrie’s most respected business owners, he counts decades of experience behind him, and he employs dual focus on growing his company and giving back to his community. Craig feels grateful he grew up in Barrie and is fortunate enough to lend a hand. “We all learned from our parents to give back where you make it, so we give back to the city of Barrie. It doesn’t matter what it is, you pick a cause that you think is right and you support that cause.” Besides being an active Rotary Club member and Shriner, Wallwin has supported Georgian College, YMCA, Barrie Mental Health, Barrie Hospice, Out of the Cold, Barrie Public Library, RVH, Baycats, and Gilda’s Club — just to name a few.
In 1951 Craig’s father, Jack, started Wallwin Electric, an oil burner service out of a modest 320 square foot building. Craig eagerly took the reins in 1991 when the buy-out opportunity was presented. Since then, Wallwin has successfully mushroomed under Craig’s leadership and now operates out of a 16,500 square foot state-of-the-art facility. Craig maintains, “We’ve always considered ourselves a family business even with over 95 people on staff.”
Wallwin has a strong focus on innovation and a sense of responsibility to his employees, providing scholarships and bursaries to further professional and personal development. He sees it as another important facet of giving back.
“Support the people who believe in you and believe in yourself. One of my roles in the business world is that I’m an employer and I provide everyone at work with equal opportunity. I care about our people, their kids … we are family.”
Craig remembers a wonderful testament to his success. “A few years into the business, I brought my financial statements to my dad and he said he couldn’t believe what I’d done for the company. My dad’s not the type of person to give accolades, while my mom was beaming with how proud they both were of me, for what we’d achieved in just 4 years. My mother was always proud and her smile was the best encouragement. Dad doesn’t ask to see the financials anymore,” he laughs. His stature and commanding voice draws attention in a room, but as we talk from the peaceful and serene scene at the cottage, an
engaging gentle soul emerges. I feel his sense of inner strength and calm as Craig discusses the challenges and successes at this point in his life. “Balance is important in life, to help me grow. I never had balance, the highs and lows can kill you. I never enjoyed either. Now I enjoy the balance.”
Craig loves spending time with family and friends old and new, living his life with his feet up, while keeping his head crisp for the success of the company.
A car accident in 1982 altered his life, bringing new awareness and the realization that things in his life needed to change. The dramatic incident shook him to his core and caused him to smarten
up out of his young party lifestyle and gave him the drive to put his all into the business. From then on he spent 60+ hours a week focused on the business.
While Craig enjoys golfing with both friends and business associates, he’s adamant that he will not conduct business on the golf course. That’s his time to unwind. He’s taken the sport seriously his whole life, playing since he was 12 years old. He’s played with many big names in the game including Tiger Woods, acting as his teammate in a PGA tournament. Instead, you’ll find him discussing business at his favourite lunch spot.
Now working on his new “smart” home, a project that integrates his eco-consciousness, Craig loves the technology that’s inspired him to create a semi-retirement home for himself. Only recently letting the team have the reins, he confesses he didn’t focus on his personal side, it was strictly business for many years and now he’s making a conscious effort to take care of himself.
His newfound semi-retirement involves being stronger and being braver. The best advice he would give to someone starting where he did is, “never be afraid to speak your mind, and always stand up for your beliefs.” Craig reflects, “in business I’ve always had integrity, but in life I got beat up too early and I didn’t know how to deal with life; I worked harder at work and that was my place to get away. Now I’m dealing with the personal side, focusing on me and the happiness of the people in my life. There’s nothing more important in life than happiness and health.”
As Wallwin continues to grow under Craig’s diligent leadership, he takes a moment to reflect, “As you start moving forward in life, you have to start fresh, staying open to whatever transitions lay ahead.”
Where can you find Craig now?
Well, one thing’s for sure and that’s beside the golf links: “Life on the water is calling.”