Chickasaw Holding Company
It all started when John Guantt went to see a man about a mule – or two. In 1909, John sold a pair of work mules to a local farmer on credit against the year’s crop. When the crop failed, he returned to the farmer to negotiate repayment. Refusing to take back the mules, John asked the farmer if there was anything else he could trade; the alternative was a small telephone company. He took ownership of the business, Lone Grove Telephone Company, complete with 35 telephones and Chickasaw Holding Company (CHC) was born.
Eventually, John passed the business down to his youngest son, Royce, who still serves on the board and has acted as president and CEO for several decades. The company has been in business for more than 100 years. Over the last century, much has changed in the communications industry. CHC is no longer a string of lines and a switchboard in the Gauntt family attic. The business employs approximately 250 employees, led by a strong managerial team, including Larry Jones, vice president of the board.
Full-service telecommunications support
The company, including the eight companies that fall under the CHC umbrella, operates out of 12 office locations in Oklahoma as a full-service telecommunications provider offering local telephone access, long distance services, Internet access, fiber optic networking and a complete line of data networking solutions. The company also offers a full line of quality telecommunications equipment for companies of all sizes. The team’s main line of business is providing and installing fiber optic backbone to cell towers tying businesses together and private networks together in rural Oklahoma.
“Our customers include the Department of Defense, as well as the state and federal governments,” says Larry. “Other clients are wireless carriers, native Indian agencies and regional cities and towns. Most of our work is done in Oklahoma, though some projects have taken our employees into Texas and Kansas.”
As technology has advanced, CHC has kept up to date on the changing way people communicate. The team has taken on fiber optic cable for telephone and data network solutions. CHC’s largest current telecom construction project is expanding the company’s fiber optic cable network into rural areas. The business is also expanding the company offices to update its network operating centers and centralize technology services as part of in-house operations instead of off-site. Larry estimates completion for these upgrades some time in 2016.
“We are always looking at expanding into other lines of business,” Larry notes. “We are trying to meet customer needs right now by adding specific rural Oklahoma locations into the network. Our team is currently working to expand service in south-central and southeastern rural Oklahoma. The terrain can be very challenging; we are in the heart of tornado valley and in a mountainous area. There is very little topsoil and the territory is full of hard granite that requires rock cutting.”
Even in the recent economic recession, CHC managed to stay ahead of competitors through diversification. “You have to be able to diversify to stay ahead,” Larry explains. “We operate well inside our areas of expertise. Our company was an early adopter of fiber optic cable in the state of Oklahoma. Since then, we have built a robust network of clients and partners in that market.”
Now the biggest challenge the team faces is the change in the regulatory environment and the market as people move away from landline service to wireless. “We have again adapted and stayed in business by working hard to increase our DSL services and the speed of the Internet market,” Larry continues. “We are losing the landline market, but we are increasing our Internet service capabilities. We are at the forefront on investigated market changes and products, but not the forefront of innovation. We may not be the first ones to introduce new things, but we always keep an eye out for the newest developments.”
CHC is diverse and vertically integrated. The team performs nearly everything in-house. The business includes a support service department, a help desk for customers, as well as a repair division. CHC has relationships with necessary strategic partners, including engineers, whom the business often contracts for services prior to construction work.
Larry and his team place high value on relationships within the business and outside of it. Many of the company’s partners have worked with CHC for years, providing quality, dependable services. The team does its best to treat its clients with the same respect. So far, this attitude has been successful and the company has attracted several repeat clients. “We couldn’t do it without the people we work with,” Larry explains. “I love coming to work. We have a great leadership team that takes pride in what we do. This company is a family.” As the market grows, Chickasaw Holding Company continues to provide broad and diverse services while building relationships as a family business.