As I stood in front of the owners laying out my vision for the company, it never dawned on me how little I knew about the adventure I was about to begin.
Eight days before my 28th birthday, I was unanimously voted the chief executive officer (CEO) of an 11-year-old oilfield service company.
The company I was taking over had plateaued. Its current management was nearing retirement, and it needed to do something to revitalize itself while it was still viable.
At the time, I was one of the company’s youngest employees, but having worked there since it was formed in 2000, I knew every moving part of the company intimately. I knew what our biggest problem was: We were stuck in “small company” mode.
However, understanding our problem was merely the first step. We had to identify the steps we would need to take to get ourselves out of that rut.
With the help of the person who would end up being my right-hand man on this journey, we sat down and hatched our plan. We laid out a roadmap, the first of many ambitious plans we would devise to grow our company.
With our plan in place, we set out in a sprint toward our goal. Success came easily in the beginning, but as we progressed down this road, we learned a number of difficult lessons.
As an excited new CEO, I took on the task of working harder than I ever had before, trying to perform as many jobs as I could.
Before long, it became obvious that it would be very hard to be an effective salesperson while I was busy in the office writing programs; tricky to dispatch truckloads of our products to customers while I was in the field helping out with a job; and nearly impossible to keep a close eye on accounting while re-stacking pallets in the warehouse.
It soon became apparent that, although I could do every job in the company, I was really only gifted at a couple of those jobs. I was doing the company a disservice by running it this way and spreading myself too thin in the process. By doing a lot of jobs I was good at, I wasn’t ever able to really do what I did best.
We had that first “aha moment,” so we sat down and wrote out the first lesson we learned: Allow our employees to do what they do best every day.
The next learning opportunity came in the form of a series of bad hiring decisions. No one had prepared me for how daunting a task it is to hire a team of employees. Sure, in my short career I had hired a number of people, but this time it was different.
Earlier in my career we just needed people to fill a job. Now, we weren’t looking for just anybody; we were looking for a unique set of people whom we had not yet determined how to identify.
Dealing with the fallout surrounding bad hires will make you learn in a hurry, and we eventually found a method that has worked for us.
In this process we learned our second major lesson: Whom we have in the company is equally important as what we do as a company.
We then took a look at our product and service offering. It jumped off the page when we saw it; we hadn’t released a new product in years.
We began looking at what new products we could offer—something that would continue to set our company apart. This began as we identified the current state of the market.
Fluids are one of the few things that ever contact a reservoir and can account for upwards of 30% of the completed cost of a well; therefore, the importance of fluids in drilling and completion operations cannot be overstated.
With the continual need to drill quicker and more efficiently, fluids are being pushed to extremes. Wells with deeper total vertical depths, longer laterals, smaller holes, high bottomhole temperatures, and so forth have demanded that fluids evolve with drilling practices.
Although the fluids used in drilling and completion operations have evolved tremendously over the last decade, fluid-related issues such as lost circulation, stuck pipe, low rate of penetration, excessive friction, and unstable formations continue to be problematic for the petroleum industry.
As the industry continues to push itself to deliver lower-cost wells, these obstacles present a real problem.
Operators are searching for ways to optimize their field development and transition it into a manufacturing mode.
The goal became being able to repeatedly drill very similar wells for roughly the same cost, in the same amount of time.
Though the United States’ domestic rig count is nowhere near record levels, the overall number of wells being drilled per year is skyrocketing due to the decreasing amount of time it takes to drill a well. Because of this, money lost on fluid-related problems creates a barrier preventing companies from stabilizing their costs from well to well.
The focus of our product and service offering became “Driving innovation to create efficiencies for our customers.” This focus was a value-added principle around which all of our product lines would soon revolve.
With purposeful intent, a new culture began to emerge at the company.
The average age of the employees began to fall quickly as we searched for personnel to fill the age gap—the so-called “Great Crew Change”—that has existed in the industry for some time.
We filled our ranks with motivated individuals in the beginning stages of their careers and excited to be part of something great.
We fostered an atmosphere where employees began feeling privileged to work here.
There was an excited buzz going on and everyone we encountered, be it customers, vendors, or prospective employees, could feel it.
The company started to take on a new life, as we began to have higher and higher expectations for each other.
Through this change, we identified and adopted a new philosophy: Create a dynamic atmosphere that demands excellence.
As we wove our way through the next couple of years, we started to fine-tune the core principles that define our company today. As I said at the beginning, our original plan was definitely not our last. We learned that business plans must be fluid, and regular adjustments are often necessary.
Following the principles we evolved, our company has grown to more than five times the size it was 2 years ago. We have a group of people working here whom I really care about, stakeholders excited about the company’s direction. And most importantly for me, I have a job I love.
Brandon Hayes is chief executive officer of DrillChem Drilling Solutions, which provides fluid additives for the drilling, completion, and horizontal directional drilling industries. Previously, he was DrillChem’s vice president of engineering, where he focused on the prevention of pressure transmission from the wellbore to the formation in drilling operations, polymer selection and optimization, solid and liquid frictional forces, and suspension dynamics in large-diameter horizontal drilling applications. He has been with the company for 13 years, having started his career at DrillChem during high school. Hayes earned a BS in chemical engineering from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.