Daniel Rice IV and his brothers build Rice Energy into a billion dollar company

Building a team, culture

The decision to sell wasn’t easy, not because it wasn’t best for the shareholders. They’ve enjoyed working here, Daniel says. It wasn’t just the Rices who enjoyed it, either — Rice Energy was named a best place to work this year.

Company leaders set the strategic direction, but they spend half of their time being a cheerleader, motivating employees and making sure people can execute the plan, he says.

A business has to be economically sound, but sustainability is also the people, culture and the intangible, such as empowering the workforce. Part of Rice Energy’s culture is an environment where everybody comfortably asks questions. This started with the Rice brothers, who had to learn on the job.

“It’s not that Toby, Derek and I are the best looking, the smartest or the tallest — because we’re not. We’re the shortest, we’re kind of ugly and we’re not the most brilliant. But we’ve done a good job of building the right team to capture the opportunity or the skill set that we have as a company,” Daniel says.

The three get credit for growing Rice Energy, but the only praise they deserve is for hiring people who helped them achieve that success over the past decade, he says.

When the company was small, Daniel handled finance and strategy, Toby handled petroleum engineering and land, and Derek handled geology and rocks. If something was in somebody’s wheelhouse, the others deferred. But that didn’t work when they had to cultivate management skills.

“It forced us to develop another level of communication with each other. Not just saying, ‘Here’s the information, Derek, make the decision,’” he says.

Daniel is the de facto tiebreaker, but 99 out of 100 times, they come to the same decision independently.

“Most decisions are pretty objective. It just requires fleshing out all of the information to get to it, and it can take some time to get there,” Daniel says. “You just need to be willing to have those conversations.”

The Rice brothers also try not to let family dynamics get in the way.

“The fact that we’ve made it through the other side as a family, still together and still loving each other as much as we did when we started the business, indicates that we probably did it the right way,” Daniel says.

The sale should go through in the fourth quarter. Daniel is joining the EQT board of directors, but essentially, the Rices will be out of a job.

“We don’t know what we’re going to do. Our wives are nervous,” he says.

It will be difficult to go from full steam to a sudden stop, but Daniel is looking forward to it.

“We’ll take a breather and we’ll reassess, but it’s a well-needed break, I could tell you that,” he says.