EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ 2014 Gulf Coast Area Awards

Energy & Energy Infrastructure


hou_eoy_JohnSchillerJohn Schiller
Chairman and CEO
Energy XXI


Since the inception of Energy XXI, John Schiller has continued to focus on the core idea upon which the company was founded. That idea is to acquire and exploit undervalued oil properties, and it has proven to be uniquely insightful and creative.
While other companies in the industry were paying premium prices to acquire onshore natural gas properties, Schiller was purchasing mature oil fields at a discount.
The innovative approach has proven to be quite visionary, as crude oil has become about 40 times more valuable than natural gas today, based on relative energy content.
Taking risks and innovating often go hand in hand, and under Schiller’s leadership, Energy XXI has done plenty of both.
While executing its core strategy, the company’s chairman and CEO has taken on a pioneering position in a new ultra-deep gas trend both onshore and in the Gulf of Mexico. Drilling for gas at these depths is a major frontier, there is enormous potential coupled with numerous technical challenges.
But when these wells flow, it will be more evidence as to the power of imagination and determination.
As focused as Schiller is on innovation and growth, he puts as much, if not more effort into building a strong team. His leadership at Energy XXI does not merely consist of managing the core business. Schiller has focused on transforming his business relationships into friendships, which has been a key driver in creating success.
Energy XXI is a company that has defied the odds due to the steadfast leadership and sacrifice of Schiller. He guided the company through the recession, through catastrophic hurricanes and through additional regulations that were implemented as a result of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. His interpersonal and business acumen have helped build a strong organization from top to bottom.

hou_eoy_GeorgeLeftwichBrent Leftwich
Founder, president and CEO
Contract Land Staff


Brent Leftwich has seen the best of times at Contract Land Staff, and he has seen the worst of times. From 1990 through 2001, CLS doubled in size every two years. Following the Enron debacle, revenues took a drastic turn for the worse since Enron had been CLS’s largest client. Suddenly, financing the operations of the company became a daily struggle.
Leftwich found himself having to find alternative ways to finance the right-of-way solutions provider. He was forced to capitalize the business out of his own pocket by drawing on personal credit cards, borrowing against personal retirement accounts and even getting loans from long-term employees.
It was a tough way to run a business and it taught Leftwich a valuable lesson about the importance of having good sources of capital, something he now shares with fellow entrepreneurs.
As many doubted CLS and some advised Leftwich to give up, he dug deep and refocused on innovation. Competitors were cutting back and reducing their workforce, but Leftwich was taking risks and investing in his vision for a software product designed by right of way professionals to right of way professionals.
Ultimately, this product helped CLS revolutionize how projects were managed, monitored and executed. It is that determination, positivism and ability to innovate that differentiates him from others in the industry.
Leftwich’s management style revolves around fostering the development of his people through continuing education and an open-door policy that he espouses in order to maintain a flat and dynamic organization. The founder, president and CEO is known for his accessibility at CLS to employees at all levels of the business.
Many have said he is a born entrepreneur with a charismatic style and a willingness to take risks. He tries to bring positive energy to everything he does and has developed a keen eye for anticipating the needs of his clients and the industry as a whole.

hou_eoy_RobertPhillipsRobert Phillips
Chairman, president and CEO
Crestwood Midstream/Crestwood Equity


Launching his first business at age 26, Robert Phillips took it through an initial public offering by the time he was 30. He is a leader in the midstream oil and gas business and played an integral part in the expansion of several large companies including El Paso Corp. and Enterprise.
The beginning of Phillips’s latest endeavor started as he was driving out of his neighborhood and came to a stop sign on Crestwood Street. He was contemplating whether to retire or start a new business. He decided to go for it one more time and settled on calling the business Crestwood.
As chairman, president and CEO at Crestwood Midstream/Crestwood Equity, Phillips works hard to find the best talent and then create an organizational structure around his team. He emphasizes an inclusive culture and spends a lot of time on integration.
Phillips spent more than 200 days on the road last year with the goal of shaking hands with every one of his more than 1,200 employees.
An early indicator of the success of the integration efforts came about through a merger with Inergy, LP. This organization, still managed by its founder, had retained its old name and had not changed the branding of its trucks. Just months after the merger with Inergy, the president of the trucking division had the trucks rebranded with the Crestwood logo.
Phillips identifies high-potential performers and works with individuals to develop detailed career paths. But the career guidance does not stop there. Phillips seeks to help people at all levels of his organization find their way and makes it a priority to do so throughout the company.
His goal is to paint a clear picture of his vision and expectations and use that guidance to motivate his employees to put in their best effort at all times.

hou_eoy__AllenHowardAllen Howard
President and CEO


Family will always be a top priority for Allen Howard, president and CEO of NuTech. He keeps the well-being of his people top of mind in many ways, whether it’s a handwritten birthday or anniversary card or a company watch that employees receive after five years of service.
Great as those perks are, they all pale when compared to the moment Howard himself leads the singing of “Happy Birthday” at the company’s monthly birthday and anniversary gathering in Houston.
The depth with which Howard cares about family is also displayed when Howard’s youngest daughter, Autumn, enters the picture. She was born with a special type of autism known as Asperger’s syndrome. Upon graduating from high school, she was neither prepared for college or the workforce, leaving the Howard family looking for support and assistance.
Support in the area was limited, leaving Howard and his wife, Linnie, to dream about creating a center to help young adults with autism learn the skills they need to transition into adult life. In 2010, the Howards created a nonprofit called Autumn’s Dawn to answer those needs. To date, the center has worked with nearly 100 young adults in Kingwood and The Woodlands.
These are just a few examples of what makes Howard an inspiring leader at NuTech.
His management team focuses on solving problems for clients, but Howard recently challenged his team to rethink the organization and direct their attention internally. Over a 24-month period, he led his team through a grueling process of self-assessment and strategic planning.
As a result, the team decided to expand NuTech past its traditional product-based sales strategy. NuTech’s future is now as a company delivering value-creation strategies via employee expertise and unique technologies. While many organizational changes and initiatives flounder and ultimately fail, NuTech’s strategic rebranding is succeeding because of the solution the team created in response to Howard’s challenge.

hou_eoy_DanBorgenDan Borgen
President and CEO
U.S. Development Group, LLC


Dan Borgen succeeds in business through his ability to work with others and build strong, mutually beneficial relationships.
It began when he was a sophomore in college signing up Oklahoma farmers to grant mineral rights to oil companies. Borgen was able to close deals that others were not due in large part to the trust he gained by performing early-morning chores alongside the farmers.
Borgen has always modeled the highest ethical standards in his business relationships and has consistently demonstrated creativity, determination, persistence and hard work. It’s similar to the approach he takes toward his customers, vendors and employees as CEO and president at U.S. Development Group, LLC.
Each of these relational skills complements Borgen’s greatest attribute — his ability to identify and solve business inefficiencies. His ability to see beyond the horizon has led to a company that is different than the one that three guys and a truck started in 1996.
Under Borgen’s leadership, USD now leads practices in designing, developing, owning and managing large-scale rail logistic centers throughout North America. The company has become the industry leader in unit rail facility development for liquid product distribution.
Borgen is a champion of the USD family, which has a unique culture where each person is challenged to do his or her best to advance the company. USD business cards do not contain any titles, only names and contact information.
Borgen loves to participate in meetings with customers and vendors to see how external participants respond based on the contributions of the USD participants, instead of basing their responses on the USD participant titles.
Borgen makes certain that USD emulates the same honesty and integrity of the Oklahoma farmers from his early days, who lived simply by a handshake. Under his watch, USD will make the same effort to live up to every commitment.