Express Energy, LLP
In late 2009, as Express Energy LLP was contemplating emerging from bankruptcy proceedings, Darron Anderson and his executives sat down to craft a five-year strategy for the firm.
With survival of the firm not a certainty, Anderson, CEO, had the foresight to move his leadership team beyond the then-present challenges and get them focused on a grander future. He recognized that the company needed a cultural shift to affect a dramatic and needed change.
A key driver of Express Energy’s renewed success has been the impact of Express University. The University is the company’s training facility, and is one of the biggest enablers of the firm’s strategy. In the planning stages for several years, the University opened in May 2012.
In an oilfield services business where success and failure is tied to the outcomes of the workforce, it is critical to attract, develop and retain top-performing client-servicing crews. New employees at Express attend classes for 10 days from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to gain exposure to what they will face in the field.
Employees sleep in dormitories similar to what they will encounter in the field and never leave campus — in order to create a real-world experience for the recruits. Not just a training exercise, the recruits are exposed to Express senior leadership who will visit the campus to lead a workshop session or discuss a different aspect of the firm’s guiding principles.
The University serves as a filtering tool to weed out those not up to the demands of the job physically or otherwise. It immerses new employees in the company’s culture, core values and leading business practices. The ultimate goal of the University is to get the graduates to “Bleed Express Blue.”
The University has not only helped to improve Express’s safety record, but has delivered huge returns with new recruits, existing employees and customers.
How to reach: Express Energy LLP, www.eeslp.com
CEO, president and chairman
Rockwater Energy Solutions
Larry O’Donnell does not think being a CEO means a lot of sitting in a corporate office just issuing orders.
Rather, he spends his time at Rockwater Energy Solutions on the road, visiting locations and holding town hall meetings with his employees. He also holds regular calls with employees where he discusses in detail a particular one of the company’s core values.
O’Donnell believes in leading by example and involving everyone in decisions so that it ensures employee buy-in.
For example, upon the formation of Rockwater, a major task was to develop a brand for the new company. O’Donnell took this very serious, particularly since the acquired businesses had been family-owned. He made sure he got all levels of management involved in a collaborative approach so everyone could have a stake in the decision. He strongly believes in making everyone feel accountable.
Rockwater was created in 2011 through a roll-up of several companies. The goal was to be the first oilfield service provider that could service companies through the entire fluid lifecycle. Since O’Donnell helped create Rockwater, he brought in a strong management team that had the same core values and integrity he wanted to instill throughout the company: RISE — Respect, Integrity, Safety and Excellence.
The RISE values denote the high standards expected of Rockwater employees. O’Donnell lives the values he promotes, cares deeply about his team and creates an atmosphere of respect across the company by striving for excellence and safety while always doing the right thing.
Rockwater has a platform for continued growth for the years ahead as hydraulic fracturing operations continue to grow, increasing the need for efficient and environmentally-conscious water usage.
O’Donnell’s vision and plan for future growth includes a balanced approach to organic and acquisition growth. He envisions Rockwater becoming the leader in the water management and chemical additives segment of the oil and gas industry.
How to reach: Rockwater Energy Solutions, www.rockwaterenergy.com
David D. Dunlap
President and CEO
Superior Energy Services, Inc.
David Dunlap began his role as the CEO of Superior Energy Services, Inc. at a momentous time — the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill had occurred just nine days earlier.
With that catastrophic event as a backdrop, Dunlap realized that with about 60 percent of Superior’s business coming from the Gulf of Mexico, the company’s operations would suffer only a short-term impact.
In addition, as a mitigating factor, several of Superior’s products and services were on the front lines of the oil spill response team. Dunlap met regularly with those operational leaders whose products and services were impacted by the spill, discussing alternative uses for assets and other ways to deal with the business interruption.
Realizing the importance of communication during time of crisis, he also served as company spokesperson and industry thought leader with the company’s board of directors, employees, shareholders and other stakeholders. Through his membership on several industry trade associations, Dunlap has participated in several meetings with government officials and oil and gas operations regarding the emerging regulatory environment resulting from the oil spill.
Dunlap has helped position Superior for long-term growth. Through U.S. land and international expansion under his leadership, the company has the opportunity to grow.
Under Dunlap’s leadership, Superior accelerated its expansion into the U.S. land market by acquiring Complete Production Services, which doubled the size of the company. Superior's tremendous growth has been the result of hard work, strategic acquisitions and a focus on exceeding customer expectations.
Taking a direct approach to management, Dunlap focuses on building a team of great people around him and not a large corporate staff with much centralized control. He does not view himself as “the” entrepreneur, but rather Superior as being a company “of entrepreneurs,” with the key knowledge and customer service skills that support the task of guiding and cultivating — not trying to change.
How to reach: Superior Energy Services, Inc., www.superiorenergy.com
Distribution & Manufacturing
president and CEO
Schulte Building Systems
Like many other companies in the construction industry, Schulte Building Systems reached a breaking point with the global economic downturn in 2009. The downturn was made even more challenging, both personally and professionally, with the October 2009 passing of Johnie Schulte, who co-founded the business four years earlier with Fred Koetting.
Koetting, who then became both president and CEO, faced some tough decisions, but was inspired by his employees and knew that together they could survive the downturn. He knew it would take a collective effort from all levels to recover.
The company was forced to shrink in order to survive. A newly acquired plant in Alabama was shut down, costs were trimmed to the bone, salaries were cut by up to 10 percent and investors were asked to re-invest.
Koetting then took a dramatic step. He promised all pay cuts would be treated as loans to the company to be paid back as soon as earnings allowed. By providing that transparency, Koetting allowed the employees to see the sacrifices made by everyone.
The company achieved the collective buy-in it needed and survived. While the market declined 50 percent, SBS sales only fell 35 percent.
In addition, the company did not lose a single employee through the cuts, and by 2010 all lost wages were paid back in the form of year-end bonuses. SBS was positioned for recovery.
Any true success is a team effort, Koetting believes, and he strives to surround himself with the right people to do the job. He recognized that appropriate corporate governance was critical, so the company created a board of directors including representatives of the Schulte family and the Schulte trust as well as experienced banking and commercial representatives.
Koetting is free to innovate and allow his board to make course corrections with the overall vision or provide specific guidance as needed. New ideas are welcome and encouraged whether they work or not.
How to reach: Schulte Building Systems, www.sbslp.com
Distribution & Manufacturing
Mark C. Arnold
President and CEO
When the weekend draws near, the thoughts of many people turn to upcoming family gatherings, dinner reservations, tickets to the show or maybe even the possibility of getting a tee time at the country club.
But for Mark Arnold, many of his weekends find him doing something a lot more intense than any of these fun-filled activities.
As an active member of the U.S. Armed Forces, Arnold serves as a brigadier general in the U.S. Army Reserve. When the weekends are over, it’s back to work as president and CEO at GSE Environmental.
Fortunately for Arnold, he’s proven quite adept at balancing the two leadership roles.
Arnold enlisted in the Army after high school and quickly volunteered for a Special Forces Paratroop Unit where he eventually became a Green Beret officer.
His military training has given him the ability to deal with challenges and work effectively with people to make things work in his organization.
Arnold firmly believes that the ability to be adaptive in meeting customer needs, adjusting to unexpected obstacles, and implementing new ideas is absolutely essential to GSE’s success.
He believes in empowering the organization’s people across all job functions to promote innovative thinking and a unifying commitment to the company’s success and future.
Arnold conveys this message every day through a rigorous schedule in which he is constantly working closely with customers and colleagues around the globe to move the company forward.
By providing a voice to every person through his ideation sessions where he emphasizes that he is only one voice and one vote in the room, Arnold is able to retain employees. It promotes collaboration and gives each person an opportunity to speak up and let their feelings be heard about the topic at hand.
When he isn’t at work or on reserve duty, Arnold makes sure he has time for his family. He also continues to be active with Ohio University, his alma mater.
How to reach: GSE Environmental, www.gseworld.com
Distribution & Manufacturing
Crane Worldwide Logistics
After working for a logistics company called Eagle Logistics for many years, John Magee concluded that the business he once knew and loved was no longer for him. He resigned subject to a 12-month non-compete agreement.
Magee and eight other former Eagle executives, all with one year non-competes, decided they would use the 12-month period to develop a business plan, find a financial backer, and then in month 13, kick off a new business.
They found a private equity firm to back them, got seed money from Jim Crane, and went to work developing a business plan that took the best of the management, operations, and back office aspects of Eagle, and addressed those aspects that were in need of repair. Magee and his colleagues launched Crane Worldwide Logistics in 2008.
Launching a new company during the economic crisis has its obvious challenges. Attracting top industry executives and employees from comfortable jobs to join a start-up was the most significant obstacle the leadership team had to overcome.
The vision of the company is the most vital aspect of the business and helped attract talent to the company. Crane aims to be a mid-sized logistics provider. To compete against the largest competitors, the focus is on large, high touch, high value, and high service logistics services where commodity pricing isn’t the determinative factor. In fact, Magee has walked away from several proposals where he believed the margins derived were inconsistent with the Crane vision.
Magee and his team believe strongly in the company’s character statement; CRANE, which stands for Customer-centric, Responsible, Attentive, Integrity and Execution.
Crane’s business is currently about 40 percent air, 30 percent ocean and 30 percent ground delivery. Magee attributes the success of Crane to the 1,200 like-minded employees who share the vision of building a niche logistics company which competes on service ability, and not just price.
How to reach: Crane Worldwide Logistics, www.craneww.com
Distribution & Manufacturing
Little has come easy in life for Amit Bhandari. He left his home in Indore, India, at the age of 17 to come to the United States and pursue the entrepreneurial instincts that were beginning to drive him.
Those instincts were strong, but they weren’t enough to prevent some tough times. Bhandari worked as a waiter to make ends meet as he attended school and got the education he needed to pursue his career path in the chemical engineering industry.
He also established a day care business, a real estate investment business and a convenience store along the way. All this time he was building up a cash reserve he would eventually use to start a company of his own.
He founded the BioUrja Group of companies in 2006, recognizing a need for a company that could address the significant logistical challenges oil companies and independent refiners face to reliably procure ethanol to meet federal mandates.
His keen eye for opportunity would serve him well as he continued to make wise decisions to build his presence in the industry. He took risks, including the mortgaging of his own home and use of his own personal funds to obtain a key strategic asset through a bankruptcy auction.
When those risks paid off, his company grew stronger.
Bhandari looks to build relationships with people to enable him to factor their perspective into those key decisions that need to be made. With everyone on the same page, execution becomes cleaner and efficiency increases, leading to an even stronger organization.
Through all the success, Bhandari has not forgotten the tough road he took to achieve success. He works hard to support mentoring programs that can help the next generation of talented leaders to get their chance to fulfill their potential and big dreams. And his staff is often right there by his side, reaffirming his instinct in developing great leaders.
How to reach: BioUrja Group, www.biourja.com
Distribution & Manufacturing
President and CEO
American Alloy Steel Inc.
As Arthur Moore transitioned from serving the United States in World War II to building a career in the steel industry, he noticed some similarities between the two pursuits. While there were obvious differences, Moore was struck by the importance of discipline, a strong work ethic and a desire to be the best that was present both in the military and the working world to which he now belonged.
He took advantage of the opportunities afforded him to learn about the steel industry and put that knowledge to use in 1971 when he launched American Alloy Steel Inc. When he discovered his partners did not have the same knowledge that he had, he bought them out and moved ahead on his own.
It was slow at times, but his business grew and the focus he put on building strong relationships paid off in multiple ways. Customers were impressed by his knowledge and professionalism as were suppliers. The result was a business that always had a plan to follow to achieve success.
Inside the company, a thriving culture has made American Alloy an enjoyable place to work. Free lunches are offered each Friday, creating an environment that is pleasant in the good times and supportive when employees are going through difficulties. Loans are available to those who need them with flexible payback plans that allow borrowers to get back on their feet without feeling pressured to pay off their debts.
The generosity extends beyond the walls of American Alloy as the company is always doing what it can to help needy families during the holiday season. The result is an organization that has built a strong reputation for the way it treats its customers, its vendors and its employees. This has positioned American Alloy to expand its reach and bring its all-around quality to other parts of the world.
How to reach: American Alloy Steel Inc., www.aasteel.com
Distribution & Manufacturing
Walter Blessey Jr.
Chairman and CEO
Blessey Marine Services Inc.
The way that Walter Blessey Jr. measures the success of his company is through his people. He is successful, he says, because his employees are great at their jobs. Like so many entrepreneurs, Blessey used to do everything himself, and now he has learned to put his faith in individuals and their abilities to do what they do.
Blessey Marine Services Inc., a multi-faceted inland tank barge and towing vessel fleet, and its employees have a track record of improving revenue by more than 25 percent in the last three years, so it’s easy to see why Blessey, chairman and CEO, has faith in the team that he’s assembled.
Blessey puts a great deal of time into his employees, not just on the job site, but away from the office or fleet as well. To show his employees how much faith he has in them, Blessey has a unique program that allows all employees to buy shares in the newest additions to the company fleet. Employees invest their personal money into shares of ownership in newly constructed vessels. The employees usually make their investment back within two or three years of the vessel being placed into service. The investment will continue to produce income for another 25-30 years.
There are many things that make Blessey and Blessey Marine Services original and innovative. One area that stands out is the Captain’s Club meetings for when all of the captains are in town together in order for everyone to meet each other. Blessey believes that it’s vital that every employee gets to know fellow Blessey co-workers.
To this end, the Blessey team also holds an annual trip to reward high-level executive team members and captains of boats without any injuries, safety issues or downtime. The trip gives everyone a great opportunity to get to know each other and boost the bond among office and field personnel even further.
How to reach: Blessey Marine Services Inc., www.blessey.com
Founder and CEO
Jerry Lasco did not grow up wanting to be a restaurateur. He was a pilot who had flown planes for both the U.S. Air Force and what was then Continental Airlines. He and his wife, Laura, loved to travel internationally and wine tasting had always been part of the experience.
But soon after Lasco and his wife moved to Houston, the tragedy of 9/11 struck. Lasco was furloughed and suddenly found himself out of work. Fortunately, he looked at it as an opportunity to start a new career. He was willing to take an hourly position at a wine store to learn more about the wine industry, as well as fine-tune his palate and plan his next move.
He became drawn to creating a wine bar that also sold retail wine. He and his wife invested all their savings to open one of Houston’s first wine bars, The Tasting Room Wine Cafe. It flourished and continues to set the standard for wine bars.
As founder and CEO of Lasco Enterprises, he leads with three principles in mind: Employees and business partners are the highest priority, customers must have an enjoyable and memorable experience, and the company must give back to the communities that support his business.
The focus on employees is critical because they are the ones who touch customers and if they are happy, your customers are more likely to be happy. Business partners are also critical to your success, and Lasco focuses intently on building a strong rapport so both sides can achieve success.
When customers have a memorable experience, they’ll tell people about it and your business will take off, Lasco says, and it has to be at every level of service as one bad aspect of a customer’s experience has the potential to spoil the good. And building strong bonds with your community fosters even more relationships and creates a positive image for your business.
How to reach: Lasco Enterprises, www.lascoenterprises.com