Exploration & Production
Co-founder and managing director
Arena Energy, LP
Michael Minarovic, a petroleum engineer, had successful careers with Conoco and Newfield Exploration when he began think more often of how the mature oil producing areas in the shallow-water Gulf of Mexico still held vast potential. He was confident that new technology and some talented oil explorers would unlock drilling opportunities.
Minarovic was willing to take risks, and in 1999 with two co-founders, started Arena Energy.
The company’s focus would be to develop lower risk exploitation development drilling opportunities instead of existing producing assets or pursuing higher risk exploration drilling prospects.
Nearly 14 years after its formation, the Arena Energy continues to operate in the same area. It does not divest its “marginal” properties, but it continues to gather new information and reassess often. Minarovic has found that it pays off to look at these fields and the data periodically with a new perspective.
That approach is coupled with an entrepreneurial spirit that Minarovic encourages among his employees, allowing them to invest their own money into partnerships that are formed to fund various drilling projects.
What is noteworthy about these partnerships is that the two that have been formed so far have increased in value exponentially, and yet few of the employees who have invested their personal funds have cashed out their units.
While other operators in the Gulf of Mexico may be exploring other options or getting out completely, Arena continues with its original strategy. Over the past three years, Arena has operated all of the wells that it has drilled and has performed well as compared to its competition.
As Arena became financially successful, the founders began looking for additional opportunities to give back to society, so in 2008 they created the Arena Foundation. Minarovic and the owners of Arena provide the funding of the foundation. Arena encourages its employees to nominate potential recipients, and a four-person board allocates charitable contributions to those organizations it believes Arena can significantly impact.
How to reach: Arena Energy LP, www.arenaenergy.com
Exploration & Production
President and CEO
LINN Energy, LLC
As the president and CEO of LINN Energy LLC, an upstream exploration and production company, Mark Ellis demonstrates innovation in a unique business model, and his steadfast commitment to a strategy differentiates LINN from any other competitor in his industry.
Ellis’ guidance has been instrumental to LINN as it has grown from a handful of natural gas wells with a few employees into a top-15, publicly traded, multi-billion dollar E&P company employing more than 1,100 people in more than 24 offices across the U.S. Ellis employs a very diverse management team and relies on them to make quick and valuable decisions.
To avoid a big company mentality, he balances LINN’s entrepreneurial spirit and values consistent with a smaller company, while pushing for continued growth and expansion. In his view it’s a marriage of financial and operational.
A common theme in Ellis’ career has been acquiring smaller companies, which plays into the unique business model at LINN. Since inception, LINN has completed 58 acquisitions, including the most recent acquisition of Berry Petroleum. LINN’s acquisition program focuses on U.S. oil and natural gas basins that provide significant opportunities for future growth. The program also targets assets that are financially accretive and provide long-lived, high-quality production with relatively predictable decline curves and low-risk development opportunities.
Ellis’ strategy has allowed the company to grow proved reserves at an average of approximately 59 percent per year to 4,796 Bcfe in 2012 from 255 Bcfe in 2006.
LINN is dramatically different from its upstream peers in vision and business structure and is larger than all the rest put together. LINN has upheld a strategy of acquiring, developing and maximizing cash flow from a growing portfolio of long-life oil and natural gas assets. Ellis has been able to maintain LINN’s distribution stability through the recent credit crisis, while 23 percent of its competition has been forced to either reduce or suspend distributions.
How to reach: LINN Energy LLC, www.linnenergy.com
Christian J. Beckett
Christian Beckett is the CEO of a start-up offshore drilling company that specializes in ultra-deep water drilling — one of only two drilling companies in the offshore drilling industry capable of drilling at those depths.
Beckett’s vision was to build an elite fleet of drilling ships that serviced only the biggest and most prestigious customers, providing the client with the most advanced equipment to produce efficiently and safely while providing a healthy return on investment to Pacific Drilling’s shareholders.
Beckett was the first employee of Pacific Drilling and was involved in selecting and recruiting each member of the management team. He recruited from the best in the industry as well as those from other professional backgrounds, building a team that was highly seasoned, well-rounded and had the ability to think outside the norm. He would be building a fledgling company into a major player in the market.
Beckett’s philosophy has allowed Pacific Drilling to have an international management team which averages more than 25 years of experience in the offshore drilling industry, which is no easy task for an upstart company.
Aside from staffing a new company, Beckett’s first and foremost difficulty to overcome was a lack of customers. He had to overcome the negativity and doubt from customers who had been in long-standing relationships with Pacific Drilling’s larger competitors. Beckett had experience on his side and his persistence with these potential customers eventually paid off securing the company’s first contract with Chevron.
Today, Pacific Drilling has a two-year backlog with a top-notch customer base including Chevron, Total and Petrobras. Beckett’s other challenge was to acquire the assets and the manpower to service its customers while growing the business.
He strategically planned growth, assessing when new assets would be ordered and delivered while securing contracts. Pacific Drilling went from 16 employees in 2008 to more than 1,100 employees in 2013.
How to reach: Pacific Drilling, www.pacificdrilling.com
John T. Rynd
President and CEO
Hercules Offshore Inc.
John Rynd’s career started on an offshore drilling rig doing much of the same things his business, Hercules Offshore Inc., does today. From those early roles onboard an oil rig, Rynd worked his way up and became president and CEO at Hercules in 2008.
His leadership at Hercules Offshore has been invaluable throughout the challenges faced over the last several years, ranging from the global financial crisis to an unprecedented slowdown in domestic offshore drilling to the Macondo Well Deepwater Horizon blowout.
The most significant risk and hurdle Hercules and Rynd have faced has been the global financial crisis of 2008. With decreased financial performance, the company was facing the risk of breaking a debt covenant in late 2009 and 2010. The fear that Hercules Offshore would not remain in business was a constant thought in Rynd’s mind, but in an uncertain time Rynd encouraged everyone to remain focused on the things that could be controlled.
In 2011, the company made an investment in Discovery Offshore, a newly formed, pure-play high-specification jackup company. Over the last two years, Hercules Offshore’s ownership in Discovery has grown from 8 percent to 32 percent. This investment gives Hercules the opportunity to participate in the high-end jackup market, leverage its geographic footprint and experience, expand upon its reputation for operational excellence and improve cash flow without significant capital exposure.
Since then the company has announced additional acquisitions that offer further opportunity for the company. Under Rynd’s direction Hercules Offshore was able to further expand its fleet, reduce its cost structure and financial leverage, improve operationally and maintain a stringent focus on safety.
The company’s focus is on staying the course of its mission and not deferring from its core goal of creating value for shareholders despite whatever challenges the economic environment throws in its path. These steps positioned Hercules Offshore to capitalize on the rebound in activity that started in 2012.
How to reach: Hercules Offshore Inc., www.herculesoffshore.com
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