Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2013 Gulf Coast Area

How Kenneth L. Robison takes his passion and uses it to engage others at Crest Industries

Kenneth L. Robison, CEO, Crest Industries

Kenneth L. Robison, CEO, Crest Industries

Family Business Award of Excellence


Kenneth L. Robison
Crest Industries

Kenneth L. Robison has had a strong work ethic going back to the time when he was a young boy foregoing baseball and childhood games with his friends to learn about business. Through his family’s business, he learned how to weld and operate machinery and how to put together structural steel and electrical assemblies.

After getting his MBA from the University of Texas, he returned to Crest Industries and gained first-hand experience in many of the jobs that make up the organization. This experience served him well when he became CEO since it gave him a wealth of knowledge and insight into how people do their jobs throughout the company. Robison brings that same curious enthusiasm to his work these days, and it becomes contagious to those around him, strengthening the culture and improving the level of service to customers.

The relationships that Robison builds become critical when the company needs to take bold steps to keep growing. Robison doesn’t take unnecessary risks and the ones he does take, he and his team do as much research as they can to ensure success and prevent the downside from occurring.

His goal, whether it’s looking at tomorrow or his 2020 vision plan, is to be on top of things and armed with the data he needs to make the best decisions for his company. He thrives on being the leader and helping his company take the next step, but he also takes a lot of satisfaction from seeing the people on his team experience their own victories. He doesn’t see leadership development as a cost.

Instead, he sees it as an investment in the company’s most valuable asset, its people. The support of others stretches beyond the walls of his company. It includes a committed focus to working with charitable causes as well as helping the future leaders of Crest Industries to get what they need to fulfill their potential.

How to reach: Crest Industries,
How Strike sees 65 percent compounded annual growth with Stephen Pate at the helm

Stephen V. Pate, CEO and chairman, Strike LLC

Stephen V. Pate, CEO and chairman, Strike LLC

Construction & Industrial Services

Stephen V. Pate

CEO and chairman
Strike LLC

Over the past 10 years, Stephen Pate has worked hard to create a company culture around eight pillars that make up the foundation of Strike LLC: safety, excellence, quality, accountability, performance, integrity, passion and long‐term relationships.

With his focus that success is not achieved by a single individual but rather by the organization as a whole, Strike has accomplished a 65 percent year-over-year compounded annual growth rate, a testament to Pate’s ability to take risks during times of uncertainty.

For instance, in 2009 while many companies were sitting on cash due to market place instability, he invested in significant resources to create a state‐of‐the‐art cost‐tracking portal for the pipeline and facilities construction company.

This portal has proven to be a competitive advantage for Strike as it provides transparency to the client’s job cost.

Additionally, when companies were strategically eliminating employee benefits due to economic uncertainty, Pate created a fitness program to inspire and motivate employees.

Since its inception in 2003, Strike has created various business units with more than 15 locations throughout North America, which have helped drive Strike to become one of the leading single‐source energy services providers.

Pate understands that his is a “people” business, and he passionately cares about not only his customers who pay the bills, but also each of his employees whose safety and happiness is of utmost importance.

Even in times of economic downturns, when other companies cut employee benefits, Pate stayed adamant to “do right by all” and although the easy answer to save money and improve the bottom line would be to take the cost-cutting route, Pate did not. Strike even increased wellness programs to encourage employees when a need was noted. Pate has always believed in Strike’s vision and through its growing years, his personal investment and that of the Pate family funded the company.

How to reach: Strike LLC,


How Don Klein took a chance and made people smile with Chesmar Homes Ltd.

Donald P. Klein, founder and president, Chesmar Homes Ltd.

Donald P. Klein, founder and president, Chesmar Homes Ltd.

Consumer Products


Don Klein
Founder and president
Chesmar Homes Ltd.

Don Klein had spent 27 years working for national homebuilders, and he had an opportunity to move to yet another one when he made a seemingly bold move. He turned down a sizable bonus and chose to invest his own money to create a company he could call his own.

Chesmar Homes Ltd. is the product of Klein’s passion for making people happy. This applies to customers, business partners, investors and his employees, who he calls “Chesmarians.”

Klein is committed to hard work and dedicated service, but in doing so, he wants to see smiles all around. He wants employees to feel like they are part of a family and bring the passion that comes forth when you work alongside people you truly care about.

As the company grows and evolves, he wants strong personalities to shine through and feel comfortable applying their talents to help Chesmar achieve success.

All this became key when the company faced its greatest obstacle. Chesmar needed to find good locations on which to build. Klein tapped his relationships to find good communities to go to and his employees backed up his reputation by creating a strong product for customers.

As a result, Chesmar ranks at the top of its industry in customer satisfaction.

But it’s not all about business for Klein and Chesmar Homes.

Klein’s primary philanthropic focus revolves around the Greater Houston Builders Association’s Benefit Home Project. He has chaired the committee for the last six years, being extremely successful in recruiting and partnering two or three homebuilders with community developers each year to build a benefit home.

The builders solicit donations from contractors and vendors to construct a project home for about 25 percent of the retail sales price.

The home is then sold with the profits going to Texas Children’s Cancer Center, the Alzheimer’s Association and Home Aid Houston.

How to reach: Chesmar Homes Ltd.,


How Mark Ellis continues to grow LINN Energy’s portfolio of long-life oil and natural gas assets


Mark Ellis, president and CEO, LINN Energy, LLC

Mark Ellis, president and CEO, LINN Energy, LLC

Exploration & Production


Mark Ellis
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.linnenerg
How Bruce Northcutt overcame hurdles and used innovation to guide Copano Energy LLC

Bruce Northcutt, President and CEO, Copano Energy LLC

Bruce Northcutt, President and CEO, Copano Energy LLC



Bruce Northcutt
Director, President and CEO
Copano Energy LLC

When Bruce Northcutt took the reins in 2009 as CEO at Copano Energy LLC, he faced a number of challenging circumstances. The company’s founder had just passed away and the economy was in the throes of a deep recession. Further, there was a great deal of uncertainty as to the future direction of the energy industry.

But Northcutt had been with Copano Energy since 2003 as president and COO, and he had helped take the company public in 2004. He knew what the company did well and was confident he had what it would take to steady the organization during this difficult time.

Northcutt has never been afraid to work with smart people, even if they were smarter than he was. The value of bringing this knowledge to the table and applying it to the future of his business was worth much more than stroking his own ego.

During the global recession in 2009, Northcutt and his leadership team knew they had to be proactive and reduce operating costs to avoid layoffs. The team brainstormed as a group and produced a list of some 100 items they could cut back on, with the exception of those related to safety, in order to keep all team members and avoid having to reduce distributions to shareholders.

Changes ranged from temporary salary cuts, to eliminating small luxuries like bottled water in the office. These ideas allowed the company to avoid layoffs and pay shareholder distributions as scheduled.

Innovative thinking has paved the way to success at Copano Energy, and Northcutt encourages his team members to do the same by using their imaginations at the company to find solutions to difficult problems.

Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, one of the largest publicly traded pipeline limited partnerships in America, completed on May 1 its acquisition of Copano Energy.

How to reach: Copano Energy,
How Larry O’Donnell sets the pace as a CEO on the road for Rockwater Energy

Larry O’Donnell CEO, chairman and president, Rockwater Energy Solutions

Larry O’Donnell
CEO, chairman and president, Rockwater Energy Solutions

Energy Services


Larry O’Donnell
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,
How David Dunlap steered Superior Energy clear of fallout from an oil spill

David D. Dunlap, president and CEO, Superior Energy Services, Inc.

David D. Dunlap, president and CEO, Superior Energy Services, Inc.



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.,
How Walter Blessey Jr. places success in the hands of Blessey Marine Services’ employees

Walter Emanuel  Blessey Jr., chairman and CEO Blessey Marine Services Inc.

Walter Emanuel Blessey Jr., chairman and CEO
Blessey Marine Services Inc.

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.,
How Dana Sellers looks for people with big ideas and big plans at Encore Health Resources

Dana Sellers, CEO, Encore Health Resources

Dana Sellers, CEO, Encore Health Resources

Health Care


Dana Sellers
Encore Health Resources

Dana Sellers was looking for a summer internship and not having a whole lot of luck when she decided to take a summer job with IBM manufacturing typewriters. In exchange for tuition reimbursement for graduate school, Sellers decided to stay with IBM as a polymer specialist.

A few twists and turns followed as Sellers continued to hone her skills and gain the insight she would need to start her own business. With her partner, Ivo Nelson, Sellers launched a health care IT consulting firm with a focus on clinical transformation for providers.

The company grew and eventually merged with IBM. But after three years, it became obvious that IBM could not provide the more personal focus that smaller health care clients require. So Sellers decided to venture out again and start Encore Health Resources with her partner.

One of her greatest skills as a leader is the ability to take methods and tools that have proven to be effective for one client and replicate them for others. The ability to come through and provide great service to clients helped Encore get into competition with some of the top global consulting firms and succeed.

When Sellers is looking for people to join her team, she’s not as interested in what they have already done. She wants to know what they can do and will do in the future to help her organization improve. These people also need to be adaptable and willing to move here or there as the needs of customers change.

But it’s not all work at Encore. The company has rooms named after popular board games like Monopoly, Scrabble, Life and Twister. It is a nod to one of the company’s core values, “Work Hard, Play Hard!”

Sellers is a firm believer that if you give people opportunities to spend time together, both in work and at play, the strong relationships that are formed will take you far.

How to reach: Encore Health Resources,


How Peter Duncan created an ‘impossible’ technology at Microseismic Inc.

Peter Duncan, founder, president and CEO, MicroSeismic Inc.

Peter Duncan, founder, president and CEO, MicroSeismic Inc.



Peter M. Duncan
Founder, president and CEO
MicroSeismic Inc.

Peter Duncan has led multiple start-ups over his long career in geophysics. In his most recent venture, Microseismic Inc., he has created a company that utilizes cutting edge technology to help customers monitor their reservoirs.

He had the vision and work ethic to commercialize an idea for passively monitoring seismic activity from the surface, which many industry experts thought at the time was impossible. Further, he was able to adapt his technology to meet the demands of the market as the U.S. shale plays came online and the recent domestic natural gas and oil boom began.

At the time of Microseismic’s inception, the demand for frac monitoring was virtually non-existent, but seeing the opportunity for his company’s technology to enhance customer value by monitoring their growing number of non-traditional, enhanced recovery wells, he has pioneered a new industry that has much larger companies scrambling to replicate.

Microseismic competes with organizations that are far larger in size, and recently competitors have taken notice of Duncan’s success and competition is heating up. Duncan, who is founder, president and CEO, believes that competition is what will make his company even better, which is evidenced by the continued growth of Microseismic.

However, one of the biggest challenges that he believes his company faces is the need to convince users of his services and that his technology can provide additional critical data to make their drilling programs better.

According to Duncan, just a few years ago, only 0.5 percent of all fracked wells were monitored and recently that number has grown to just 4 percent. Obviously, there is room to grow, and Duncan views this challenge as a great opportunity. He is actively working to analyze and present the data that his company collects to convince engineers how valuable this relatively new technology can be to their drilling programs.

Today, Duncan’s willingness to take risks and go against conventional wisdom has given Microseismic a 95 percent share in the market.

How to reach: MicroSeismic Inc.,