Come see the journey one man took from beginner rig hand to president of several top preforming Oil and Gas companies, all the while remaining humble and always giving something back. Just a great American success story!
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Mark: Hey, folks. Let’s learn something new about the oil and gas industry.
All right. We’re still in beautiful Longview, Texas and we’re still at Texas Classic Productions and we’re still talking at Eli.
Eli: Thank you.
Mark: And, Eli has a wonderful story and instead of me trying to paraphrase it, I’m going to let him kind of tell the story of how – where he started and where he ended up as because a lot of my audience can relate to this.
So, Eli, if you don’t mind just kind of jump into it.
Eli: You know I started at the bottom working on a rig. I did enjoy it, met some incredible people. I got my job with no experience, by kind of hanging out next to a rig, I was just watching the blocks go up and down trying to learn as much as I could.
One of the – one of the crews had changed, they wouldn’t get the tool pusher for me and he asked me if I had any experience and, you know, the honest answer was no, but I’d told him I had experience and showing up on time doing what I was told, you know, I had experience and saying yes, sir, no, sir.
So, he sent to orientation, I got the job. I transitioned from a rig to working for a well control companies, service and well control equipment. And I learned there about hy-drills or hydropneumatic pulsation dampeners. And they failed often and no one could really explain why. You know the bladder formulas had not changed, no adjustments to pump pressures or anything and so I decided I was going to become an expert in that portion of it.
I was able to, you know, get in touch with manufacturers of aftermarket bladders even all the way back to manufacturers of the raw materials and through, you know, people use the word perseverance, but I harassed them. I’ve called them, e-mailed constantly just, you know, was blown off in every imaginable way, you know, and they finally agreed to visit with me.
And I brought some failed bladders and through that process, you know I know nothing of Chemistry, but, you know, they gave me a bit of a crash course on why the failures were occurring, what additives in the drilling mud was affecting the bladders. And so, we [pencil] to get our formula that was not indestructible, but would react well to oil-based and water-based mud, you didn’t have to change them. It was good for the elevated pump pressures that we’re seeing today in modern drilling and it kind of give us an opportunity to bring new product to market.
And so, I save my pennies, had a production run of twelve bladders and the rest is kind of history. I started out with a ’97 Ford F150 with a single cab and a long bed that I got from a note lot for about $80 a week.
And I started, you know, I had another job, I was going to start a class in two weeks, I spent that time trying to get my name out into the industry and luckily I was able to enjoy a good reputation from my previous service on the rig and started writing some service tickets.
Mark: All right. So, you start out spinning wrenches as a roughneck in a rig. Now, you have a company that manufacture these very robust bladders, right? That’s awesome, but it doesn’t stop there, does it?
Eli: It doesn’t. You know in that, I was looking for opportunities to learn a little bit more about the industry and I was looking for, you know, where I could save some money on some valves and gauges and I just kind of wanted to see if there was a way that maybe someone could sell my product on my behalf. I thought, you know, distribution would be, you know, a smart move for me.
And so, I was doing my research and I just couldn’t find a trade show that was local to us, you know, we had a robust oil and gas industry here in East Texas, but there just wasn’t a trade show, you know, OTC, LAGO, Permian Basin were the big ones at that time. So, I decided I was going to do my own.
And so, I spent a few years kind of doing the research in between running my business and having a family and I started this company in my game room at my house. I moved my office from my shop to my house so I can be home with my kid for the summer and started this business in my game room. And when we started to advertise it, we had a poorly designed website that, you know, was laughable by today’s standards, but it worked. We sold 260 spaces in about five weeks.
Mark: Okay. So, we go from spinning wrenches on a rig to having a service company and so now, you have a production company for events, right? And you start out your first event and where are you now?
Eli: We have five events currently in production. We have seven what we call on the books, they’re ready to go in just about every market we can identify that has a – in oil and gas industry surrounding it. What we want to do is, you know, when we describe to our local audience say when we go to the Ark-La-Tex in April, we let, you know, everyone in that industry know that we’re bringing people from all across the nation and sometimes even the globe.
We see representation of about forty states and seven countries at every trade show. And so, you cannot make sales calls in forty one states and seven countries in a lifetime much less, you know, in the amount of time that you want to spend, you know, in your career. And so, what we do is we bring that environment to your neighborhood no matter what – where you are in the nation at this point.
Mark: And I can attest to him because we attend a lot of Eli’s shows, they’re some of the best in the industry, right? 100% oil and gas people, very focused, no distractions to get in the way like speakers or anything like that.
All right. So, push – or start as a roughneck, we have the service company, now, we have a very robust event company running. It’s still not the end of it, is it?
Eli: It’s not. NDT or non-destructive testing is something that was always interesting to me. I had some friends that are in that industry and we decided we were going to start a company.
But we want to do it a little bit differently, we didn’t want to be the biggest, we just simply wanted to be the best. And we want to kind of carve out a little – little slice of the pie for ourselves. And so, we went through the licensing process which is incredibly strenuous, you know, you make your applications to the NRC, the Texas Department of Health once you get your license then you can, you know, buy these sources.
And it’s very cash, you know, intensive, you know, the startup cost are phenomenal, but, you know, you factor that over the lifetime of the business, naturally it makes sense. And, you know, it helps us, you know, serve our existing customers. We were actually able to introduce to the market.
With the pulsation dampener business, there are forged pressure vessel that attaches to the discharge size of the pump. With the inspection company now and we have to build through the x-ray of these things. In the past, they would do ultrasonic testing using sound waves and gel much like a sonogram on a woman when she’s pregnant.
We can actually x-ray these vessels now and identify sub-surface cracks and other things. And we’re the only company in this area that we’ve been able to identify that can offer that service and so, what we try to do is we combine the services, you know, within our little family of companies, you know, it’s applicable to the oil and gas industry as a whole and it works because not only can we provide services to part of the industry that we don’t touch on the drilling side, but we can also kind of improve the overall safety and performance of drilling equipment by combining the technologies of the two.
Mark: Yeah. And everybody knows safety is a major business driver in this issue. So, your story is wonderful. A lot of my audience are where you were years ago, right? One or two man shops they’re just starting out, sixteen-hour a days wondering if it’s all worth it.
Any advice for those guys?
Eli: Stick with it. You know perseverance is, you know, one of the things. I failed at more things than I’ve succeeded at and that’s, you know, part of the story that a lot of people kind of gloss over is that, you know, I can look back at every job and every failure that I’ve ever had and draw from that experience.
You know I can read the PNL because I used to do internal theft investigations for a major retail chain and so, you know, draw upon your past experience. Passion, you know, you can’t – you can’t train someone to be passionate, it just simply doesn’t happen that way.
And so, hire for horsepower, hire for someone that you can actually believe in. Treat your employees as partners. You know one of the things that sets us apart is that you cannot work in any of our companies unless you submit five personal or five professional goals. And the reason why we do that is that you manage your assets, the assets of your company, but you have to lead your people.
And so, by getting personal and professional goals is not only going to help map out a very transparent career plan for everybody, you know, in the organization, but we can also, you know, help you achieve your goals.
And the example that I like to give is we have a single mom that works downstairs and she does an incredible job. We could go to Toys “R” Us and get a $500 gift certificate, you know, and give it to her and she can spend it on her kids on clothes that they’ll outgrow and toys that will go out of fashion very soon and we have done nothing to really change her life.
But, because we know that her – one of her goals is home ownership, we could take that same $500 gift certificate, put it in a CD for her and let her know with enough accomplishment here with us we can help her achieve her goals of home ownership by help knocking out that 20% requirement on a down payment on a home, thus, we’ve changed her life.
And, when you really surround yourself with people like that, you know what they’re passionate about and you help them achieve their goals, success will become as easy as it can.
Mark: Yeah. And I, 110% agree with that. You know that we believe in giving something back as a company and part of the way you give something back is learning how you treat your people well.
All right. Eli, man, I love this talk. Thanks for spending time with me.
Eli: Yes, sir. It’s my pleasure.
Mark: Yeah. Everybody, I hope this helped. We will see you next time.