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You have to put people, customers first

This week I was working with a friend who is a successful business person. He is putting together a team for a large project. We have a lot of the same values and priorities. We both understand the importance of Team and putting people first. We were having a discussion about the project when he said, “You know Greg, raising money is easy for good projects. The challenge is finding like- minded people who understand that if we take care of our people and our customers (who are also people) the numbers will take care of themselves” A diverse Team of like- minded individuals going for a dream is powerful.

We toured a facility this week. It was impressive. They had a big board where they monitored their success metrics. They measured safety and a number of operational parameters. The numbers were good. The one that surprised me was morale. I asked how they measured morale and found they have a 3rd party company that does a monthly survey. Their morale number was consistently around 4.5 out of 5. From our tour and visiting with the employees at the site, it was easy to see they loved their jobs, were happy, engaged and passionate about what they did. The VP told us their company focus is taking care of their people and their customers first. That makes it easy to take care of the other numbers. We could see it wasn’t just lip service.

Consol Coal, a 100+ year old coal company became CNX Gas because of one man. In the 1980s Dr. Thakur had a passion for keeping coal miners safe. He had recovered bodies after methane explosions in his home country of India and was determined to make a difference. He convinced Consol management that if they spent some money and hydraulically fractured the coal ahead of mining and produced the gas they could eliminate methane explosions and deaths. It worked! There has not been a single death from methane explosion in Consol’s Virginia mines in over 30 years.

Consol also learned they could mine coal faster, safer and cheaper by removing the gas ahead of mining. Consol began selling the gas and soon made more money from their gas operations than coal operations. Consol sold most of its coal mines and became CNX Gas, a large natural gas company with Marcellus and Utica wells. It was all started by a man with a dream to keep coal miners safe and a management team that focused first on people and safety who were willing to spend money to do it.

Dick Chaney of Halliburton fame sometimes gets a bad rap from the major media. I worked at Halliburton while he was CEO. One of Mr. Chaney’s four pillars of success was for Halliburton to be one of the best places in the world to work. He meant it. During the Chaney years Halliburton was a great place to work. I loved my job. We grew. We had a great Team. The company was successful. The focus was on taking care of customers and employees. I still have copies of my bonuses signed by Mr. Chaney.

After Mr. Chaney left, the new CEO was an accountant. The focus moved to numbers. Stress increased. The fun was gone. A new company started by a former Halliburton employee began to take Halliburton’s customers. Its CEO, Dave was a friend of mine. We worked together at Halliburton. I eventually left Halliburton and went to work for Dave.

Dave said, “This is really just a people business. We hire the best people. Pay them well and make this a fun and rewarding place to work.” Dave also had an incredible customer focus. The customer was king. Dave’s company took most of Halliburton’s and other companies business in this region and went national. Dave taught me how to get through a down turn in business by finding ways to cut costs without cutting people. Management took a pay cut during the downturn but not the field people. Dave’s philosophy was to keep moral high for the people doing the actual work for our customers because “they will get us through this.” It turned out he was right.

Dave’s company was highly successful. After he retired and his company was merged with another there were changes. The new management didn’t have Dave’s people and customer focus. They were able to take a very successful company and in a few short years add some stress, cut employee salaries and go bankrupt. I left before the bankruptcy and began working for myself. Ultimately Shale Crescent USA and I found each other.

The focus of Shale Crescent USA is people. We are a non- profit organization whose Mission is to; “Increase the standard of living of the people in the Shale Crescent USA Region by bringing in high wage jobs”. Bringing companies here is about building relationships and working with the people of companies who will benefit by being on top of the energy & feedstock and in the middle of their customers. When we bring prospects here to visit they are always impressed by the people of our Region who are happy, friendly, love living here and like the work they are doing. We have plenty of data for companies to justify coming here. Their final decision to come starts with our relationship with them and the people who live here.

What about you and your organization? Are you numbers driven or are you people and relationship driven? You get to decide. Thoughts to ponder.

Greg Kozera, gkozera@shalecrescentusa.com is the Director of Marketing and Sales for Shale Crescent USA. He is a professional engineer with a Masters in Environmental Engineering who has over 40 years’ experience in the energy industry. Greg is a leadership expert and the author of four books and numerous published articles.

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