As the upstream sector goes through another downturn, it serves us well to remember the vital role that our industry’s associations and organizations play. One example is the National Oil-equipment Manufacturers and Delegates Society (NOMADS), for which I am the 2015 president. Established in 1938, NOMADS is one of the oldest oil and gas organizations. We are a nonprofit because of our annual scholarship awards to young scholars.
NOMADS’ de facto purpose is to serve as a networking platform for professionals in the energy industry. I find immense benefit in professional and service organizations. These groups educate their members and facilitate networking among those people and other industry professionals. And the biggest, but most forgotten, advantage is that they give one an opportunity to serve something larger than oneself.
In the past few years, I have learned more facets of the energy business than I could have ever learned by reading books or by working more hours. Industry leaders and experts present monthly at NOMADS. These speakers work in everything from negotiating deals with nations on behalf of major oil companies, to service providers that have the technical knowledge to extract that same oil, to ransom insurance companies that protect personnel working in troubled foreign countries.
My own business is in freighting oil and gas equipment worldwide. Nevertheless, I know a bit about how banks profit from letters of credit that are used in negotiating large international deals. I know a little bit about how individual valves can be controlled and automated with a high-tech digital system in the field. I know how fracing equipment can be powered with the very same natural gas that the process helps to extract. I know something of the metrics that offshore oil companies use to judge a field’s viability.
I am no expert in any of these disparate fields. In fact, I would deny being well-versed in any of them. But, while my knowledge may be 6 in. deep, it is ocean-wide in how many topics it covers. When I converse intelligently with management at a frac company, an offshore drilling firm, or an original equipment manufacturer about their product and service lines, my chances for closing the sale on freighting those items are better than those of my less-sophisticated competition.
Second, membership in NOMADs has helped increase my professional stature in Houston, in a short amount of time. Houston is sometimes disparaged as a good ol’ boy town, governed by hard-to-break-into good ol’ boy networks. This is the way it seems to an outsider. But this misapprehension needs debunking. These networks are not insular and nepotistic. They are restrictive, but this is due to being products of thorough, time-consuming marginal analysis. Within most subsectors in the energy industry, one company does not differ greatly from another. Simply, we all sell roughly the same thing. I am one of dozens of freight forwarders in Houston. A close friend represents one of perhaps dozens of pump companies in town. How he and I set ourselves apart has only been possible by having undergone marginal analysis.
People observe, evaluate and measure us at every encounter before ever trusting us with a bid, let alone a sale. Each encounter affords the buyer one more piece of information. Are we easy-going? Can we be offensive or stupid? Do we make an effort to attend where our presence is needed? Do we come through on small promises? Do we generally say what we do, and do what we say? All of these questions are answered not from one meeting, or two, or even a dozen, but through numerous encounters that happen over weeks, months, and even years. Service organizations like NOMADS avail the engineer, salesperson, entrepreneur and executive the opportunity to get plugged into a wide swath of individuals, from a range of industry sectors, much more quickly than those on the outside. Upon becoming a known quantity and accepted into a network, rewards accrue steadily—almost passively—because this same barrier to entry, once broken, now acts to keep out one’s competition.
Last, going above and beyond the pecuniary benefits of service organizations, there are the nobler, more ethereal, less obvious benefits of doing good in the community (which means more than just “doing well”). Their explicit mission is to serve. Our mission at NOMADS is to provide a forum and a meeting place, for those who work either directly in the energy industry or those who work indirectly with its companies. This allows members to exchange ideas, share knowledge and camaraderie, and be good, virtuous ambassadors on behalf of the industry.
In the general population, other service organizations are in decline. Indeed, even within the industry, NOMADS has struggled with declining membership in recent years. But I did not become a NOMAD to have countless, easy friendships. I have Facebook for that. I did not become a NOMAD to see immediate financial gain. And I did not need a quantified good to justify becoming a NOMAD. Some things are good, in and of themselves—things like truth, honesty and faith. Service is another. And this is the reason that I and most everyone else join NOMADs or any other industry organization.
Numerous good organizations and worthwhile causes are available. I have taken an interest in one that benefits me the most, and whose ideals I most admire. I am part of this energy industry organization, because it is educational and profitable. I am part of it, because I believe in the good of service—one gets out of something what one puts in without the empty-headed cynicism to demand, “Where’s the percentage in that formula?”
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