A few days ago marked the tenth year anniversary of my father’s death. He started buying valves out of scrap yards in the seventies, loading them into the trunk of his car, and driving thousands of miles to offload them to a buyer base he established all over the gulf coast. Eventually he managed to buy a truck, then a trailer, and then moved his family to Corpus Christi, so he was closer to the scrap yards. Over the next twenty years, he built one of the largest inventories of used valves and wellheads through hard work, and hustle.
Three years before my Father died, he asked for me to come join him, which I did, and hated it, until I loved it. It was like an arranged marriage, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that I was born to buy and sell equipment; it was in my blood. Not long after I joined the company my Dad started, my youngest sister got involved in the business, and it was the first time I spent any time with her as an adult. It was fun.
My Dad died a few years later, and although I had spent six months out of the year playing professional baseball, I had picked up the business enough during the off-season working for my Dad, to take over the business. A few months later, my brother joined our team of ten, and the next couple of years we caught fire. My sister and brother left the family business at different times and started their own companies, respectfully. It caused a riff in our relationships for a time. Over the course of the next ten years, the company my father had started from the trunk of his car became a globally recognized manufacturer of pressure control equipment. I sold the business in June of 2012, and have many scars to remind me of the pain, sacrifice, and loss that led up to the exit.
The past couple of years have been full of ups in down, both personally and professionally, but in spite of $45 oil; we’re still making it, and finding time to reconnect as a family. We’ve even talked about working together. Some say blood and oil don’t mix. We shall see.
This business can be ruthless. At any moment, it can turn on a dime, and bring grown men to their knees, and show the smartest guys in the room how much they have to learn; I certainly am no exception. However, now that I’ve had my fair share of experience, my plan is to stay focused on what’s most important…what cannot be taken away.
A slightly-seasoned, serial entrepreneur who is passionate about people, purpose, and giving back.
Henderson started his first company at 19, and since then has bought and sold, or started and sold a total of nine companies, including, and most recently DOYLES, an Inc. 5000 recipient in 2008/09.
Henderson is the founder of Henderson Rigs & Equipment, a leader in the sales and brokerage of drilling rigs and capital equipment; as well as the founder of DrillingExchange.com, the fastest growing, commission-free, on-line marketplace that connects buyers and sellers with no middle man.
Determined to do the right thing, Henderson makes no apologies for his approach. His direct, non-conforming style is certainly uncommon, but most of all, his disarming transparency is what makes him one of a kind.
Last year, OTC set an attendance record with nearly 110,000 O&G professionals from around the world; the most since 1982. More than 4,500 rigs were running that year, and by the mid 80’s, less than 600 rigs were turning right. Arguably the worst bust ever. To most in the space today, something they will only know of through the memories of the old-timers. However, if you haven’t had a chance to drive through Midland/Odessa, the picture above tells it all; dozens of brand new 1500HP AC drilling rigs standing tall, waiting for their chance to get in the mud.
Everyone has an opinion, but most drilling contractors agree that the days of mechanical rigs are behind us, at least here in the US, and in large part. SCR rigs have replaced most, and AC rigs, believe it or not, are still being built by the heavyweights in our industry, albeit at a slower roll. The cost corrections have been made, oil prices are climbing, and hundreds of the land rigs that have been stacked will be back to work before we know it, along with the ones that can actually run them. My prediction anyway.
But, I guess the smell from the blood in the streets travels East, because we’ve been fielding a plethora of calls and emails from MENA, Europe, and Asia from drilling companies who are curios to learn what they can buy on the cheap. And of course, an SCR rig is a major upgrade for a lot of these drillers, so needless to say, we’ve become quite popular. Prolific times, no doubt, and a day that I certainly will later reminisce with my children, should they decide to follow the steps of their father, and grandfather. I sure hope they do. I love this business.
So, what will be the last rig standing? Your guess is as good as mine, but I’d bet big that it will be one whose life was long, hard, and at times lonely. Even rigs must succumb to the circle of life.
Hope to see you at OTC!
Henderson Rigs & Equipment is a Houston-based U.S. supplier of new and remanufactured drilling rigs and drilling equipment to domestic and international drilling contractors. In addition to our own new and remanufactured equipment, Henderson engages a large, Worldwide network of quality vendors, which allows us to locate virtually any piece of equipment used on a drilling rig.
When I was five years old, my Dad took my Mother and I to Jamaica. It was my first trip anywhere, and it was paradise. My Dad wore a gold nugget Rolex, and carried literally thousands of dollars in cash in his front pocket. He bought my Mother a diamond that made every woman jealous, and we were rich. And then oil went to $10 and the nearly 5,000 rigs that were drilling in the US went to 1100. We were broke, and although my Dad didn’t sell his gold nugget Rolex, he had me put it in the floor safe of the home we lived in on Cornett. Since then, I’ve lived through my own oil boom and bust, and likely will see a few more. My skin grows thicker by the minute.
What I find entertaining are the theories manufactured in an effort to explain the feast or famine nature of the O&G life. Supply, demand, dictators, war, cold winters, WMDs, bailouts, etc. You name it, I’ve heard it, and if you’re in the O&G, you can add a few descriptors yourself I’m sure. The point is, no one knows if and or when any or all of these influencers will drive the price of oil up or down; one can only speculate. However, and as silly as it sounds, anyone can predict two things; it will go up, and it will go down. The key is being right. Rarely is anyone right, or at least consistently right. If and when you are right, everyone loves you, but the minute you’re wrong, the booing begins.
You’d think that by now, someone really smart would have figured out a way to strike a balance between growth and sustainability, but for the most part, the only companies that can stay steady are the ones that have figured out how to make hay, and sit on it. The small guys not so much, which is why so many get washed away in the huge swells of the O&G storms.
But before you think this is a doom and gloom piece, it’s not. I happen to be one of those that have grown to appreciate the volatility of the industry. The older I get, the more I realize that it’s all about how you play the game. The price of oil will be $150 before long. No, I can’t tell you when or why, but I can tell you it will be sooner than later. Why, because the World needs it badly, and the swings typically don’t last. And, although I’m a supporter of alternative energy, we’re likely a hundred years away or more from replacing oil and gas as the primary energy source.
So, instead of worrying about how many rigs are being stacked, how low the price of oil will go, or whether you’re the next to be let go; focus on doing your job, servicing your customer, and getting your house in order, because before long, the World will give us a reason to be excited once again.
Oh, and if you happen to have a nugget Rolex, they’re back in, so wear it proudly. You know who you are.