EnerSys CEO Russel Treat recently appeared on Bulkwark’s Oil and Gas Industry Leaders Podcast hosted by Paige Wilson. Russel discussed his oil and gas journey, technological changes that have advanced the industry, and other important topics for pipeliners.
Announcer: The oil and gas industry, the driving engine of the world economy, delivering prosperity, innovation, and abundance across the globe. Here are the stories of its key players, directly from the leaders themselves. This is Bulwark’s Oil and Gas Industry Leaders Podcast, where real experiences are passed on from the leaders of today to the leaders of tomorrow. Here is your host, Paige Wilson.
Paige Wilson: Welcome to this week’s episode. I’m sitting here at The Capital Grille CityCentre as always, with my guest Russel Treat. How are you?
Russel Treat: I’m doing great, Paige. I’m so thankful and honored that you asked me to come. I got to say you put on a really nice podcast here at The Capital Grille. It’s pretty cool.
Paige: Thank you. You’re the President and Chief Executive Officer of EnerSys, and also the host of the Pipeliners Podcast.
Russel: Yup. That’s exactly right.
Paige: You just started the podcast, what, last December?
Russel: Right. Well, November was the official kickoff. We got a handful of episodes in. Then, I took a vacation. I didn’t have much backlog. We’re in six months. I just put my 30th episode in the can.
Paige: Oh, hell. You’re starting to pass me by.
Paige: You’re getting there. We had a little complication. Luckily, I have my new H6 here, so I’m not going to lose any more audio. Fingers crossed.
Russel: The logistics of all this can be challenging. I’ve built a little team to help me out, so that all I have to do is get on a mic and talk. I like to talk.
Paige: I’m so glad I had you on then.
Paige: That’s going to work out. Before we really get into what’s going on right now with you and the large amount of different things you’ve got your hand in, let’s start from the beginning of your career. How’d you get started in oil and gas?
Russel: I got started in oil and gas a little late. I went to school at Texas A&M. I was in the Corps there. I was actually in the marching band for, “Fighting Texas Aggies,” all that kind of good stuff. Graduated as a civil engineer, and I had a military scholarship.
I spent four-and-a-half years in the military, in the Air Force, as an engineer. Then got out of that, and I worked in process engineer for a while, cryogenics. Liked the technology of that. Did that for three years, and I started my first business at age 29.
Paige: Oh, wow, that’s…
Russel: That was young. It was an interesting conversation with my father, because my father had been an entrepreneur. Back then, we called that being a businessman. He’s like, “Son, you have a good job. You got a company car. You got an expense account. Why in the world would you want to start a business?”
I’m like, “Well, I just think I need to do that.” I started my first business at 29, sold it 18 months later. Then, I was a number of years with a group called Software Marketing. At Software Marketing, what we did is we would acquire what we called a device.
A device was, somebody had built something. They’d sold it to a customer. The customer was using it, and the customer would recommend it to others, but not yet a product. Product meaning there was no sales organization, no marketing team, no product road map, no customer support, no help desk, none of that kind of stuff.
What we would do is we would look for devices we could commercialize. I did that for about six years. Over that period of time, we did 20‑something different products in 40‑something different niches. The stuff I always like best was the oil and gas stuff.
I did stuff in compressor automation, oil field services, cold tubing monitoring, a bunch of other different technologies. I liked the stuff that was a combination of software, automation, and process. I did that for about six years.
The other thing I learned is that, we were figuring out how to commercialize. The fun part is commercializing, once you’ve figure it out. The other part is just work. [laughs] I left that company, and I joined a company called BMP Energy Systems in ’93.
BMP Energy Systems was a Canadian company. I ran their U.S. group. They had a technology for automated chart integration. It’s funny, people that hadn’t been in the business long enough probably won’t really understand this.
In measurement, you have these circular charts. You put them on a chart integrator, and you then use it to trace the pens. Then they had these devices called integrators, where you would lay them on the platter. Had a little foot pedal where you could push it and spin it, and little hand‑holds where you could trace the lines.
That’s an old technology. It comes out planimeters and mechanical devices, that would get a number that could be used to perform a hand calc to get a volume. We put all that on a PC, integrated it, and you could spin the chart, and get a volume as soon as you finished spinning the chart.
You could also do volume breakouts. If you had a seven‑day chart, you could get daily volumes off of it. At that time, that was really cool.
I ran that company for about six years. After that, started EnerSys, which is the flagship within the EnerACT group. That’s how I got started. I started as a software technology guy, doing a lot of different things, found out I loved oil and gas. 10 years into my career, I started doing oil and gas full time.
Paige: You’ve figured out that the applications within oil and gas, you took to that more so than the other things. Why is that do you think?
Russel: I think it’s a couple things. One, I just like the people. Two, a lot of it’s outdoors, and I like being outdoors. Three, [laughs] I use this term “Bubba geeks,” and I do that with a lot of affection.
I think there’s a lot of really, really sharp folks in oil and gas that are running around in pickup trucks wearing hard hats and jeans, and like to hunt and fish on the weekends. They get a bad rap, but they’re really sharp folks, and I like those guys. I like helping those guys figure out how to do things better, smarter, all that kind of stuff.
Russel: Safer, exactly. I think that’s it. I can tell you this. When I started with BMP Energy Systems and I was working in measurement, I started going to measurement schools and I started meeting these people. I made a very conscious decision about six months in that I’m retiring in this business. That’s after having been in a lot of different things.
Paige: You’ve got to try it all out, see where you fit and what hold your interests.
Russel: Exactly, and who you like hanging out with.
Paige: That’s true, too.
Russel: You spend a lot of time working. You ought to hang out with people who you enjoy, because it really takes the fun out of it, if you don’t like the people.
Paige: Or they take the fun out of it.
Russel: Well, yeah.
Paige: Either or.
Russel: Yeah, exactly. That’s how I found myself in oil and gas. I made a deliberate decision I wanted to get there. Then, I had to find a path and it took a while.
Paige: Let’s continue to talk about going down that path. You’re in oil and gas. Tell me about all the other things you’ve gotten to, up unto this point.
Russel: What do you mean?
Paige: As far as the different experiences. You’ve got several different companies under this holdings company, right?
Russel: Yeah, I have. There is a theme in it. The theme is technology, overall. I started EnerSys as a consultant. After I left BMP Energy Systems, I was working as a measurement consultant. I was in a place in my life where I want to stay in oil and gas, but I was looking around as to what else was out there.
Doing measurement led to doing some telemetry to collect the data. That led to putting some human‑machine interface on top of that collection, which led to doing some SCADA systems, which led to doing some pipeline control systems.
What’s interesting to me about that is, as I’ve gotten deeper and deeper in the technology, it’s when you can get deep enough to actually create something unprecedented. I think that’s the thing that drives me, something that’s not there yet, that’s unique and different, adds value, and causes people to go, “Huh, that’s kinda cool.” That’s what drives me.
Of course, in 2000, I started a company called Gas Certification Institute. It’s a measurement training company, primarily. They teach fundamentals of measurement for folks that do custody transfer, custody transfer being the kind of measurement where the ownership of the commodity is changing, and it would be subject to audit, that kind of thing.
That business, it’s not big, but it’s well‑known and it’s very well‑regarded. We’ve trained over a thousand measurement technicians in the time that we’ve been in business.
Russel: Those are the type of people, for other people in different parts of the industry, also might know them as transporters? Is that kind of the same thing as far as the custody change goes?
Paige: Measurement techs. It’s dudes in trucks. It’s the people that are installing, maintaining, and operating the metering, doing meter proving, tank gauging, and all that kind of good stuff. I thought I was going to make it through my career as a gas guy and not have to learn liquids.
Russel: That didn’t work out. I’ve had to learn liquids. Thank God for crude oil.
Paige: [laughs] That was a “not so much,” huh?
Russel: Mm‑hmm. I’ve done a number of other things and I’m always exploring ideas. About a year and a half ago, I took a real deep dive into Internet of Things and data analytics, trying to figure out, “What was this stuff, really?
Paige: Is it just a word?
Russel: I used to be on the board of ENTELEC, which is the Energy Telecommunications Conference. A couple of years ago, it was actually a year ago, I was at the conference. I must have been asked 15 times, “What’s the big deal with Internet of Things and data analytics? We’ve been doing this for 30 years?”
The answer is, yes. We have, but we haven’t been doing it at the edge. We haven’t been doing it with 10 millisecond or a 100‑millisecond data. We’ve been doing it at a host, and we’ve been doing it with 5 minute or 15‑minute data. That makes a difference.
Paige: They’re also running a little lean, too. You have to depend more on the machines and all of that other stuff.
Russel: Oh, yeah. That’s a really good point. If you look at how these operators operated 30 years ago, they ran people around in trucks with clipboards. Now without automation, they could not run their operations. They’re also looking to apply that automation in ways that are more value producing.
The thing about automation is that it is a big cost upfront to build out the infrastructure. Once I have it in, I can start squeezing more value out of it. I think in addition to running lean, which is a reality that everybody accepts, there’s another reality.
That is that the expectation the public has about us as an industry and how we ought to operate, versus the reality of how we’re operating, there’s some disconnect there. There’s some dissonance. As a rule in our industry, we are late adopters of technology. We’re doing things in our business that the IT folks were doing 15 years ago.
Paige: Why do you think that is?
Russel: In my world, the pipeline world, a big part of that is because you’re doing it over a narrow band telemetry. When I’m doing factory…
Paige: Come again?
Russel: Come again. Narrow band telemetry. Let me try to explain that. If I’m doing communications and automation inside a factory, inside a process facility, and I’ve got fiber running in that facility, I can do 10‑gigabit level communications, right?
Paige: Right. Yeah.
Russel: If I’m running through a radio network out to a well site, or out to a remote valve site, I’m doing the same thing. Only I’m doing it over 56k byte, maybe more depending on the infrastructure. The cost of that infrastructure, to get it out to the edge, is 100 fold what the cost of the infrastructure is to put it in or maybe more, what it is to put it in a factory.
It has to do with communications. We adopt things late, because it’s so much more costly to get the infrastructure in. We are, by our nature, risk‑averse. Most operators, and again particularly pipeline operators, that’s the space I spend the most time in, they’re really operating on pretty narrow margins. They have to be very, very deliberate about how they deploy capital.
Paige: I also feel, because of safety and to how dangerous the public especially likes to think our industry is, which it is, but we have stuff in…how do I say this without sounding stupid?
Russel: We have structures in place. Where you’re going, I think, is we have structures in place to make the operations more safe.
Paige: If those things are working and it’s not broken, why fix it? You know what I mean? I think that’s why we’re so late also.
Russel: What we do is still a very human resource, intense, endeavor. How safe we are, it’s largely about the groupthink that exists within an enterprise. Changing groupthink is a risky endeavor. We want to do it incrementally. We want to do it slowly. We want to do it deliberately.
It’s not like I’m trying to come up with a…I’m thinking. What’s the guy’s name that’s in charge of Tesla?
Paige: Elon Musk?
Russel: It’s not like I’m Elon Musk, and I’ve got some cool idea. I’m going to throw a bunch of money down and experiment. We do that, but we do that in a controlled environment.
Paige: None of us have flamethrowers. [laughs]
Russel: Right. I think the whole safety thing is an interesting conversation. I would ask a lot of times, what’s more safe? Doing something inside a process facility or doing something at your house?
Paige: It’s true.
Russel: In a process facility, you got some hoops to jump through to make sure you’re prepared, and equipped, and qualified, and competent to perform that task. At your house, you don’t need to do any of that. You can just rewire your house and burn it down if you want to.
I think, coming back to the point I was trying to make is, there’s this dissonance. There’s what we’re really doing, and everybody is running around with a cell phone. They’re playing these high‑end video games, and that creates an expectation about how everybody else is using technology.
What they don’t get is that consumer technology is all the way out at the bleeding edge. What we’ve got to do is figure out how to rationalize, and very deliberately apply that to our business.
Those are some of the reasons why that’s the distance between where the leading edge is and where we are in the business, and that dissonance. I do think the public has this expectation that we’re going to close that gap.
Paige: They have a lot of expectations.
Russel: Oh, yeah. They’re very vocal about them.
Paige: Yeah, pretty much.
Russel: I don’t know if you’ve noticed.
Paige: No. I just [laughs] turn off all my notifications and just stay off.
Russel: I’m kind of…
Paige: I play games and just keep to myself. [laughs]
Paige: Too much fake news. I can’t.
Russel: Gosh. Let’s, not go there.
Paige: Anyway, meanwhile, back on the ranch.
Paige: All right. How many other companies do you have? You said three?
Russel: I have two. There’s the holding company EnerACT, and the two operating companies. We have a couple of things we’re doing, that I’m hoping I get a new one stood up in the next six months.
Paige: All right. Tell me more about the Pipeliners Podcast.
Russel: Oh, yeah.
Paige: Yeah. That thing. [laughs]
Russel: This is an interesting story. I’m a geek. I tend to be current with technology, but I’m not as current as I used to be. 15 years ago, if there was something new out, I was the first guy to grab it and play with it. I don’t do that so much anymore, because I have such limited time.
I got all these things I want to do. I’m much more deliberate about picking how I spend my time. I got exposed to podcasts, probably three, four years ago. Later than most, but maybe a little bit before podcasts started becoming a bigger phenomenon. I found some I really liked, and I got this earworm in my mind about an idea to do a Pipeliners Podcast.
For one thing, that just has a great ring to it, right?
Paige: Yeah. It does.
Russel: It’s just a great name. “It’s a Pipeliners Podcast. “Oh, that’s awesome.” It wouldn’t go away. I have friends who do podcasting and run sound. I just started engaging the question. I listened to podcasts about doing podcasts?
Paige: I think we’ve all done that. Really.
Russel: That’s how a lot of us get started. I think the thing I liked about it is, I used to listen to…we’re going in this direction. I used to listen to conservative talk radio with Drive. I just can’t do that anymore. It makes me a miserable…
Paige: Oh, my goodness.
Russel: A miserable person. I started listening to podcasts. The more I listened to them, the more I liked them. I got this idea. That was me experimenting. Then I got the earworm, and I was thinking about, if I’m going to do a Pipeliners Podcast, why would I do it? What would be the purpose? Trying to get some formation in my mind about how to do it.
What I came to is this. I learned the business largely by going to trade shows and schools, and networking and talking. Going to the bar and asking questions, and just being curious and so forth.
The new reality is there’s not nearly as many people that are going and having the opportunity to go to conferences. The conferences are getting smaller by and large. The vendors don’t put their new stuff on the trade show floor like they used to, because the expectation, I’m going to Google, I’m going to watch a video, do it from my desk.
We talk about the crew change, all the new people coming into the business and how do we take these people with 30 years experience and transfer that experience? I got thinking about it, said, “You know what? I’m going to do a podcast.”
I want to do it as an interview show. I want to talk about things that if I imagine myself being 25 to 35 and learning the business, what I want to be learning, right?
Russel: That’s the premise. It’s primarily interview show. I try to bring in subject‑matter experts that know various aspects of the pipeline business. I just ask them questions. Sometimes, it’s in a domain I know a lot about. Sometimes, it’s in a domain I know nothing about. I’m not really sure which are the better episodes, actually.
Paige: I’ll let you know.
Russel: Actually, I’d appreciate that. You should close that loop with me.
Paige: I am subscribed.
Russel: Awesome. Very good. I did an episode on the fundamentals of inline inspection. It’s a gentleman named Marc Lamontagne. Marc is actually a PhD engineer in inline inspection. I didn’t even know they had such a thing.
Paige: I didn’t either. That’s why I was like, “Oh.”
Russel: He is a great guy and he is very easy to talk to, but he is scary smart. Scary smart.
Paige: Those are my favorite kind of people.
Russel: Yeah, exactly. I fancy myself being fairly intelligent and fairly knowledgeable, but he was breaking down some of the details about what inline inspection is, how it works. He said something and he went into about a three‑minute monologue, then I’m like, “Marc, I heard the words come out of your mouth, but I’m not sure what they meant.”
Paige: [laughs] Was it like earlier when I said, “Come again. What was that?”
Russel: Yeah, exactly. We can all do that in our own particular domains of expertise. I’ve been having a blast. I’ll tell you. One of the things that’s really cool about doing a podcast, I have to put it out every week. It’s like payroll. Somebody’s got to write the check to fund the payroll. That has to happen every time. If it doesn’t, it’s bad.
It creates some accountability. There’s all these people who I love to talk to and I didn’t talk to them. I’d get busy and I wouldn’t talk to them for a while. Now, I have a reason to talk to them.
I think of people who I hadn’t talked to in a while and something I’d like to talk to them about, and I reach out. That’s what we do.
Paige: That’s excellent. That’s a good way of doing that. I hadn’t even thought about that.
Russel: It’s me hanging out with people who I find interesting and who I enjoy talking to. It’s been a real gift. I’m enjoying the heck out of it. It is a bit of effort. The fact that it has to drop every Tuesday morning at 6:00 a.m., that does create some anxiety from time to time. I’m certain you never have that problem, right?
Paige: I just bought a new recorder, because I’ve lost several interviews.
Russel: Oh, my gosh. Can’t imagine.
Paige: Trust me. I’ve had a couple of weeks of just crying, because they were such good stories. To get together just recently, the last one I lost. I immediately went home and bought a new recorder from Iceland. It was here in Houston. I was devastating to me.
Russel: I can only imagine. I had one of those. I had a situation where I got one leg and I didn’t get my leg, so I had to go back. I went back and I redid my leg of the conversation, because I had an outline of what I wanted to talk about.
Generally, the way I do it is I write down questions. I don’t really script it, but I write down some questions. I had enough to put it together. I know a sound guy, and he did a minor miracle, man. I’ll tell you.
He ended up with 40 minutes of content for the guest and about an hour and 15 minutes of mine. He put it all together, and I listened to it. If you didn’t know, you might go, “Huh, they don’t seem quite as relaxed,” or something like that, but you really couldn’t tell it was a debacle.
Paige: Now, I have to go look.
Russel: The sound guy did a miracle.
Paige: I’ll tell you what, sound guys…
Russel: I should do some reward program, if you can figure out the episode that I did that on.
Paige: I bet you I could.
Russel: You probably could.
Paige: I bet you I could tell.
Russel: I got to think about what the award is. Maybe the first person to get there and say, “Yes, that’s the episode,” and be right, I’ll give him a YETI. That’s what I’ll do.
That’s what we’ve done. It’s funny. To help build the listenership, we give away a YETI every week to somebody who…It’s a really cool YETI. It’s got a really nice logo on it. All of my family wants one. I still make them listen to an episode and register to get it. [laughs]
Paige: I do the same thing with my friends and family. If you want something off the show, I guess you better listen.
Russel: If you want the reward, you got to play the game, right?
Paige: Exactly. That’s the only way that happens.
Russel: There you go, exactly. [laughs]
Paige: It’s not a freebie, folks. It’s not a freebie. Well, technically, it’s a freebie. [laughs]
Russel: There’s no freebies.
Paige: No, no such thing. If people want to support the show, I want to make sure that you guys know to go to iTunes and leave a review. Thank you in advance for that. That’s all you got to do. Just takes a few minutes of your time.
Even check out Russel’s. I’ll make sure to put a link in the show notes for you.
Russel: Absolutely. We appreciate it.
Paige: Absolutely. Podcasts to podcasts support each other.
Russel: That’s right. We are a small community. The thing that surprised me most about doing them, when you start doing one of these, you never really know if you’re going to have an audience, and if people are going to appreciate it.
Russel: I have been really surprised by just how interested people have been in what we’re trying to do with the Pipeliners Podcast. The interest in podcasting within oil and gas in general. There really seems to be a hunger for the content.
Paige: It’s absolutely amazing. In fact, somebody just gave me a review. I should read it for everyone to hear. Five stars, yay.
Russel: There you go.
Paige: “Huge fan from the start,” by Jayrow5555. “OGGN is producing some of the best podcasts within the oil and gas industry.” Oh, watch out, Russel.
Russel: It’s not a competition.
Paige: I know.
Russel: It’s a collaboration, Paige. Come on, now.
Paige: That is absolutely correct. It says, “I have been a huge fan from the start. I think Paige does a great job finding some of the most influential professionals…” Oh, look at you. [laughs]
Russel: Oh, man. Now I’m getting nervous, raising the bar there.
Paige: “…and helping the listeners understand what makes such people successful. Great job, Paige, and great job, OGGN. Keep it up. I’ll be a listener for life.” Thank you, Jayrow5555.
Russel: It’s a good thing you’re young, Paige, because…
Paige: You don’t know how old I am. Only the good die young. If you have one piece of advice to give the audience, what would it be?
Russel: One of the things I like to do is to mentor and to coach. I think the biggest thing is always be learning. Always be learning. That’s one of the things I really like about the oil and gas business. Things I was doing 20 years ago that are technologies that by and large aren’t even around anymore.
One of the things I find great about this business, there’s always something new. There’s always something different. There’s always somebody trying to come up with a new way of doing things, a better way of doing things, make the job easier to do, give us an opportunity to be better, and all that kind of stuff.
The thing is, always be learning. The corollary to that is always be experimenting.
Paige: I like that.
Russel: You got to think of it as an experiment. I don’t like people to say, “We want to try new things.” I’m not really a fan of that. I’m more of a fan of running experiments. The distinction there would be that experiment infers some controls.
I know what I’m trying to get to, and I’m going to run this experiment within some controls. It’s a bit more deliberate.
Paige: You also, I feel, you recognize a problem, and you know what that problem is. Versus you go, “I want to try new things,” that doesn’t necessarily mean anything at all.
Russel: Yes, exactly. It’s activity for activity’s sake, versus activity that’s purposeful, trying to get to a better result. Be learning, be experimenting, and analyze. Do your homework.
Paige: Big part of project management.
Russel: One of the things about automation, which is my domain as well, is that we’re getting more, and more, and more, and more data. The good news is we’re not spending our time collecting the data. We get to spend our time analyzing the data. The actual skills that we’re going to be required to apply…
This is all up and down the chain, from the folks working on the frontlines, the dudes and trucks, and such as that, all the way to the engineers and the executives, it’s going to become more and more about the analysis, because the machines are going to do the data collection, and the data organization, and the data segregation, and all that.
We the humans are going to have to be analyzing. The other thing is we’re going to have to be constantly asking the question, “Can I believe that number?” The thing about all the automation, the analytics, is they’re really organized about helping you see something you’ve seen before, but see it more quickly.
If it’s something you’ve never seen before, if it’s unprecedented, the machines don’t deal with that very well.
Paige: No. They don’t know how to analyze the way the human brain does.
Russel: Exactly. That would be my takeaway. Always be learning. The learning makes it fun, man.
Paige: It really does. I’ve learned, as I’ve gotten older, that I enjoy it more, and more, and more.
Russel: Any day I’m learning, I’m not bored.
Paige: Absolutely. Of course, yeah. What book influenced you the most?
Russel: Oh, gosh, there’s a long list. I think I can almost answer that by decade of life. When I was first getting started in business, probably the most influential book I read was Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich.”
Russel: Yeah. I would read that book, and I would mark it up, and make notes in the margins, and actually work to apply the principles in the book. Then somebody would say, “What’s the best book you ever read?” I’d say, “Think and Grow Rich.” They’d say, “Oh, can I borrow it?” I’d give it away. It’s the one book, it never came back.
People would take it, they would read it. The book would never come back. I probably bought 30 copies of that book.
Paige: You should just keep one in the back.
Russel: What I do now, somebody says, “Can I borrow?” I’ll say, “I’ll buy you one.”
Russel: Because I want to keep my notes.
Paige: What you should do is you should always have an extra one on hand. When you give that one away, go get another, but you always keep yours.
Russel: “Think and Grow Rich” is jam-packed full of timeless principles. It really is. After that, it starts becoming about authors. That was a book I read in my 30s a number of times. I read a whole bunch of marketing stuff by Al Ries and Jack Trout, “Guerilla Marketing” and that kind of stuff, which was marketing for small companies and such, and entrepreneurial pursuits.
In my 50s, I read everything that Patrick Lencioni did. “Death by Meeting,” “Silos,” all these. “Death by Meeting,” what a great book. Oh, my God. That defines how I run meetings in my business.
I hate, hate, hate going someplace where they don’t run a good meeting.
Paige: Yeah, because there are so many of them that are just incredibly…I’m not going to name the company I worked for, but they stopped inviting me to meetings, because I would just sit there and laugh at stuff, especially the jargon.
Russel: [laughs] Yeah.
Paige: How can you not laugh at that? By the end of the meeting, everybody else was laughing at it, too. I went like, “Yeah, this is just as productive had I not Googled any of this. Come on.”
Russel: I’ll sit down, the first thing I’ll ask is why are we here, what are we going to accomplish, and what I need to know to accomplish it? If we can’t answer those questions, I won’t have the meeting. If it’s in my company, I won’t have the meeting.
Paige: Oh, no, what a time waster.
Russel: I think what happens is, when you start building that into the culture of the team, people get okay with having what others would consider difficult conversations. The nature of automation, the nature of technology, it is jam-packed full of ambiguity.
You also get into these issues where I have these silos of understanding. I have the guy that knows database. I have the guy that knows automation. I have the guy that knows regulatory requirements. I have the guy that knows automation. They all use the same words to talk different languages.
Paige: Except the regulatory guy. I bet you that guy knows everybody else’s language. Just saying.
Russel: Depends on the team. A lot of times, the regulatory guys, they can speak the operations but they don’t know technology, at least in my experience. My point just being that by having it be okay to struggle with common understanding and by having everybody clear that here’s why we’re here and here’s what we’re trying to get to.
If everybody agrees with those two things, a lot of the other stuff that gets in the way goes away. A lot of the positioning, and politicking, and all that kind of stuff comes out of, I don’t know what the real agenda of this meeting is. If I know what the real agenda is, it’s a whole lot easier to just get on board and help.
Paige: Yeah, and it makes the meeting shorter.
Paige: Don’t be that person that asks something right before the meeting is supposed to end.
Paige: I’m just saying. You always have that person that asks something that was already mentioned in the very first part of the meeting, because they weren’t paying attention.
Russel: You’ll do that to me about once.
Paige: Pet peeves, man. I’m like, “Oh, no, no, no. I have stuff to do.” [laughs]
Russel: That attitude could be problematic, and I hope you know that.
Paige: This is why I’m a podcaster.
Russel: I can be that way, too. Listening is part of the skill. Everybody processes things differently. You got to give everybody the grace to be who they are, who God made them to be. You also need to get clear that we’re here to do something. I like you guys. I like working with you guys, but I don’t want to be hanging with you all the time. I got other things I want to do.
Paige: Yeah, exactly.
Russel: That’s one of the things that makes oil and gas really interesting to me. I’ve worked in a lot of different industries, and I see more collaboration in oil and gas than any place I’ve worked.
Paige: I have to agree with you on that.
Russel: Energetic, discordant, in‑your‑face collaboration sometimes. I absolutely don’t agree. It’s in that discordance, it’s in that conflict that you can find some real gems, right?
Paige: Yeah. Talk it out, talk it out, get through it.
Russel: Exactly. We don’t need to agree about how we got here. We just need to agree to where we’re going and how we’re going forward. That’s all we got to agree to.
Paige: Yeah, exactly. What would you say is your most used business tool?
Russel: Outlook. I use Outlook, I use Outlook, I use Outlook.
Paige: The calendar, contacts.
Paige: Mail, tasks, reminders.
Russel: I’m not a big reminder fan. I find reminders to be…
Paige: Redundant with calendar?
Russel: Noise. I’m a big fan of “Getting Things Done.” Are you familiar with that?
Paige: A little bit.
Russel: I discovered David Allen…Gosh, it’s probably been 15 years ago now. At the time, if you saw my office the day I discovered David Allen, versus a year later, it was like you were in a different office.
One of the things I like about David Allen and his approach is that what we really want and what I really want is I want clear runway. I want spaces of time that allow me to just think, so that whatever comes up, I have available to me my mind to work on it.
To do that, you got to take the noise and you got to get it out of your head. Years ago, when I was just becoming an engineer, an entrepreneur, I would wake up two or three times a night with ideas, and then I couldn’t go back to sleep.
I put a notepad by my bed, and if I wake up in the middle of the night to this day, and I’ve got an idea, I write it down, and if it’s really important, I can’t remember it, I put it on a Post‑it note that goes on the mirror where I shave my face. Then, I go back to bed and I go immediately to sleep, because now my mind is like, “Okay, it’ll be handled.”
Paige: The computer has been rebooted.
Russel: It’s not really a reboot. It’s something different than that. Here’s the premise. The brain is not very good at keeping all the tasks. Systems are great at holding tasks. What the brain is good is processing, and analyzing, and subjectively connecting dots that you can’t otherwise connect.
If you load it up with what you got to do in the morning when you get up, it won’t do the other thing. The trick is to get all that out of your head. To do that, you have to have a system, and your brain must trust it. If your brain trusts the system, it will release the job. That’s why if it’s…
Paige: That actually makes a lot of sense.
Russel: If it’s something I need to make sure I’ve got it written down, or I’ll get back to it someday, I just write it in my little notepad and it goes in my little hopper of stuff.
If it’s something I’ve got to do first thing in the morning, it goes on a Post‑it note. It goes on a mirror before I shave my face, and I know I’m not forgetting. Then, my mind releases it and it processes other stuff.
Paige: Have you not left yourself voice notes or anything like that, because you don’t see it first thing in the morning?
Russel: I tend to make extensive use of email. My inbox is primarily email. Even if I made a voice note, I’d email it to myself.
Paige: So you can put it in your cabinet.
Russel: Yeah. I try to work my email to zero every day.
Paige: Every day?
Russel: I try to. Rarely accomplish that, but I try to. I generally keep my email inbox under 20.
Paige: You want to go through my email?
Russel: I could give you a good book by David Allen, and if you follow his technique…
Paige: I’m not going to follow it. Anyway, I just want somebody else to do it for me, please.
Russel: The problem is I can’t do your thinking. I can barely do my own.
Paige: Honestly, you don’t even know. You don’t want anything to do with that, because in this head, there is at least 360 things going on all at once.
Russel: That’s a guy‑girl difference thing.
Paige: I think so.
Russel: There’s a great YouTube video out about that very subject. I’ll try to do the reader’s digest. Men have a whole bunch of place to put boxes in. When they think, they go to a place, they pull a single box out. They open that box, they play with what’s in that box and only that box.
When they’re done, they put that box back and they put it back away. You know what a man’s favorite box is? No, it’s the nothing box.
Russel: Yes, exactly. It’s the nothing box. That’s why at the end of the day, you come home and you ask your husband, “What are you doing?” he says nothing. That’s what he’s doing, nothing.
Paige: That sounds freaking wonderful.
Russel: Yeah, but women don’t work that way.
Paige: No, they’re like, “Oh, this box, that box, this box, oh.”
Russel: In a woman’s mind, everything’s connected. [makes connect‑the‑dots sound]. Everything’s connected. Anyway, I don’t know what that has at all to do with what we’re here to talk about, but it’s an interesting aside.
Paige: FYI, I’m a little ADD. [laughs]
Russel: I’m sorry, what did you say? I was thinking about something else.
Paige: Normally, when I say I’m half‑deaf ‑‑ “Huh?” ‑‑ It’s kind of similar. Who would you say is your most respected competitor?
Russel: Actually, I have a lot of respected competitors. [laughs] The interesting thing is my most respected competitors are sometimes competitors, they’re sometimes partners. It’s situational.
EnerSys’s primary line of business is software for the Pipeline Control Center. SCADA systems, HMI implementations, log books, alarm management, all this kind of stuff. We use a third‑party SCADA platform to build our stuff on top of. We use Schneider’s ClearSCADA as our platform to deploy our solution.
ClearSCADA is sometimes a competitor. I think the world of their product. I think the world of their people. It’s well done and it’s well managed, but what they’re doing and what we’re doing is different. Sometimes we’re collaborating and sometimes we’re competing. That’s very common in the automation space.
Paige: Oh, is it?
Russel: Yeah. If you think about it, you’ve got the big automation companies. You got ABB, you got Emerson, and you got Siemens, Yokogawa, etc. Then, you have the communication products. Then, you have the software products. Somebody’s got to put all that together and deploy it.
Paige: That’s true.
Russel: Most projects of any size are an integration effort. I can integrate any product to go with any other product. It’s just a matter of, you want blue, I’ll turn on the blue lights, right?
Russel: In that space, what will tend to happen is the collaboration competition is formed around each opportunity based on that customer, what legacy systems they have in place, what preferences they have or predispositions related to technology and people, and you’re trying to figure out how to put the right puzzle pieces together for them.
I was in integration for a bunch of years. It’s not really a business that I’m passionate about. We still do some of that.
Paige: I can tell. Nobody can really see, but I can tell by your face.
Russel: I’m sure you can. Our approach is different. What I’ve always tried to do is I want to take all that integration stuff and I want to sweep it off the table. I want to hide it from the customer. I want to give them a solution, and I want it to be a solution that it’s not different for every customer. I want it to be the same for every customer.
Paige: It sounds like a pain.
Russel: At scale, those things are necessary.
Russel: They have such a huge investment in legacy technology that they have to do all that. We tend to work with smaller operators, and we bring not only the technology, but the subject‑matter expertise around leak protection and pipeline regulatory requirements for the control room, and so forth as a comprehensive solution so that we can line up and be a partner.
For the big guys, they have teams that do all that. Part of it is knowing your space, where to play. There’s a couple other integrators that I think really highly of, because they manage this domain, they’re very good at the business, they’re knowledgeable, they’re professional, they’re high‑integrity. There’s a lot of good people. There are some good people in the business.
Paige: It looks like you definitely surrounded yourself by good people.
Russel: That’s the secret to having life be good.
Paige: That’s what I hear.
Paige: Just kidding though. All my friends and family.
Russel: You don’t know?
Paige: No, that’s just a joke.
Russel: I’ve got a good friend of mine who is out in the Bay Area. He’s a general contractor. He’s done extremely well. When I was a single man in my 30s, he and I went on a ton of cruises together, a lot of times sitting by the pool drinking beers and philosophizing.
We talked about this, and I asked him how he was successful as a general contractor. His primary thing was the first 15 years were brutal, because I had to find my subs. Once I found my subs, it got easy.
Paige: Find the special people that compliment you and you compliment them, and boom.
Russel: Exactly. The real challenge is you got to find people unlike yourself that value you, and you value them, and you got to figure out how to make that productive.
Paige: Yeah, absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. All this, what would you say is your most important lesson learned?
Russel: Probably in our business, particularly in oil and gas, integrity is everything. It is so important. There are still people that do business on a handshake.
Paige: Yeah, there really are.
Russel: There’s a lot of big decisions that are made, because I believe that person. It comes down to one‑on‑one relationships and the integrity and the trust in that relationship. They don’t need to know what you know, but they need to be able to trust that you’re going to do your part with diligence and care. That’s probably the biggest thing.
I’ve known that, but I will tell you, I’ve walked through some ‑‑ anybody who’s been in business has done this ‑- but I walked through really some difficult situations where I needed to end a relationship, because the integrity was gone.
In other relationships where people walked through with me where even though I wasn’t able to be in my obligations, they knew I was doing everything I could, and they continued to stand with me. You don’t forget those things.
Paige: No, not at all. I’ve had so many friends and colleagues make those handshakes and expect that other person to hold their end of the deal, and not. That in itself is so difficult to watch, because you want to help those people because of how you interact with them. You hope they learn their lesson by doing that. Read the fine print, people.
Russel: Paige, you’re making a really good point. When I first got out of the military and started working in business, I had this expectation that everybody brought with them the integrity that I’ve been exposed to. I was wrong.
I love people and I want to help people. Later, I got to a point where I was trying to help people out. Not so much anymore. If somebody is willing to do the work, do the homework, I’ll help anybody, but if you’re not willing to do the homework, then okay, that’s your choice.
It’s funny to hear myself say that, because I wouldn’t have said that younger in my life. I was, “That’s so harsh.” It’s not really unkind. When you’re running an organization ‑‑ I don’t care if you’re a little bitty organization or a huge organization ‑‑ one of the key things you’re doing is you’re setting up the game.
You got to set the game up in a way that everybody wins, right?
Russel: A big part of what you have to do is you got to…What am I trying to drive at here? This issue about integrity and expectation, everybody needs to have the grace to fail. Nobody needs to have license to fail. It’s a very hard thing to put a crosshair on and say that’s right and that’s wrong, but you certainly learn it in experience.
You get to the point, you give everybody an opportunity and you watch and you see what they do.
Paige: None of us have time to sit there and hold people’s hands. I’m just saying.
Russel: If they need their hand held…
Paige: I’ve got a place for them to put it.
Russel: [laughs] Yeah.
Paige: Bear trap. [laughs] I’m just saying. People ask for this help, and they expect you to do it all. Maybe that’s just my experience. Maybe that’s not necessarily my own personal experience, but me observing other instances where that has happened between two people. It’s incredibly frustrating.
Russel: What’s interesting is I’ve mellowed a lot. When I was younger, I cursed a lot. I’d get heated pretty easily. I never really had any awareness of the impact that was having on other people. That was just me being passionate about outcomes and stuff.
As I’ve gotten older, I see that wake that I throw. I’m a lot softer in that way. I used to make threats. I’ll never make a threat. I just do it.
My daddy used to say it this way. He says, “Russel,” he says, “I’m just a bear.” He says, “A grizzly bear or a teddy bear, depends on whether you’re with me or against me.” [laughs]
Paige: Very well put. I like that a lot.
Russel: My dad was a wise man, much wiser than I knew.
Paige: [laughs] I think we all go through that part and we go, “Oh, crap. They were right.”
Russel: When I left to go in the military, my dad was not smart at all. About five years into having my own business, he was the smartest guy I ever met. I don’t know how I learned all that in that short period of time.
Paige: [laughs] Unbeknownst to you.
Russel: You do have to get wise enough to appreciate the wisdom.
Paige: Yes, absolutely. You got to crawl before you can walk.
Russel: No doubt, no doubt.
Paige: What’s your favorite podcast beside your own?
Russel: I can tell you some of the things I listen…I’ve been listening to “Side Hustle School.” Have you heard of this one?
Russel: Oh, my gosh.
Paige: I’m so excited about it.
Russel: I love that podcast. I’ve listened to every single episode since the beginning. To me, what’s so compelling about it, it’s only about five minutes of content. It’s five minutes of promo, it’s five minutes of content.
Paige: It’s like through my warm‑up, when I’m jogging.
Russel: It’s the first thing I listen to every morning when I’m making breakfast.
Russel: It’s Side Hustle School. That’s one. The guy who got me over the hump believing I could do a podcast was Pat Flynn.
Russel: Yeah. What is it called? “Smart Passive Income.” I didn’t listen to it from a standpoint of Smart Passive Income. I was just listening to him, because I was very interested in his story. He was an architect. Do you know the story about Pat Flynn, who he is?
Paige: I don’t.
Russel: He is pretty well known guy in the podcasting space. I think he’s got a couple of million listeners. Big. He was an architect. He got cut loose from his job and put together a class for the LEED certification for architects and put it online, and was pretty successful with it.
Out of that, started doing other things. I found that real fascinating. He has a lot of really good material about what does it take to be successful as a podcaster, as a Web‑centric marketing entity and such.
I have a real belief that, just like everything else, the oil and gas business is late adopters of this kind of thing. There’s a whole new reality that’s coming around how you’re going to market and get your message out. If you don’t get ahead of it, you’re going to be behind it. If you’re behind it, it’s going to be a problem.
Paige: It sounds very right.
Russel: Those two. Then, there’s a bunch of others I listen to. I’ll tell you one.
Paige: Do you listen to Dave Jackson’s stuff?
Russel: No, never heard of him.
Paige: We just recently, all three shows, Oil and Gas This Week, Oil and Gas HSE, and Oil and Gas Industry Leaders went on Fiverr and picked out which show we wanted Dave Jackson to listen to. He’s got a show called “Podcast Rodeo.”
What he does is he goes through and he provides commentary, and goes through your podcast. I have to send it to you.
Russel: Yeah, send me that. I’m going to check that out. Awesome, awesome.
Paige: Five bucks, five bucks.
Russel: He charges five dollars, he listens to your podcast…
Paige: It goes out on his podcast. He is so tired of us. He is like, “If I hear one more oil and gas podcast, I’m going to scream.”
Paige: You have to send it to him.
Russel: I’ll be the one who makes him scream.
Paige: When you do, say Oil and Gas Global Network sent you.
Russel: [laughs] I’ll do that.
Paige: He’ll love that. He’ll love that. He’ll just be like, “Ahh.”
Russel: That’s so cool.
Paige: “$20 later. Ahh.”
Russel: I’ll tell you another one I really like is “The Pedal Steel Podcast.” You know what a pedal steel guitar is?
Paige: Yes. Aren’t you…You mentioned practice. You’re kind of dabbling in that.
Russel: I am a wannabe pedal steel player. I have one. I have the accoutrements. I am trying to learn. I have a real interest in it. Boy, timewise, I just have struggled getting my time on it. I’ve been listening to that. It’s really cool. One of the things I like about pod…I like the stuff that’s kind of geeky and pretty…
Paige: Yeah, me too.
Russel: …pretty vertical. I love that you can find this stuff. It’s really super‑cool.
Paige: Before I forget, events on deck. IDT Expo 2018. It’s the very first annual conference. It’s actually Thursday, June 28, 2018. Actually, right here in CityCentre, at the Norris Conference Center. If you want to go to that, all the Oil and Gas Global Network gang should be there.
Russel: What’s IDT? Help me out.
Paige: Information, Design, and Technology, I believe.
Russel: That sounds cool.
Paige: You’re a podcaster. You’re press, man.
Paige: Anyway, thank you so much for coming on.
Russel: Look, man. Thanks for having me. This has really been fun. You do a really nice podcasting. It’s really cool.
Paige: I couldn’t do this without Matty, Chris, and Chef Jeff. CityCentre, I love this. We actually, the HSE records over at an Italian restaurant here. I have the Capital Grille. You know I wouldn’t change that for anything.
Russel: It’s nice digs, I’ve got to tell you. We’re in the board room at the Capital Grille in Houston CityCentre. It’s really, really nice.
Paige: Not only that, but they…
Russel: I find myself craving a steak right now. I don’t know why.
Paige: I tell you what. I go anywhere else that has steak, I feel like I’m cheating.
Russel: [laughs] Because they treat you so well, right?
Paige: They treat me so well. They treat my guys so well. People coming in here all the time. There’s been several people that have won gift cards, that have come in here. It’s been great.
Before I forget, because I like my listeners to actually dress safely, nice and safe, be sure to go to bulwark.com/podcast to win a Bulwark FR shirt and a base layer. Not just the base layer, the shirt also.
Russel: Oh, nice.
Paige: Yeah, I know, right? No purchase necessary to win. See official rules for details. If people want to reach out to you, or want to know more about your companies, and the podcast, how could they go about doing that?
Russel: Thanks for asking that Paige. Certainly, you can go to pipelinerspodcast.com/contact, and put in a comment there, and I get all of those, and I respond pretty quickly.
Paige: Oh, perfect.
Russel: The other thing, I’m a big user of LinkedIn. My profile on LinkedIn is Russel, R‑U‑S‑S‑E‑L. Yes, it’s only one L.
Paige: One L.
Russel: My mother told me I was a big baby, and she was tired, she didn’t have the energy for a second L.
Paige: That’s the best answer I’ve ever heard. That’s the best response ever.
Russel: Yeah, exactly. Then, my last name is Treat, T‑R‑E‑A‑T, so my profile name is Russel Treat when you go to LinkedIn. That’s the best way to find me. Send me a connection request, drop me a message. Love to hear from you. Please go to the Pipeliners Podcast. You can download it on Stitcher, or iTunes, or any of those things, and listen, and sign up. If you like it, give us a review and let us know.
Paige: Yeah, absolutely. I’ll make sure to put all the links in the show notes, and we’re good to go.
Paige: All right.
Russel: Thanks for having me Paige. I really enjoyed this. This has been a kick.
Paige: Thank you for coming on. I really appreciate it. That concludes this episode. Remember, it’s up to you to open the next door.
Announcer: Tune in next week for another intriguing episode of Bulwark’s Oil and Gas Industry Leaders Podcast, a production of the Oil and Gas Global Network. Learn more at oilandgasindustryleaders.com.
Transcription by CastingWords