So, the 15th anniversary of OES Oilfield Services Inc., our US operation, hits the same month as my birthday, my father’s birthday and the huge oilfield event known as the Offshore Technology Conference, OTC.
My first visit to the USA was in 1996, and had a lot to do with the inspiration to start OES. After visiting a friend who was working at the Atlanta Olympics, and then driving along the Gulf Coast, it was a no-brainer that I needed to build a business for myself. For the first time I got to see places I had heard about whilst working with Americans on offshore drilling rigs, Biloxi, Mobile, Houma, New Orleans, and of course the unofficial capital of the oil business, Houston, Texas.
I left the USA in September, arrived back in Dubai, resigned from my then employer and set up Oilfield Engineering Services, initially in Sharjah with my partners at Unique Group, then buying their interests out and moving to Dubai in 1998, and the rest is history as they say.
Once I had founded OES and got business underway, my first visit to the USA, to fact find, was August 1997. I remember it well as I was in a hotel in Dallas, meeting with Ensco and Santa Fe, both customers with rigs in Qatar and alongside in Sharjah, when the tragic news broke that Princess Diana had died. The shock reverberated throughout the USA just as much as it did in the UK.
I also met with M Jay Fogal for the first time, the man who was to become President of OES USA and my long-term friend, along with his beautiful wife Felicia and an absolute plethora of children. One small funny is the first dinner I had with Jay. He decided to take me to a spot on the Gulf Freeway close by his office… I guess he didn’t make the connection with my lack of enthusiasm and the fact the venue was called ‘The Blue Oyster Bar’. Google it, along with the movie Police Academy.
I have visited the USA regularly for the last 20 years, at least twice a year and often more than that. I have seen the ups and downs of two previous downturns, as well as the boom. I was never especially invested in the land drilling boom, and thank goodness did not get sucked in to it. Whilst also not really taking advantage of this ‘pop’, we also did not get hit hard by the sudden dramatic drop off either. Many colleagues have suffered horribly as activity stopped, literally overnight.
The USA has been good to me though, and my company. I have met so many decent people as well, many of which I call friends to this day.
I love Texas, and whilst not picturing myself living there, spending time there has always been a highlight of my business travels.
And so, here we are, in my opinion approaching the end of the most significant downturn in the drilling sector in 40 years. OES is going to weather this, and indeed we are continuing to innovate and mature as a business. I now sit as Executive Chairman, with a full Executive management team running the business day to day, and who occasionally become a little frustrated by my very noticeable involvement from time to time.
Where do I stick my nose in? Well, people of course, and most noticeably customer service. Have a complaint about something OES does, or a technical query, and that’s where you will find me. The investigation in to what OES can do better and how we resolve issues is always something that the beloved RU will be 100% interested in, and usually up to his neck in too.
This year will see me at The Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in Houston for nigh on the 20th time as well, and this year is especially poignant as I collect a Spotlight on New Technology award for the cutting edge tablet-based, cloud-optimised Dropped Objects Prevention Program (DOPP). The culmination of not only 20 years in the industry, but also of the vision I had to involve professionals from other industries in bringing the oilfield inspection business forward and up-to-date. The addition of Enis Suleyman from a UK ISP, and Sean Allison, a specialist in cyber security, have seen OES change and update unrecognisably in so many ways. This award is affirmation that our innovation is effective in every way.
I have loved all the time I have spent in the USA, and I am a little sad this year to see so many friends and contacts struggle so. We shall overcome though, and as I saw at the IADC golf dinner just over a year ago:
‘Don’t panic, the world needs oil!’
Apparently not quite as much, or as soon as we had hoped though…