President’s Column – November 2002

Title: Bill Barrett’s Keys to Success
Author: John Robinson
Publication: The Outcrop, November 2002, p. 3, 18

Bill Barrett was the keynote speaker at the recent RMAG Fall Symposium. The symposium was a great success and Bill was the highlight of the event as he recalled his many years in the petroleum industry. He summarized his address with these nine keys to success. They are reprinted here with his permission.

1 – If necessity is the mother of invention, then technology might be the father…nothing has hastened the move from unconventional to conventional more quickly than technology. Embrace it, understand it, develop it – technology can open up huge reserves for you.

2 – On the other hand, despite our reliance on geology, geophysics, engineering, land and technology as the foundation of our industry, it’s still about the creativity and motivation of talented people.  It’s about ideas, “thinking outside the box”. Your team needs to foster innovation and not be overly critical or judgmental. Keep an open mind for new ideas, new ways to do things.

3 – Be a VIP…strive for Vision, Integrity, and Performance as values for yourself and your company. These values will withstand any storm the marketplace can deliver. Just look at Wall Street these days and you’ll see that the general public isn’t seeing many VIPs. VIPs are long-haulers. Wall Street loves a new idea from a proven performer.

4 – Your reputation in the industry is more important than your reserves on the books, and more delicate. We were able to raise over $280 million in a tough economy this year solely on the basis of the reliability and integrity of the people who joined our new company. When people feel good about what they stand for and what they do, they feel free to innovate and stretch themselves a bit.

5 – Innovation is exacting, precise work…technology allows the geologist to process a lot of information. As a scientist, it’s up to you to know how to interpret that information. Know the complete geologic history of the basin you are working. Why are certain fields producing? Why were dry holes drilled here? Details are the difference. A lot of conventional thinkers overlooked a detail that led to an unconventional discovery.

6 – I have been very fortunate, some would say even lucky, but you know the saying…the harder you work, the luckier you get.  I have worked with some great mentors, geologists, engineers, landmen, financial gurus, and have been part of finding and developing some sizeable fields…geology has been the one consistent thread through those experiences. So has hard work.

7 – Hitting singles are for guys named PeeWee – guys named Babe swing for the fences…go for the fences. Dry holes are part of the business, but you need to learn from each and every one, as I did with the Pacific Creek 25,000’ dry hole. I think it was Shakespeare who said, “It is better to have drilled and lost, than to have never drilled at all,” or something like that. It might have been Yogi Berra though.

8 – Challenge onerous regulatory and environmental regulations. Become involved in the political process and fight for what is right. Protect the environment, but fight unreasonable environmental regulations. Resistance to oil and gas drilling is a major and growing problem here in the Rockies. Individual extremist and obstructionist environmental groups have intensified their efforts to block activity. We must intensify our efforts to counter these activities. We all need to get involved.

9 – Listen to your gut. Again, in our field, science and numbers are kings, but trust your instincts. The prime example of this was our work in the Piceance, where the conventional wisdom and evidence was that there were no reasons to consider it prospective. Yet, my gut feeling led me to the Piceance where I felt that the geology, combined with emerging massive fracture technology, could lead us someplace new. Well, that instinct made Barrett Resources. My point is that we looked at data, sure, but we listened to our hunches and instincts as well. And yes, we were also swinging for the fences.

In conclusion, I want to say that I have a lot of faith in the people in this room. Innovation is a very American trait – this is a country that has been awarded more Nobel Prizes than, I believe, the rest of the world combined.

But ideas need champions – innovation has to be shared with others. It requires both associative thinking, that is, creating a third idea from bringing two together, as well as linear thinking, or pushing along a sequence of ideas until a conclusion is virtually inevitable in its logic.

So keep learning – it requires real thinking. That’s how the new connections are made, new insights reached.  That’s how the unconventional is made conventional. Think, drill, succeed – it’s what you do best. Thank you for this opportunity to share some of my thoughts with you.

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