No matter the industry, no two career paths are carved out the same, and for Jim LaPorte, president of Mudslayer Manufacturing, his journey toward a career in drilling began with a unique instance of family misfortune. When Jim was just 8 years old, his mother and brother contracted hepatitis from the old crock well on the family farm and right then and there, his father decided, “We’re gonna drill our own dang well,” LaPorte recalls.
A young Jim helped his uncle with most of the drilling and within a few short years, he had found his passion and knew that he wanted to be a driller. Over time, across several different career twists and turns, LaPorte stayed connected to the drilling industry as best he could and at the age of 26, he and his wife, Kate, came across a company selling an old drill rig, struck a deal and were off and running.
Over the next 25 years, Jim and Kate grew their business into a seven-rig company before selling it in 2008, shortly after starting Mudslayer. Nearly 12 years later, LaPorte sees no end in sight and is proud of his contributions to the trade to this point.
“I just felt like I had something to help improve the industry that I love so much,” he says.
Q. What do you do and what keeps you coming back every day?
A. At Mudslayer, I handle sales and customer service, while my wife, Kate, primarily handles the office management, shipping and purchasing. Additionally, we both work on assembly at our shop in Iowa. What keeps me coming back is the constant drive to continue to improve products and service for an industry I really believe in.
Q. What does a typical workday involve?
A. Well, a typical work day, I would say, is always different! Our focus could be on one of many things: equipment assembly, phone sales, various customer service needs, traveling for delivery, on-site training … I might even do some drilling consulting and I’m always meeting new people. Every day is pretty diverse — that’s one of the things I enjoy most!
Q. What does it take to succeed in what you do?
A. Success, for me, depends first on trusting God and knowing this is where He wants me to be and what He wants me doing. Beyond that, a winning attitude and confidence in the product that we deliver to our customers is the key.
Q. What do you wish you knew when you started?
A. Know your worth. I would advise people getting started never to give their work away out of desperation. And also, problems are never as big as they seem in the moment.
Q. What tool can you not imagine working without?
A. It sounds simple but the most valuable tools, to me, are my phone and my computer. Communication is everything!
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
A. In the beginning, we had gotten behind on our rig payment, and I was desperate to keep it and continue to grow the business. I knew a businessman in our area, but only by reputation. I went to him and asked if he needed any wells drilled and told him that he could set the price. He said no, so I asked if I could hire on for a job in a few weeks, as he was about the only person I would want to go to work for again. He could tell something was up and asked what was going on, so I told him about being behind on some payments. Right then and there, he pulled out his checkbook and handed over a check for $3,000. He told me to relax, that I would get caught up and that everything would be fine. With tears in my eyes, I told him it would take me a while to pay him back and he told me, “It’s a long life. Everything will be fine.”
Q. How would you describe the present state of the industry?
A. The state of our industry is very good. The need for our type of equipment continues to grow due to environmental constraints and optimism is high under the current leadership in our country.