Many National Driller readers want to either step off the platform or be the next one to step on. Like a lot of careers, once you’ve achieved one level, you wonder what comes next.
How do you level up? Specifically, we wondered how drillers can move into more supervisory — and less hands-on — roles. How do you move into management, or grow your business enough to work on it instead of in it? To get answers and tips, we spoke with Travis Flint of Thomas Flint & Son Water Well Drilling in Cadillac, Michigan.
“To actually grow the business as an owner,” Flint says, “you’ve got to get off the drilling platform because you’re more important to keep the company going for sales, looking at new technologies, other business opportunities, staying ahead of markets and all that kind of stuff. You can’t do that if you’re spending eight, 10 hours on the drill rig.”
Flint is a fifth generation well driller who grew up in and leads a company founded in 1901. He drilled his first well at 15, went off to college and worked in another field for eight years before coming back to the family company in 2003. He put in about 15 years on the platform before (mostly) stepping away to work more on growing the company. He also serves as vice president of the Michigan Ground Water Association (MGWA).
His encourages drilling contractors to focus on making smart hires.
“You’ve got to have the right people in the right positions,” he says, “and have that full-time driller you can trust, a service guy that you can trust to make this whole thing work. That’s the only way you can do it.”
Flint found that trusted driller.
“We found a guy that came on board about three years ago, basically my full-time driller, which has allowed me to step back a little bit and start running the company — not trying to be the company.”
That time has showed returns.
“Recently, I was able to buy another company, and so we basically doubled in size,” he says.
That acquisition brought a more robust service component into the Thomas Flint & Son fold.
Business owners, by nature, have passion about their business. That passion can give owners pause when the time comes to give up work to someone who might execute a well, but not in exactly the way they would prefer. How do drillers let go a little bit and trust someone else to do the job right?
“It’s been a little difficult,” Flint says. “But I just keep telling myself, if I don’t learn to delegate and to give up some of that control, I’ll never get off that platform completely. … Even though they don’t do it the way you’d do it, or they take twice as long, at the end of the day if it gets done and the customer is happy, I think that’s the best you can do.”
He adds: “This business, obviously, if you do a good job, you’ve got a good customer. They’ll tell everybody else, and that’s how we’ll get more business.”
Flint continues to put systems into place to help streamline things so the business depends less on him to keep moving forward. He also uses the time to keep building out a team of non-payroll professionals.
“Find a good accountant. Find a good banker. Find a good lawyer. … If you can find guys like that, I think you’ll be fine.”
Of course, you can’t keep a good driller off the platform. The day National Driller spoke with Flint, he planned to fill in on the back of a cable-tool rig. But smart hires and well-timed business decisions have helped him spend more time at the controls of his business, not his business’s rigs.