Water well and mining professionals from Texas to California know Venture Drilling Supply. The company sells and supports drilling equipment and tools from its Austin, Texas, headquarters, as well as from facilities in California, Arkansas and Oklahoma. As Venture’s president, Colt McCarthy has ideas about how to support drillers and the drilling industry as a whole. Of course, drillers need parts and repairs to keep running, but what about the industry?
“You got to make this job attractive,” McCarthy says of drilling industry work. “Don’t put them in, you know, the dirtiest old trucks that you can find to save a dollar. Give somebody a nice truck. Put the money in toward that, and create that culture that they’re going to take care of it and you empower people. … Make it as attractive as possible, not as detractive as possible.”
We had McCarthy our Drilling In-Site video and podcast series. Our talk ranged from mining to water well, and from hiring to leadership. This is an edited summary of our talk.
Q. What is the biggest challenge in supplying drilling rigs?
A. Specifically right now, it’s the truck availability and product components. It seems like everything is stuck somewhere other than at the factory where it needs to be. We’ve outsold the equipment for this year and next year. It’s a great problem to have as far as the numbers that that we have sold, but to be able to sell more is also an issue. It’s everything. It’s the supplier’s supplier’s supplier all the way down to the root issue. If like a rotary head motor for top drive is not available, you just can’t finish a drill. I know everybody is seeing those same issues.
Q. From emissions and safety features to remote controls, rigs have evolved quite a bit recently. What has changed from a support standpoint over the past five years?
A. I mean, the emissions piece has really put us in a bind. We want to be able to take care of every call that comes into us, and we have talked about getting programs, whether it’s the Cat-specific, Cummins-specific programs to go address these things. But we can’t follow warranty claims if it’s an emissions issue. You know, we can only do so much before a Cat or Cummins mechanic has to come out anyways. [For] the mining segments, really the emissions, the downtime that it causes the mining drills is a staggering number — 10 to 15% of utilization down from emissions on average, not even the ones where you have problems and they’re continually down. So that’s one segment, the emissions.
Thankfully it seems like the water wall rigs, they have had better luck or better development. The workloads that they run at seem to be working at a manageable state for the emissions to be more reliable than they were in early 2012, ’13, ’14. On the technology side of things, I think it’s fine if they get more complicated, because sometimes, it makes things more simple. But what we’re losing, it seems like, is the depth of people within a manufacturer that actually know how the equipment works. The post support is becoming more challenging as we have to learn more for ourselves than ever before how to support the equipment. You’ve got to train the trainer, right? … And there are very few people that can train the trainer in this industry, period. That’s really where we’re I see us being a valuable asset to the industry, is our desire to keep making trainers. Keep investing in our technicians and our support staff to where they’re not just someone that has some answers, but they’re also equipped well enough they can teach others. Those are the people that I’m looking for as we move forward.
Q. Your LinkedIn profile talks about using faith to guide you. Tell us a little bit about those values or other factors that might influence how you and your family run Venture, and how you interact with clients.
A. I think at a baseline there’s this level of honesty that people can expect from Venture Drilling Supply. It’s a little more than integrity. I think that just starts with doing the right thing. People expect that. I think you can also have a reputation for consistently doing that. But you start looking at, from a faith standpoint too, this business isn’t my only purpose on this planet, you know. Someday, I won’t be here and neither will this business, and there will be other things that I’ll be accountable for my time: my family, my friendships, the relationships that were built around the business and through my time. ... That gives a good perspective that there’s a lot more things that are important, as well as having a profitable company.
I’ve also come to realize, from a young man that grew up in a family business that didn’t necessarily have to fight tooth and nail to keep a business, that if you’re going to create this environment where you want to give back outside your company, give back to your employee business, that takes profit. So you can start working for a profit, knowing that you’re going to be giving it back. But also, you now have more of a mindset and a goal of, “Hey, we’re going to work towards these things because we need money to do these good things.” If we’re going to give free health care in a company that’s around 20 people or something like that, that’s expensive. You know, you’re going to need profits to give back to your employee family with something like that.
Q. Where do you see the drilling industry in 10 years?
A. I see it only getting more valuable. I think that we’re just now starting to have people look up like, “What do you mean I can’t use as much water as I want to? No one’s ever told me I can’t.” You’ve grown up with, “Hey, turn the water off while you’re brushing your teeth.” But you’ve never had to pay for that water that you’re leaving running while you’re brushing your teeth. I see that in the near future, and especially out West, they have these drought crises and Lake Mead is at the lowest it’s ever been and things like that. They’re talking about piping water from East Coast to West Coast. It’s going to be a big deal in the future.
You take that demand coupled with the lack of generation succession from water well drilling companies, and what we see is this consolidation happening of companies. So you have some secure companies that have the ownership, the probably second or third generation, and they have enough energy to keep building their company. We see more consolidation happening. Also, more corporations looking to step in to this industry that they haven’t necessarily been involved with before — likely because they can’t get the contracts that they want done without these large wells. So they’re going to have to do it themselves if they want to keep these large municipal contracts and things like that.
Q. What do you believe should be the drilling industry’s greatest focus for growth?
I just think we need people that want to be in the industry. I think if you have passionate people, they’ll meet those challenges. They’ll meet the demands and we’ll find a way to get around every barrier that’s put in front of us. I don’t know how you do that besides making the industry as a whole as attractive as possible. I think we need to change the culture as a whole in this industry. We’re seeing the same issues in the dirt world, in the mining world, you know, and all of these “blue-collar” industries. … There are some great people that handed down a lot of information, a lot of knowledge, and they love to share stuff. Then there was a whole other group of people that didn’t want to share stuff. They had to earn every bit of their information the hard way, and they’re only going to give it out if you have learned the hard way. There’s a big generational gap in that mentality, that thinking. We’re going to lose more in the next 10 years than we’ll probably gain in the next 50 years. It’s a big challenge, but I think that it starts with changing the culture of the industry as a whole.
The Full Interview
We interviewed Colt McCarthy of Venture Drilling Supply for episode 37 of our Drilling In-Site series. Our talk covered the challenges of supporting and supplying drill crews, growth areas in the industry, finding versatile employees and other topics. See the conversation at www.thedriller.com/insite, or listen to the podcast version at www.thedriller.com/insite-podcast. Episodes also in Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Search Drilling In-Site and tap Subscribe.
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