EOE: Energy & Natural Resources

 

Category Winner:

Gregory Cobb, Precise Energy Products, Inc.

Greg Cobb is quick to point out a key value-add he brings to his business of selling oilfield equipment. “There’s not a piece of equipment that we build that I have not operated in the field,” he says. “That’s all I’ve ever done in my life, is work in the oil field. It’s been a good life for us.”

Cobb, 57, started his energy career 30 years ago as an equipment operator, helped into the industry by a cousin of his wife. A subsequent partnership he had in the business broke up, and Cobb went off on his own in 2010, launching Precise Energy Products, which assembles and manufactures equipment used in oilfield services.

Today, the Fort Worth company - whose headquarters are in the Stockyards Exchange Building and engineering, design and manufacturing are on North Sylvania Avenue - has 13 employees and sales in the United States, Nigeria, Mexico, Australia, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Precise won the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business of the Year award for 2015 for small employers, and the company placed No. 2,450 on the 2014 Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing U.S. companies, with three-year sales growth of 153 percent and sales of $3.3 million.

Precise, like other service companies, has been battling the downturn in energy prices, but it’s turned to the international markets to help diversify its business.

“Nigeria and Mexico saved our bacon,” Lisa Cobb, Precise’s CFO and Greg Cobb’s wife, says. “They really have helped us out.”

In 2014, Precise won the federal Small Business Administration Dallas-Fort Worth Area Exporter of the Year Award, and the SBA Region VI Exporter of the Year Award.

In June, Greg Cobb predicted crude oil would hit $55 per barrel by Christmas and $65 per barrel by 2017’s second quarter. Crude was at $54-$55 in late December, buoyed by an OPEC-led production cut.

 

 

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Service companies are “starting to get a little budget” for capital expenditures, Cobb says, adding one customer has been gearing back up for six months. “They’re starting to see it coming back.”

Cobb at one point went to college, for one semester, thinking he’d be a coach. “I realized how much I hated high school,” he jokes.

The Cobbs have a special needs son, and they’ve been actively involved in the Best Buddies Organization, Special Olympics, and The Clubhouse for Special Needs, a Bedford-based organization that serves teens and young adults.

They contribute money to The Clubhouse for Special Needs, Camp Summit in Argyle that serves children and adults with disabilities, Special Olympics, The Company of Rock House, American Heart Association, and The Jordan Elizabeth Harris Foundation for suicide awareness, prevention and research, in support of an employee who lost his son to suicide.
 

 

Finalist:

Graham Radler, Baseline Energy Services, LP

One tenet of the strategy at Baseline Energy Services, a Fort Worth power generation rental company serving energy and industrial customers, is play it to stick around.

“We were conservative early on, prudent, and weren’t going to take any risks that could put us out of business,” Graham Radler, president of the Fort Worth company, says. “In the energy industry, we see the big downs, but we also see the big ups. We want to stick around.”

Radler founded the company in 2012, after having written a business plan for an oilfield service company while earning his MBA at TCU. He’d been in the corporate world as a financial analyst and in commercial real estate.

“I didn’t want to go back to the corporate world,” Radler, 32, says. Radler had done an internship in investment banking, “but I was not called to investment banking.” Radler’s family has been in energy; his father Michael Radler is CEO of Tug Hill, a Fort Worth investment company whose largest holdings are in oil and gas operations.

Radler started Baseline with “friends and family capital,” identifying the natural gas generation business as a big opportunity and slowly building a fleet of equipment for rental. The company took on its first large investment partner, Donovan Ventures, in 2014.

In 2012, the marketing was roaring, Radler recalls. “It was just blowing and going,” he says. Crude oil prices crashed in mid-2014 from their peak at more than $100 per barrel, but, Radler said, “the downturn has really helped us. We’ve been able to grow through it. We didn’t overbuy in the good times.”

The company’s response during the downturn: “We offer a mission-critical service, where they rely on us 24-7. Let’s show up every day, be faithful. Our identity is not in the price of oil. Our identity is we’re going to do a good job. Let’s just be faithful.”

The company today has a presence in multiple regions: the West Texas and New Mexico Permian Basin, Mid-Continent in Oklahoma and Kansas, and Eagle Ford Shale in South and East Texas. Baseline also has a very diversified, high-quality customer base, and is well-capitalized, Radler says. “We’re in fantastic condition.”

The company, which kicked off with about $300,000 in startup capital and a $1.5 million loan, has invested close to $30 million since then, including investment, bank debt, and re-invested cash flow, Radler says.

As for the direction of oil prices, which have been on the rise to about $55 per barrel in December, Radler says, “we’re going into January with a bit more optimism. I’m a simple-minded dude. I’m looking at global supply and global demand for oil. I think we’re definitely in the $50 range for (2017), which makes a lot of American supply fields competitive. We’re always adding equipment to our fleet,” and the company expects to continue additions in 2017.