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Red Deer’s Shane Walper has built and grown two energy services companies from scratch

And he thinks other young executives can do the same

Jan 8, 2013

by Alberta Venture Staff

Back when Predator Drilling appeared on Alberta Venture’s 2012 Fast Growth 50 list, the company had 75 employees, 11 drilling rigs and had grown its revenues by 323 per cent year-over-year. Today, the company has 300 employees and 15 drilling rigs, enough for three full crews.

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Photograph John Gaucher

Predator’s CEO, Shane Walper, boosted the size of Predator’s human resources department last year from one to four people and created two new training programs to attract and retain more staff, an area in which Walper is experienced. Before founding Predator in 2008, Walper founded another services company and sold it to Peak Energy Services in 2005. Here, he shares his thoughts on building and managing a fast-growing company.

On the beginning of his career
“I left high school and got a job with Canadian Fracmaster back in the day. I started my career in and around the rigs. I never went to university or college but worked my way up through the rigs. I spent about six years in the cementing industry on the service side and then I had aspirations of getting into sales downtown Calgary. So I did sales for about eight years before starting my first company.”

On connecting with his workers
“I was a roughneck and I understand what they do and I respect what they do. But delivering that message across 300 people in an effective manner is a big challenge.”

On the challenges of managing a high-growth company
“It’s tough to pinpoint because those challenges change from day to day. We spend a lot of time on our brand and on our image and what it means to be part of the team. When you’re a smaller company, it’s easier for people to see that. But as we grow, and more people get added to the team, I see that as a big challenge – to keep that family feel.”

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On strategies for maintaining a high level of growth at a company
“Executives should go out into the market and ask, ‘What are our peers doing and what new builds are they planning? What are their next moves?’ We also go to our clients and get intelligence from them. We ask them, ‘What are your next moves and what are your next targets?’ And then we ask them, ‘How can we help you meet your targets?’ ”

On the most important lesson he’s learned from starting two companies
“I had the opportunity to go to KPMG’s Quantum Shift program at the Richard Ivey School of Business and it was action-packed. My big takeaway from that was that as the CEO, as the leader of a company, I really needed to learn to work on the business rather than in the business. I do believe that you need to build up to a certain size of company before you can step back from being in the business and focus on the business.”

On addressing labour shortages
“We have to learn to grow rig hands because we don’t see a huge influx of new blood. We have to create effective means of training them and educating them and creating a career path for the ones that do come into the business. That’s been one of our big challenges, especially given the seasonality of our business. We have branched out into other sectors of the oil and gas market in order to create a solid career path for our men so that they can clearly see, and say, ‘OK, I’m a driller today but I want to be a rig manager tomorrow.’ We want to be that company that will provide the growth for them.”

On working with producers to solve labour force problems
“We drilled a test well in our own yard here in Red Deer. In doing that, we developed a five-day training program and our clients helped support us– and even helped fund it. We said we have a challenge as a company, and in the industry, attracting and retaining qualified personnel. Our clients really embraced that and said, ‘What do you need?’ They donated the casing, the cement and the fuel and helped us build a five-day training program around the test well. We’ve seen success in that, and now we’ve done it again– and again in conjunction with our clients – by creating a 15-day training program.”

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