Career development

Be in the Team Going Forward: Five Good Skills, Five Bad Habits

Time to quit thinking about 2019 and earlier. What are the skill sets that will thrive in the second half of 2020 and beyond?


Time to quit thinking about 2019 and earlier. In fact, it is also time to quit thinking about Q1 2020.  Those days are gone forever. All the old trends and curves and mathematical relationships have been flung out the window, and the new era is upon us. What are the skill sets that will thrive in the second half of 2020 and beyond? Even though many of the trends and ratios and curves are gone, the team going forward will have key skills that will cause the possessor of those skills to rocket through the current dark time and thrive when the industry returns to growth.

Here are five good skills to embrace and five bad habits to avoid. These skills and habits are best suited for those people who work on the oilfield service company side of the desk, but I strongly believe the oil company hand should also always have these in mind.

First, the good skills to embrace:

  1. Broaden customer relationships.

  2. Be responsive.

  3. Be present where the action is happening.

  4. Reward urgency.

  5. Be resourceful.

Next, the habits to avoid:

  1. Inability to say “no.”

  2. Slow follow-up.

  3. A focus on price, not value.

  4. Poor client retention.

  5. Limited product knowledge.

Want a single sentence to summarize these embraced good skills and avoided bad habits?

Work on your soft skills while focusing on execution.

I was fresh out of engineering school and working on a Halliburton frac crew when I met Earl Schott, former captain in the army, combat veteran, and only a handful of years home from Vietnam.  Halliburton was Earl’s account, and he set about to make sure that every young, overwhelmed field engineer knew and understood what his company’s chemicals could do and what they could not do. He was present, winsome, direct, helpful, value-oriented, and great to have around. Earl became a trusted, valuable friend…valuable because he taught me how to gel high-pH lease water, how to properly shift a five-speed transmission, how to treat bacteria-laden emulsions, and how to find the best chicken fried steak in northwest Oklahoma. And he knew when to steer me away from his products, because he knew there were better alternatives. Talk about building goodwill! When Earl and his partner launched their own chemical company a decade later, we all knew he would become a gazillionaire with the new venture.  He understood the product, the customer, and the broader industry. And he remains my friend 40 years later.

These skills work on the service side of the desk, but do they work on the oil company side? Consider this: If you are an oil company drilling engineer or a procurement officer, can you afford to have poor vendor relationships, lack urgency, and be unresponsive? Can you get away with buying solely on price, having limited understanding of the tools you are using, and bounce from supplier to supplier? Clearly the answer to all these questions is no. You won’t be on the team going forward if this describes you.

The oil and gas industry cycles—it has always cycled, and it will always cycle in the future. The person who is responsive and resourceful, informed and helpful, will thrive in this gyrating industry and enjoy a long career.


Richard Spears is a 40-year veteran of the oilfield service and equipment sector. He and his brother are the managing partners of Spears & Associates, a global oilfield market research firm spanning six decades of service to the industry and the industry’s investors.