Tapping into oil and gas opportunities: tips to getting in

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Caron Hawco, ABC, PMP, is an industry, communication, business strategy consultant and project manager, specializing in oil and gas, public affairs, business development, trade missions and media relations

The direct and indirect business opportunities driven by the petroleum industry are significant.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, our business community experienced significant growth as our petroleum industry matured. This was driven with new opportunities to directly service and supply the industry as well as indirect opportunities, such as in education, technology, infrastructure, housing, marketing and food and beverage.

Are you interested in “getting in” to access your piece of the petroleum pie?

I have worked with numerous businesses and organizations – local, national, and international – helping them to position themselves to compete for industry-related opportunities. Below are practical tips to help you better understand the oil and gas industry and hopefully position yourself for future growth:

  • Do your homework to understand the industry and how you can fit in. Knowledge is power when developing a business development strategy. Know your target audience or potential client. What do they need or is there a problem you can help solve? Who are your competitors? Become educated on the business and offer your unique selling point that adds value and differentiates you in the industry.
  • Determine who are the decision makers or the purchasers. Too many times I’ve seen businesses targeting the wrong client or incorrect access point in the supply chain. During my time working with a petroleum company, I was often confused when business development professionals insisted on meeting with the most senior representative…a person who rarely made purchasing decisions. Or they were not targeting the contractor who was actually making the purchase on our behalf.
  • Know your limitations and consider partnerships to grow. The industry does have complicated procurement procedures that are often onerous for small companies. Sometimes size really does matter, so consider partnering to build your capacity and your capabilities.

In the 90s, Norwegian, British and French businesses went to Newfoundland and Labrador to share their global knowledge, experience and know how to develop our first oil development, Hibernia. We had much to learn and they had the experience and know-how. They were also willing to partner and share their knowledge. Is there a potential local or foreign partner that could work with you so you can build capacity and meet the demands of the industry?

  • Build your industry knowledge and get connected. The industry is relationship based, so continuously build your network. Attend industry events. Share your knowledge. Leverage connections whenever possible. Consider joining local business associations. And ask for referrals. Sometimes it only takes one referral to open a door.
  • Clearly communicate your product and service. Entrepreneurs often struggle to describe their business offerings. They get stuck in the details of a technology versus the benefits of their product. Simplicity of language and confidence in your product will help busy decision makers see your value. It’s incredibly important to work on this, so consider pitch training or proposal writing seminars.
  • Promote a culture of safety. Health and safety is a fundamental requirement for the oil and gas industry. Determine what programs, certifications and training are needed. A commitment to safety is a core value of industry and it is expected of all its service and supply companies. This is non-negotiable.
  • Deliver and meet (if not, exceed) expectations. If you want to work in an international industry, you have to be able to deliver international work. The industry is exacting, demanding and expects high-quality goods and services, on time and within budget. They also want competitive pricing, customer-service, continuous improvement and innovative business solutions. This big industry has very big expectations.
  • And finally, be patient, relentless and fearless: Getting in could take time. The industry does not move fast. In fact, it can feel painfully slow. It can also be intimidating and a little overwhelming.

Whether I’m working with an executive from Houston or a service provider from a rural area, getting past fear as a consistent issue when accessing a new industry. This never changes. So go ahead and take that first step. Without it, you’ll never enjoy that piece of the petroleum pie.

Author, Caron Hawco, ABC, PMP, is an industry, communication, business strategy consultant and project manager, specializing in oil and gas, public affairs, business development, trade missions and media relations.