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PESA High Performer Spotlight: Tony McLain, Sales Director, Gardner Denver

Tony McLain, Sales Manager, Gardner Denver

Tony McLain, Sales Director, Gardner Denver

What influenced your decision to enter the oil and gas industry?
Prior to Gardner Denver, I worked for a few years in the construction industry. After deciding to leave construction, I was immediately drawn to the oil and gas industry due to the similarities in the people and business practices. Oil and gas is full of wonderful, hard-working people, just like the construction business. Days can be long, “sun up to sun down,” but everyone works side by side until the task is complete. Even business practices are similar, as contracts are often finalized by a hand shake at the local coffee shop. Despite the evolution of technology, the integrity and character of the industry make me proud to call it home.

What was your impression of the industry beforehand and how has it evolved?
Working for an equipment supplier, I can see how technology has played a strong role in the evolution of our industry. For example, maintenance decisions are no longer based on “look or feel,” but now those decisions are based on data and analytics. In an environment of low commodity prices, using data analytics is allowing the equipment in the field to be operated at the lowest total cost during its full life cycle.

What have you found to be the most surprising about the industry?
The level of technology and amount of work required to produce one unit of fuel is amazing to me. Most people outside the oil and gas industry underappreciate what actually happens before gas is pumped into a car or a gas furnace ignites to warm a home. The collaboration, technology and focus on “safety first” is a story that most people never hear.

What do you find most challenging and most rewarding about the industry or your work?
I believe the business cycles are one of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of the oil and gas industry. While industrial companies see 3-5% growth or decline, our industry can swing from the peaks of 2014 to the troughs of 2016. These swings can make attracting and maintaining top talent a real challenge for oil and gas companies. For those of us who ride the roller coaster, we end up building strong relationships with our coworkers and customers as we navigate the business cycles. Born of the challenges, these bonds and relationships become one of the most rewarding aspects of our industry.

Where do you hope to see the industry develop over the next 5 years?
I hope to see us continue down a path of collaboration between operators, service companies and equipment providers. Through the last downturn, we have seen customers transition from transactional to strategic partners. By developing new technology to focus on reliability, equipment suppliers are helping our customers drive improved efficiencies and profitability. If we can maintain this collaborative spirit, we can help each other weather the volatility of the future business cycles.

What role do you believe you will play in the industry’s future?
I believe my role in the industry’s future will be one of coaching and transition. I have been very fortunate to work alongside and for many great leaders of our industry. Sharing their experiences with my generation and those earlier in their career will be important. My colleagues and peers must coach and lead the next generation. We have a responsibility to learn from those who came before us, while also pushing to break through the barriers and limitations of the past.

How has your involvement in PESA supported your career goals?
PESA has given me access to an invaluable network of industry executives. Whether attending a Leadership Forum or an Emerging Leaders Committee meeting, I appreciate the opportunity to step away from the day-to-day routine and network with the leaders of our industry. Learning how the various company leaders approach challenges such as market dynamics, talent retention and managing shareholder expectations are valuable insights for those of us earlier in our careers. Often after attending these PESA events, I return to the office recharged with a fresh perspective on leading my team.

Tell us about some of the people you’ve met while working in the industry and how they’ve impacted your thinking.
Over the years, I have been given the opportunity to meet and interact with several executives and leaders of the oil and gas industry. One of the most valuable lessons learned along the way has been the importance of giving back. Seeing how top executives of the industry take time from their busy schedules to give back to the next generation through servant leadership has changed how I approach leading my team. Specifically, the importance of open communication, leading not managing, and building a culture of positive encouragement, are all valuable lessons that have been shared by my mentors in the industry.

What are you most excited about for your career, your company and your industry?
I’m excited about a positive outlook for 2018. After a couple of tough years, the industry needs a year where all the upstream markets, including offshore, can enjoy some success. From a career perspective, leading through growth cycles can be just as challenging as leading through cycles of retraction. Supported by great people, products and processes, we believe our company is uniquely positioned to respond to the needs of the industry in the new year.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about entering the oil and gas industry?
I often tell people that this industry has no instruction manual … just about the time you think you have it figure out, it will throw you a curve ball. Fortunately, we are all in it together, and once you’re in, you’re family. No industry has better people. We work hard, but we have fun along the way. Global or local, we always have new challenges, which create exciting opportunities to grow as an employee and as a person.

What do you wish other people knew about oil and gas?
Working for an equipment supplier, I often wish people knew how deep the oil and gas industry reaches into the manufacturing sector. From well site to refinery, companies from all over the globe come together to support the industry. I think people would be genuinely surprised to know how many companies, employees and families are actually support by the oil and gas industry.