OUR GREAT MINDS

Craig Ralph

Craig Ralph

VP Business Development, ABM OFFSHORE

The OGM: What does a day in the life of Craig Ralph consist of at ABM Offshore?

Craig: As VP, Business Development I am responsible for all aspect of client interface, industry development, and association, ensuring our market knowledge and intelligence is up to date and precise, future planning and strategy for our company’s direction in the NL market and ensuring that we are positioning ourselves to be a front runner for projects in the region.

The OGM: Describe your career in three words.

Craig: Dynamic, Exciting, Gratifying

The OGM: What are the things about your job that you are truly inspired and passionate about?

Craig: People. People tell the story every time. I love people, talking to people, learning from people, listening to their stories. You can get an entire book of words from someone’s simple expression. If you take the time to listen to what they are saying, you can learn a lot from everyone you meet in your life.

Growth. I love moving forward. I have never really looked back at things unless that is a requirement for a forward path. I like planning and setting a course for the future, where things can/may be and watching it take shape. There is something remarkable about planning where you are going to be in 6 months or 1 year, maybe two, setting the path for that goal, grabbing your backpack and “go”. Growth in life, business, health is fundamental. Things get stiff when they don’t move.

Results. Business Development is a different role, there are really no wins or instant gratification! Unlike Sales, where you hit the target daily/weekly/monthly, you ring the bell and go for drinks; BD is about planning and strategy and development, its long term and its soft wins. So a WIN could take a year or two, or three. And when that happens, you are not sure if you had anything to do with it! But the results are the reward. Whether we get a new office, a new logo, a new hire, a small project or a big win, knowing that we are moving the business ahead, on schedule, is planned results. That drives us ahead.

The OGM: What does oil and gas success look like to you, in terms of Newfoundland offshore and it’s developments?

Craig: This is a big question! I could go on for days. I believe a couple of things that make a difference. 1, we need to think bigger picture, all the time, every day. We are culture and a people genetically wired for survival. We are in some ways an instant gratification culture. We are always looking for the fix … today … now! That is not conducive to Oil and Gas thinking. This “GLOBAL” market is the biggest industry in the world. And the planning stage in that world can be years, decades, even longer. We need to think longer term. We, Newfoundland and Labrador are still in our infancy. We need to be looking at 2020, 2025, 2030 and even 2050. I’ll be 80 then and long past my prime and retired at that point. But ahead of that, we as a micro-economy need to build infrastructure and resources, manufacturing, supply services and expertise to support our local OG industry, while offering these services to other parts of the world. Gaining knowledge and becoming an “EXPERT” (like we did in fishing) will ensure our prosperity and survival into and beyond what we have in front of us at this very moment.

As for our developments, success for me is 2 things:

1. Activity. The amount of activity we see here is a single digit. So we can compare ourselves to The GOM or Norway. We can in geographic size, but not in activity. We have 3 producing fields, and at present 2 drilling MODUs. That’s 5 in total. We need more activity. We need more drilling and exploration. Activity drives everything here. But we need to be selling that to the world. We are competing with other regions of the globe that are making it attractive for operators to work there. We need to be that region. Sure, we need to protect our resources and our economic benefit, but more than that we need to attract more people to want to build, drill, explore, develop and produce here. And it’s happening, we are getting more attention. 20 years ago we never had anything like what we have now, I was graduating college the general thinking of going west. That is not the case anymore, this is a place to stay now and build a future. And we have accomplished this shift in the amount of time it takes the average person to pay off their mortgage, we have created a full-fledged, worldwide recognized and developing Oil and Gas Culture. We need to be selling our resources to the world. We need to be our very own Oil & Gas Ambassadors.

2. Results. We need results. Operators need results. There are some general “rules of thumb” that we all look at to measure success. But we can’t always rely on the “1 in 10 drilled wells” or the “100,000 barrels a day” rules of thumb. We are competing with other regions, other resources, other countries and other provinces in our very own country. Success here in drilling, in operations, in production, in productivity, in safety, in ease of doing business, in service sector provisions, will ultimately determine how attractive it is for operators to work here. Let’s face it, the weather sucks all the time and it’s not easy to do business here in the fall, winter or spring. Our days are short, our nights, long and cold. We need to have positive results on all fronts from Geoscience to production. We need to be recognized globally as a place where good business happens and positive results are attained on an ongoing basis.

The OGM: Define leadership

Craig: Leadership to me is about inspiration. Most bosses are in control of something and I get that. They either control the books, the profit, the people, the message, the culture. A true leader, those I have learned the most from in my career, INSPIRE! Inspiration drives creativity and positivity in actions. Leadership is about getting the juices flowing in your people and bringing out the best in them and about making sure that if things go wrong, they have your back! I have experienced firsthand that a positive leader can have everyone feeling great about their work, themselves, their climate even amidst downtown or financial hardships. A true leader is someone who inspires you to one day want to be that very leader yourself.

The OGM: Who are your mentors?

Craig: I have had a plethora of positive influences in my life. Too many to mention. There have been hockey coaches, musicians, friends, family, parents and teachers. Some very good people. IN looking for a “mentor” I would have to say I have learned a remarkable amount about life, and work and balance from a couple of key people.

1. My parents. They have been a supporter of mine since I can remember. They were at every hockey game, at every concert, always participating. Always encouraging. Always my biggest fan. And this didn’t stop when I left home, it seems to start then. Today, they are much the same people, still every present, every positive and always willing to lend a hand. My Dad was an early inspiration to my development as a business person. He introduced me to everyone in the oil and gas sector and got me off to a running start

2. Damian Follett. He is a friend of mine who I met thru music in 2007. He is a full-time musician, father, songwriter and husband. He is one of the most energetic and positive people I have ever met. He is a boost of high energy octane for anyone needing a lift on any given day. He leads a simple, balanced life, does not have big ways or expectations, and is a good ole’ down to earth gentleman. His friendship has been life changing.

3. In third place is a tie, from a couple of people who have meant a lot to me personally and professionally. Both in the past 8-10 years, both strategic, positive thinking, long-term visionaries. I have had a lot of good bosses over the years, but these two are ‘leaders’ first and foremost, without questions. Mark Healy and Tom Whalen have been instrumental to my career choices and development, and ever more so, to my thinking. This has propelled a lot of things forward in my life. I have been very fortunate to have worked with some of the very best leaders in our industry.

The OGM: How has technology impacted your career?

Craig: Since 2003 I have worked in 5 different industries, all in a Business Development or Sales Capacity.
1. Communications
2. Material Handling
3. Refinery
4. Oil and Gas Drilling, Exploration and Production
5. Oil and Gas Engineering.

Technology has GREATLY impacted my career as in making these moves I have come to appreciate the level to which companies and services providers are willing to go to continually advance their products and services to meet client needs! From changing the teeth on a drill bit, to calculating a stress load on a beam, technology has given me the tools and know how to sell and promote my business to a market and a client.

The OGM: How is the price of oil affecting your company and the industry players you work with?

Craig: The price oil is affecting us in many ways. Projects. Revenue. Mindset. But those are the downsides of reduced Oil prices. The upside, yes there is an upside, is that with this new found ‘slowdown’ we are able to recalibrate our position in the market and reformulate a plan for future projects. We are also experiencing a high volume of inquiries now that clients have more time to shop around and this is opening up new opportunities for us. There are both negative and positive positions in lower oil prices. From a market perspective, this also precipitates a correction in compensation and rates. So where higher day rates and quotes services rates were the norms, we are seeing a decline in those, making for a more competitive marketplace. There is no doubt that the lower price is affecting us as an economy here, we have to use this information and knowledge to build a bigger damn so that if a drought comes again, we’ll have plenty of water in storage!

The OGM: What’s the formula for success in tough times?

Craig: “Slow and Steady wins the race”. That is an old adage often said to me by my good friend Rod Dunne. We are all about NOW. We are all about more. It’s the way we are programmed. Sometimes a little less can offer perspective and time to recalibrate. There are more obvious controls like cost control, discretionary spending, travel, accommodation corrections that you can make to save money here and there… but truly those that have the most to offer will use a downturn to stop, look and listen, then use this to correct their mistakes and be in full form when things start to brighten up.

The OGM: What social media do you use personally and at work?

Craig: I use Facebook and Twitter a little bit and Linked in. I am trying to get more savvy at that, but it’s a challenge. Of course, at work, we are still more traditional with a web page. We are not overly apparent on social media. Commodity business is more like that, our focus remains on face-to-face customer interaction and in the delivery high-quality customer service and results when called upon.

The OGM: How important is public profile these days?

Craig: Another excellent question. This depends on who you ask. I always believe public profile is key. But, as a BD professional, not everyone agrees. We often think it is the monetary bottom line that matters. And it does. But would a client offer a project to a service company that is really cheap but has a horrible safety record? What about a company that is the lowest bidder but has horrible HR practices. I think your image is your business and your image often times comes from your behavior! Once we get busy we forget how much effort has been put forth to create a brand. We look less upon our image and more upon the results we have achieved. In my opinion, public image, brand, and marketability are the pinnacles of every business’ success.

The OGM: What does embracing the digital era mean to you and your role at work?

Craig: In reference to question 10, not as much as you think. I still use email. There is much more electronic communication and much less need to travel. The world has gotten smaller as a result. I print less. My package of staples last longer. When I was working the 1990s Calgary seemed like a light year away. The other side of the largest country in the world. 3000 miles. Today … it’s just right there! But I still believe in face to face. I believe in going to see clients, meeting them and looking them in the eye when you tell them you are going to do something. I’m not old school, I’m real school! We’ve learned not to trust the digital era! If an add pops up and says you won a car on facebook, you disbelieve it. If a call comes in from Revenue Canada, you disbelieve that. So in some ways, the digital era, has taken away from the handshake agreement. I still believe in the handshake agreement, looking someone in the eye and saying “we can get this done”.

The OGM: What do you feel is the future of marketing and business development?

Craig: I believe Marketing and Business Development IS the future! We tend to go in cycles. We tend to revisit our approach in business and life to reflect on how things used to be and what we can learn from that. We can never deny technology, that is a constant. But we can use technology and that broadened reach approach to work with traditional business development and marketing philosophies and practices! We can never deny the people component. I believe that companies destined for success are those who market and brand themselves effectively and get that message out, both thru social media and thru personal contact. In media, advertising and in person. What we do from a BD and marketing perspective can expand our business exponentially.

I think people will continue to use social media and tools like Twitter and Facebook for reaching out to larger audiences, but that won’t mitigate the need for interaction, face to face. And I think it works differently with different products. Commodities are one thing, specialized services another! Marketing and Business Development are here to stay, at least for the short terms. We are hearing less about “Sales” nowadays as that moniker got a bad rap back in the 80s and 90s with everyone pushing something down someone’s throat. The old “Vacuum Salesman” always trying to suck people in! But BD and Marketing us much more strategic, longer term thinking and planning and effective message delivery. I don’t say this cause it’s my personal mode of Operation, but rather because it’s accurate. Show me a successful, 2016 corporate empire and I will show you an exemplary BD and Marketing Strategy.

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Tina Olivero

Tina Olivero

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