The Shale Boom of the early 2010s created an exorbitant demand for landmen, which resulted in more landmen, higher day rates, and far more work than ever before. However, when the Boom suddenly ended, and the market crashed back to reality, many of these so-called “warm bodies” simply washed out of the industry. Crews of 100 landmen quickly became 20, then 10, and continued to decrease drastically. This resulted in brokerages reducing their crew numbers, as well as their day rates, in an attempt to retain their clients. That’s how the Shale Boom ruined landmen.
Do More With Less
We are never going back to the way pre-2014 Shale Boom landman days were, but we also cannot stay where we are now. Something’s got to change. My recent posts have attempted to bring this issue to light. Day rates are lower than they were 10 years ago, but the work is harder, the reports are more numerous, and the expectations are higher. Do more with less has become the motto for the exploration side of the oil and gas industry. Well, we’ve done a lot more with a lot less…but that was always in an attempt to “save our jobs.”
High Demand…Low Pay?
Now we are seeing higher demand for experienced landmen than ever before, but day rates are…still stuck in the mud. Guys that don’t need the money are asking for $800/day, and you know what? They’re probably worth it. But no brokerage is going to pay that. They seem content to run 10 guys one week and 2 guys the next, without even blinking about the guys they let go. They’ll call you up in a couple of weeks when they have more work and act like it’s no big deal. And we answer the call, acting like it’s no big deal. Because those are the cards we’ve been dealt.
Being Self Sufficient
Going forward, landmen need to become more business-savvy. We need to stop solely relying on quantity of work. Generating high quality work should mean that we generate a higher day rate, but too many people keep trying to squeeze a dime out of a nickel. Becoming more self sufficient is something that all of us need. Learning how to manage yourself is a crucial step before you learn how to manage others. But we also need to stay realistic.
When you’re a one man “land service company” and get the opportunity to bring on a real client, that’s fucking awesome! But only if you can actually do all of the work, or manage the project. If you can’t…pass that client on to someone that’ll cut you in. All too often landmen feel like they have to eat every meal offered to them because we seem to go through lengthy periods of starvation every couple of years. You can’t fatten yourself up for hibernation like a bear though. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. There are only so many hours in each day. You can only stretch yourself so thin.
The Burdens of Responsibility
I’ve said for a very long time that anybody who really WANTS to be in charge is probably unfit for being a leader. That goes for politicians, and to a large extent business as well. Anybody who says “I was born to be a leader” is a cocky motherfucker and they’re going to get themselves in trouble eventually. Having the responsibility of managing other people’s livelihoods should never be taken lightly. It’s something that weighs on me. Yes, we do our best to take care of our guys, but even then…a lot of it is out of our control. That doesn’t stop you from feeling like shit when you have to call up one of the guys and let them know the project’s over. Just be careful what you wish for.