The Landman’s Worst Enemy

You probably think this post is going to be about jackass landowners and their attorneys, or the overbearing micromanagement from the corporate headquarters…or maybe that dead cow on the lease road. Those are all part of the job. We signed up for it. The landman’s worst enemy is complacency. All of us tend to get comfortable with the status quo once a job has gone on for awhile. You learn the system, you get your work done, and you collect your check. That’s not unique to landmen, it happens in all industries.

Complacency is going to actively pull away from success

I know a lot of landmen that got hired for one of their first jobs and were just running title. “Learn to run title first before you can do anything else.” They never branched out into anything else. Some of them are still happily running title, and that’s great. But a few of them regret not learning other parts of the business. Having experience in other areas is absolutely necessary to take the next step as a landman…but a lot of people are content to stay where they’re at. In their safe place. When shit hits the fan and the bottom falls out for the oil business, those guys are looking for work like everyone else. But their only experience is putting together runsheets.

Having steady work because you’re better than most people at a certain task is great. I’m not going to knock the guys that just crush it running title, or the lease hounds that seem to have a magic touch for getting that 1/8 lease signed. They’re absolutely necessary for our industry. The rest of the guys that are “just ok” at those things need to expand their horizons. I’ve had more out of work experiences than I can count because I was always signing on to projects that gave me the chance to work in a different area or develop a new skill. A lot of those projects were wildcats, and after a couple of dry holes the money dried up.

That being said, I may have gone a bit overboard with jumping on new opportunities. I turned myself into a Swiss Army knife instead of a tool like a hammer or a screwdriver. Knowing a little about a lot instead of a lot about a little has made it hard for me to pick up work at times, because some brokers have it stuck in their head that landmen can only be good at one thing. “We want 5 years experience at running title, and your resume says you’ve only got 4 years doing that.” Technically, that’s true, but I think it’s a mistake to discount the other 9 years of experience I have in curative, due diligence, acquisitions, and surface work…but you do you. I probably don’t fit into the job requiring one specific skill anyways.

How many times have you heard a landman that just ran out of work say “I’m going to take a few weeks before I start looking for more work.” It’s the quintessential landman statement for “I won’t have any work for a couple of months.” When you get complacent and stop networking, you have no fallback options anymore. It might take a few weeks for you to get ramped back up with your networking once the current gig ends. Keep up with it and make sure you’re always growing so that when the writing starts on the wall, you’ve got other opportunities available.

It’s easy to fall into that trap. You get comfortable. Things might not be perfect but they’re not “that bad.” Nobody expects too much from you, so it’s easy going. That is, until shit hits the fan and you have to catch up to the rigs. Then they’re going to expect 14 hour days for the same (probably low) day rate you initially signed on for. It’s too late to renegotiate that because “we’re in crisis mode” or “it’s not a good time.” You knew that was the answer before you even had the thought to bring it up, but that’s life.

Keep yourself relevant. Never be complacent. The status quo will always change. Put yourself in a position to capitalize on your skills and opportunities, don’t dismiss new ventures because you’ve “got something steady.” Take a look at how new people or ideas could benefit you in the long run. It’s easier said than done, but always be wary of the landmans worst enemy. Don’t get complacent.

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