The oil and gas industry is notoriously cyclical. Market forces and geopolitical currents influence the price to produce and, in turn, the operator and service company landscape. However, nothing in history compares to the sudden downturn the industry is experiencing, due primarily to a global pandemic.
COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus) decimated travel worldwide in the first quarter of 2020, just as OPEC was ramping up oil production. Combine lower demand with increased supply—and add the complexity of a public health emergency—and it is clear energy companies are facing a crisis unlike any other. We won’t understand the full scale of the outbreak for some time, but in the meantime, we all must adjust—sometimes daily—to constraints posed by the pandemic.
Millions of people across the globe are now working from home. It’s the first time many have done their jobs outside of an office. Workers who usually travel frequently are now grounded, unable to make personal contact with key customers.
In this ever-changing environment, I have gained new insights into leading through uncertainty. Some of the most important strategies I’ve implemented include:
1. Planning for the unexpected – At Impact, we quickly modeled “what if” scenarios for each employee and identified backup resources in the unfortunate event of an extended illness. Establishing a plan to ensure the uninterrupted production of our products and support for our customers was a top priority. Our COVID-19 Business Continuity Plan achieves that objective while prioritizing the health and safety of our people.
2. Staying in close contact – In addition to contingency planning, we check on the health of our team members on a daily basis. We want them to stay healthy—and find out how we can help if they are not.
3. Maintaining face-to-face interactions – Our team has embraced the Microsoft Teams and Zoom video conferencing platforms, with positive results. Seeing one another is more powerful than merely speaking by phone. This is true both internally and in our communications with customers.
4. Proactively offering customer support – We are reaching out to our customers to help them through this difficult time. Large, public oilfield service companies have announced layoffs and furloughs; most of our management team has roots in that sector, so we know those decisions are incredibly difficult. We want to help our customers and their operator partners navigate these unsettled waters together.
As a company, we also plan to accelerate our Impact Our World charitable giving program and enhance the employee donation matching component. We know charities need support now more than ever, and we plan to be a strong community partner at a time when others may not be able to help.
I trust we will all be delighted to return to business as usual once the public health crisis is resolved. For now, however, developing new ways to work has helped me guide our team through these uncertain times—and made us stronger as a company.