Many things determine if a new business will succeed.
However, a key to that success is finding a need and filling that need.
For 50 years, Inc. has held that key and opened the lock.
In the late 1960s, Shreveport was brimming with independent geologists who had ideas on how to get the oil and gas from the ground; they just didn’t have the staff and operating knowledge to operate themselves. That’s where L.R. “Bob” Brammer Jr. came in. He found the need and filled the need.
“Bob kind of saw the niche where he provided the operating arm,” said Keith Evans, president of Brammer Engineering. “An independent geologist could sell his deal, but still maintain control – still be very involved in the operations because he hired the operator, Brammer Engineering. If you sold your deal to another operator, you might not be able to retain nearly as much control over the deal and how it ultimately was developed. Bob saw an opportunity to fill a gap that Shreveport really needed.”
The process of filling that gap was called “outsourcing,” and it was revolutionary in the petroleum industry.
“If we weren’t the first, we were very early,” Evans said. “That was not generally the way business was done back then. There may have been others, but there weren’t many. I wouldn’t be surprised if we were the first.”
What began with a founder and one employee is now an internationally known operation with 60 employees and another 60-70 independent contractors around the world.
But Brammer Engineering – like all oil and gas entities – would be severely tested in the 1980’s. That’s when the price of oil came crashing down, in the process causing many companies – large and small – to go bankrupt. According to a 2016 story in the Houston Chronicle, the first half of 1986 saw crude prices fall 52 percent. The number of oil rigs throughout the country declined from more than 4,500 in late 1981 to a low of 663 less than five years later.
While Brammer didn’t thrive, it did survive. In those days, surviving was just as good as thriving.
“What that did was create a real shortfall of human capital in the business,” Evans said. “It jump-started our model because we were providing that human capital to get their wells drilled.”
However, that’s not the only reason Brammer stayed above the financial graveyard.
“I know we were very thinly staffed, and Bob always was very conservative,” Evans remembered. “We never had any debt, which was our biggest plus. If you had debt, particularly considerable debt, and that was leveraged against a commodity whose price had dropped 50, 60, 70, 80 percent in three or four years, you were pretty much gone. We were able to keep our overhead low, even though obviously work slowed way down. Bob used to say – and I would never forget it – ‘I don’t have to make any money – I just don’t want to lose any.’ I know there were many months where we didn’t make any money. Because of his conservative ways and the way he managed his overhead, we were able to survive when a lot of people were not.”
In 1989, opportunity knocked – and Brammer Engineering answered the door. Kelley Oil and Gas Corporation acquired 200 wells and needed someone to operate those wells.
That “someone” was Brammer Engineering.
“We operated about 100 wells up until that time in the late 80s, so that tripled the size of our company almost overnight,” Evans said. “It caused us to grow a great deal and probably gave us some flexibility we didn’t have before. It kind of put us on a different trajectory to growing into the 90s and into the new millennium.”
“We went from the small-time to at least medium-sized time,” Evans said with a laugh.
Outside, Brammer Engineering has seen many changes since it began in 1968. However, inside, some things haven’t changed.
“I told our employees that in real estate, the top three things are location, location, location,” Evans said. “We are a service company, and the three most important things are service, service, service.”
“That’s followed by trust,” Evans continued. “You have got to maintain your clients’ trust every day. The only way you do that is to continue to do a good job, look after their best interests, keep them informed and try to help them be successful. The more successful our clients are, the more successful we are.”
To learn more about Brammer Engineering, you may visit www. brammer.com.
– Tony Taglavore