In the early days of petroleum exploration, drilling an oil well was somewhat short of an exact science. Wildcatters and wannabe oil barons would chance their luck, hoping to strike it rich yet often turning up dry holes.
Today, oil and gas is one of the most complex, intricate and expansive industries on the planet. It employs cutting-edge technology, analyzes high-level scientific data and meticulously manages constantly moving parts.
The ability to accurately pinpoint and extract minerals has increased exponentially due to the advancements in equipment and new sophisticated drilling techniques.
While many outside the industry might give cursory credit to big oil companies for this evolution, the service and supply sector is the real unsung hero of the American energy renaissance.
This segment of the industry, valued at $150 billion last year, is behind some of the most important innovations and activities in the oil field. It provides the crucial support, service and equipment necessary in all upstream operations — from surface equipment and drilling fluids to completion and well services.
Service and supply companies also employ a significant portion of workers in the oil field. In 2014, the oil and gas support activities plus oilfield machinery and equipment sectors directly supported almost 200,000 jobs in Texas.
For more than 80 years, the Petroleum Equipment & Services Association (PESA), formerly known as the Petroleum Equipment Suppliers Association, has served as the unified voice representing the collective interests of this segment of the industry.
Formed in 1933 to help the federal government craft a fair-practice code for the oilfield equipment industry, the association today represents more than 200 companies and a global workforce of more than 1.3 million.
Despite its age, this is not your grandfather’s PESA.
Within the last year or so, the association’s new president has instituted some substantial changes in an effort to evolve with the times and better serve its membership, as well as the technologically advanced industry it represents.
Beyer plans to focus on helping PESA grow into and refine some of the recent modernizations
“I am, every day, working on ways to make PESA a greater resource to the members, more of a resource to the industry in general, a better support system and a more productive organization,” says Leslie Shockley Beyer, the vivacious new President of PESA.
The Journey to PESA
A quick glance at Beyer’s résumé reveals an impressive career trajectory, including time at the White House, a prestigious public relations firm and one of the country’s largest industrial trade associations. Through her extensive and diverse experience, Beyer has developed and sharpened the exact skill set that makes her uniquely qualified for her newest venture at PESA.
Born in Lubbock, Texas, Beyer spent her childhood years living in various West Texas communities, as members of her family were primarily cotton farmers and teachers. She recalls attending a different school every year from third grade through high school, when the family finally settled in Sugar Land, outside Houston.
“Being the new kid every year, I think that did kind of form my personality,” the extrovert jokes.
After briefly moving back to Lubbock to attend college, Beyer transferred to the University of Texas at Austin, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Latin American Studies and Spanish.
During her senior year of college, Beyer scored a coveted internship in Washington, D.C. with the U.S. Department of State working on the Mexico desk. Her original plan was to eventually become a Foreign Service Officer within the department.
“When I did my internship at the State Department, I did my best to network, meet the Texans and figure out who was who,” Beyer says. “As soon as I went home after the internship was over, I started applying at different congressional offices.”
She was soon hired by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison as a Legislative Aide in her Austin office; and upon graduating from UT, Beyer transferred to the Washington, D.C. office.
After Beyer spent about two years in the congressional office working primarily on border relations and immigration, Texas Gov. George W. Bush announced his bid for presidency. Beyer applied for a job as part of his Presidential Advance team and for the next year or so traversed the campaign trail ahead of the candidate, handling nearly every aspect of planning and coordinating all events and public appearances.
“The goal is for people to understand that PESA represents the service and supply sector.”
“I think that experience taught me how to walk into a room, figure out what needs to be done and talk to who needs to be spoken to in an efficient and appropriate way,” Beyer says. (It also led her to her future husband, Todd, who worked on the Presidential Advance team as well.)
President George W. Bush was elected in 2000 and out of hundreds of campaign volunteers, Beyer was one of only a handful hired on as full-time staff for the White House Presidential Advance. Her workload expanded to include coordinating with multiple departments and agencies on protocol and frequent international trips.
“It was a great experience for me because we would go to so many different embassies and work with all the Foreign Service Officers, which I wanted to be my whole life,” Beyer shares enthusiastically, adding that she prefers her chosen career path but enjoyed the opportunity to work with them.
After several years of both her and her husband constantly traveling for the Presidential Advance office, Beyer felt it was time for a change.
In 2002, the White House staffer took a position at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as the Legislative Officer, serving as the chief liaison between the department and multiple congressional committees.
Within the year, Beyer left HUD to start her own public relations and strategic consulting firm, GreyShockley LLC, with a former campaign colleague. There, she honed her PR skills in corporate positioning, marketing and advertising, crisis management, operations consulting, targeted advocacy and public affairs.
In 2010, Beyer and her family — which included three small children — relocated to Houston, where she began work at Burson-Marsteller, a leading global public relations and communications firm.
However, after a few months with the company, she got a call from a former administration colleague who was at the time with the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), one of the largest national trade associations based out of Washington, D.C.
As luck would have it, NAM was looking for someone to run its Texas region.
“It was perfect,” Beyer says. “It was everything I knew how to do and it helped me, because I was a little homesick for D.C. after being there for 15 years.”
During her year and a half with NAM, Beyer began to familiarize herself with the energy industry as it directly impacted manufacturing. Although in her role as Director of Member and Board Relations, she was focused more on relationships.
“I worked with board members on the issues facing those companies, making sure their needs were being articulated correctly in D.C. and that the board members and member companies were being adequately represented by NAM,” Beyer says of her primary responsibilities.
Things were going smoothly for Beyer, who loved her job at NAM, when one day she was approached about another organization, PESA.
The president at the time, Sherry Stephens Blanks, was retiring after more than 35 years with the organization. PESA was in need of a new leader, one who could take the established association into a new era. Beyer officially came onboard as President of PESA in July 2014.
Bringing PESA into a New Era
“The goal is for people to understand that PESA represents the service and supply sector,” Beyer asserts. “And what that sector provides to the industry is an exponential amount of jobs and all the cutting-edge technologies and efficiencies that are driving the energy revolution.”
Coming in with a fresh perspective and a lengthy background in government, public relations and board member relations, Beyer knew she had some work to do to fully achieve this goal.
“I knew from the beginning that there was a branding shift that needed to happen,” she says.
Beyer launched into a rebranding campaign, starting with updating the association’s name, which was the Petroleum Equipment Suppliers Association.
PESA continues to offer the training and resources to members that have made it a successful and valuable organization for many years
“Equipment manufacturing is a significant portion of who we are, but only a segment of what our sector provides,” the PESA President states. “We needed to be able to more accurately describe ourselves and our membership.”
The name was changed to the Petroleum Equipment & Services Association, along with the logo and mission statement.
The website also received a face-lift, as Beyer focused on creating a digital resource for members and the general public. The site now includes an online policy center that provides tools and updates to learn more about the industry, the policies that impact it and ways to get involved.
To further engage in the conversation and provide another channel of communication, the PR expert ramped up the association’s social media presence and outreach.
This initial phase took about four to six months, according to Beyer. However, when it came time to get the board of directors to vote on these alterations, another area for improvement became noticeable.
At that time, there were approximately 60 board members. Getting a group of that size together and in agreement could sometimes prove to be rather cumbersome, so the bylaws were rewritten to streamline the board structure. The former Executive Committee is now the board of directors, which includes about 16 members; and roughly 30 members now comprise the advisory board.
Additional committees were also restructured, and some were newly created. One area Beyer particularly focused on was government relations.
When the former White House staffer started at PESA, the only legislative outreach that took place was a fly-in once a year to Washington, D.C.
Beyer recalls that PESA board member Bob Moran, Vice President of Government and External Affairs for Halliburton, has graciously and skillfully planned these trips for PESA membership and handled this responsibility on his own for quite some time.
With Moran continuing his lead role as Policy Chairman on the PESA board, Beyer formed two supporting committees, the Government Affairs Committee and the International Trade Policy Committee, to further enhance outreach and education both in D.C. and Houston.
“Engaging in government relations is not something we do once a year on a trip, it’s something that we focus on constantly,” Beyer says.
She adds that PESA’s goal is not to lobby individual members of Congress on particular pieces of legislation. Instead, the group’s focus is on increasing federal lawmakers’ knowledge and awareness of the issues that impact the industry, and those critical to the service and supply sector particular.
The International Trade Policy Committee also monitors regulations and makes recommendations on how PESA should get engaged, whether through written comments, public statements or meeting with the appropriate regulatory officials.
“At the same time, so many issues that affect PESA member companies’ business happen on the state level, and we didn’t have any footprint there,” Beyer says.
In February, PESA hosted its first-ever Austin Legislative Summit at the Texas Capitol, during which members heard from an impressive lineup of prominent energy leaders in the state, including Railroad Commission of Texas Chairman David Porter and Commissioner Ryan Sitton, Sen. Carlos Uresti, and Reps. Jim Keffer and Phil King. The group also held several private meetings with legislators.
In addition to the creation of new committees, PESA recently formed two new regional districts to better serve their nationwide membership: the West Texas/South Texas region and the Northeast Texas region. In May, PESA also relocated its original Houston headquarters to a new office complex.
As for what’s next, Beyer plans to focus on helping PESA grow into and refine some of the recent modernizations, in addition to allowing time for some members to acclimate to the changes.
“Change inherently is not comfortable; even when you embrace it, there’s a process you move through,” Beyer says in a matter-of-fact yet empathetic manner. “I believe the membership is very supportive, but I know that not everyone is fully on board with everything, and it’s OK. It’s where the industry is.”
While everyone may not be thrilled just yet, Beyer knew from the get-go that she had the full support of the PESA board of directors. “I have felt from the beginning that they were together with me on vision,” Beyer says. “That they trusted me, which gives me confidence to make change and is very motivating.”
Beyer had the confidence of the board, but more importantly, the self-confidence that is undoubtedly necessary for such an undertaking. “When my parents dropped me off in D.C., I lived in a closet,” Beyer says, remembering she had only a twin mattress on the floor and a wardrobe box with a few hanging clothes after graduating college. “I would work all day in Kay Bailey Hutchison’s office, and then I would get in my car and drive out to wait tables every night until midnight.”
“A few years later, I’m making regular work trips on Air Force One.”
Her incredible career progression, all thanks to hard work, dedication and the support of great mentors, has given her the professional know-how to do her job and a seemingly fearless attitude.
“There’s not much, at this point, that I’m afraid to change,” Beyer laughs.
Programs Providing Value
Not everything has changed. PESA continues to offer the training and resources to members that have made it a successful and valuable organization for many years.
Foreign and Civil Service Officer Energy Industry Training
One of PESA’s flagship programs that Beyer and her predecessor are particularly passionate about is the Foreign and Civil Service Officer Energy Industry Training.
For more than 20 years, PESA has partnered with the U.S. Departments of State, Energy and Commerce to provide this weeklong training session. Approximately 25 Foreign and Civil Service Officers already stationed at embassies around the world — typically in energy-intensive countries — travel to Houston to gain the background and resources necessary to help them make informed policy decisions.
“They form relationships with our member companies, learn about the industry; they get the jargon down and then they’re able to more effectively understand and advocate for the industry when they are in-country,” Beyer explains.
During training, officers meet with both PESA member and non-member companies to learn about all the various segments and activities within the energy industry, not just the service and supply side of the business.
Since the program’s inception, more than 600 federal government officers — hand-selected by federal agencies from a long waiting list — have participated in the training course.
The program is so popular, PESA recently began offering the training twice a year instead of just once.
Beyer hopes at some point in the future, PESA can provide training even more frequently, as she is still excited about working with Foreign Service Officers.
PESA and IPAA Petroleum Academies
Since 2012, PESA has partnered with the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) to support STEM education and administer five Petroleum Academies in Houston and Fort Worth, including the first-of-its-kind Energy Institute High School in Houston, a magnet school geared toward the development of geosciences, alternative energy and offshore technology.
The Petroleum Academies strive to get students interested and involved in science, technology, engineering and math, in addition to preparing a future workforce to meet the growing needs of the highly technical oil and gas industry.
The program also offers students the opportunity to participate in a three-week summer externship with PESA member companies, which culminates with a festive banquet for students, parents and mentor companies.
PESA’s Energy Educators Committee oversees these and other educational programs; it also supports activities throughout the year, such as hosting an annual Energy Educators Sporting Clays Tournament to help fund PESA’s education programs and provide scholarships.
PESA’s Emerging Leaders Committee was formed in 2006 to help narrow the generational gap between industry newcomers and longtime veterans.
One high performer from each member company is eligible to serve on the committee, which provides a wealth of resources to help companies cultivate and develop employees who have shown exceptional potential.
Service and supply companies employ a significant portion of workers in the oil field
Emerging leaders receive special perks, like executive coaching opportunities. They also organize and participate in high-attended events, such as Oil and Gas 101 training and the Executive Address Series, and network at members-only social gatherings.
Beyer explains that the program is not only beneficial to the participants, it adds incredible value for the member companies, especially in the current pricing atmosphere.
“In a downturn, there isn’t money for training,” Beyer says. “Where you want to develop your high performers, you need another option. We’re able to do that [for our members] and it’s great.”
Doing More With Less
“When we talk about all these new offerings that PESA has, it sounds like some things might be really expensive, but they’re not,” Beyer reassures. “I’m very cognizant about doing more with less.”
This viewpoint is certainly a common theme in the oil and gas industry lately, especially for the service and supply sector, which depends largely on spending and activity by exploration and production (E&P) companies.
With the price of oil either declining or hovering below what most producers consider profitable, E&P companies have significantly reduced capital spending. In January, Moody’s Investors Service announced capital spending by E&P companies could be cut by 30–40 percent in 2015 if oil prices average below $60 a barrel, resulting in a 25–30 percent decrease in earnings for the oilfield services sector.
Dwindling profits mean shrinking budgets, which has forced several companies to downsize their personnel. As of March, Forbes reports that the oil and gas industry — including E&P companies, oilfield services companies, parts manufacturers and steel pipe makers — had laid off at least 75,000 employees worldwide. Of those, nearly 60,000 came from the service and supply sector.
“Our mission is to figure out how we’re going to be as efficient as possible so that we can come out of this stronger,” Beyer says of the industry and of PESA.
So it seems that often the most trying and difficult times turn out to be the most formative and productive. This is especially true in the oil and gas business, as the oilfield services sector avidly searches for ways to innovate and remain ahead of the curve.
Improving operational performance has become a key focus for service companies, who are looking to increase drilling efficiencies and techniques. For example, many are examining the potential of re-fracturing already-drilled wells, as it costs about 25 percent less than drilling a new well. Additionally, the industry is exploring technology to produce higher yields; reducing downtime between use of rigs; and streamlining the delivery of supplies, like sand, which can be distributed with little need for storage.
Mergers and acquisitions are also on the rise, as many companies use the current conditions to buy out competitors in order to increase their market share and service offerings.
Beyer maintains that PESA membership is also a great way to add value, especially during trying times.
“Even in a downturn, we have huge value proposition,” Beyer says.
“It is about the training opportunities, the networking opportunities and doing what’s best for the sector,” she says, adding that a stronger sector will benefit individual companies.
And while PESA has experienced some contraction due to the drop in oil prices — mainly felt so far in a slight dip in attendance and participation at some events — Beyer is confident in the staying power of the association and longtime membership.
“I think we will come out of the downturn stronger because we’re using the time to figure out how we can be more efficient and provide more for the members, which is what our member companies are doing — and they rightfully expect the same of PESA.”
Although the current outlook may be a bit overcast for the industry, the future is certainly bright for PESA.
The Beyers: On the Home Front
As far as what the future holds for Beyer, that may be a little harder to forecast.
“I hope to achieve the goals that the board challenged me to accomplish here,” Beyer says. “And when I feel like that’s done, I will probably look to accomplish something new. That’s just who I am.”
While she has no plans of leaving PESA or slowing down anytime soon, it seems she has already contemplated retirement, at least to some degree.
“I know exactly where I want to retire: Annapolis [Maryland] or Crested Butte [Colorado], or both preferably,” Beyer says without missing a beat, and then laughs. She explains that she loves Annapolis because of the culture of the Naval Academy, the beautiful scenery and the proximity to Washington, D.C.; but she also enjoys spending time in Crested Butte, as the Beyer family loves to ski.
In addition to skiing and spending time with her family, Beyer enjoys Bikram yoga — although she rarely has time to attend classes these days — and studying languages. She’s currently working on Russian, in addition to being fluent in Spanish.
Beyer’s husband, Todd, runs his own crisis communications company. After years of serving as the Deputy Assistant to President George W. Bush for White House Presidential Advance, with what Beyer refers to as “the highest level of stress that ever existed,” she says her husband is incredibly even-keeled and supportive.
The Beyers have three children, one girl and two boys, ages 6, 7 and 9. As any working parent knows, sometimes balancing life at home with work at the office can be a challenge, but the Beyers seem to have mastered a tag-team approach to parenting.
“Our home life probably doesn’t look like anyone else’s,” Beyer endearingly admits. “He’s packing the lunches some mornings, he’s getting kids to soccer practice, and then sometimes he’s out of town with a client and I’m doing it.”
“We don’t look like your typical family, but it works for us.”
Congruently, Beyer’s professional experiences have not exactly been typical — from starting as a congressional intern to serving directly for the Commander in Chief, and running her own PR firm while taking care of three babies to taking charge of a nationwide association — but it has certainly worked for her, and she works perfectly for PESA.
For more information on the Petroleum Equipment & Services Association, visit www.pesa.org.