Trinidad’s top dog knows how to pull a wrench
“I really did want to make a difference for the field employees and really show them that someone in the office could stay connected and represent all the people in the field.” – Lyle Whitmarsh, CEO of Trinidad Drilling
Let’s be honest. If you work in the field in any industry, you sometimes feel like head office doesn’t get what it’s like to be on the front line. At Trinidad, you don’t have to feel that way because our CEO has worked on a rig floor.
“I started out as a roughneck working in southern Alberta on the rigs there and then just kind of migrated my way up,” said Lyle Whitmarsh, who has been at Trinidad’s helm as CEO since 2008.
Whitmarsh, who grew up in a small mining community in northern Manitoba, joined Trinidad as a Field Supervisor in 2000 (the year Trinidad became a publicly-traded company). He also put in time at other oil and gas companies as a Rig Manager, moving up to Operations Manager.
“I really did want to make a difference for the field employees and really show them that someone in the office could stay connected and represent all the people in the field,” said Whitmarsh about making the decision to take an office position.
Whitmarsh is far from your stereotypical “suit.” He still drives a pickup. For Whitmarsh, running a successful company means staying connected to what’s going on outside of the boardroom. That’s part of the reason why he maintains his safety certifications.
“When I go out to that drilling rig, I’m as equally qualified as the Rig Manager and other guys on the rig. That’s setting the bar and the standard,” he said.
In 2002, after being at Trinidad only two years, Whitmarsh became Trinidad’s President. He partially credits his quick climb to timing (Trinidad was poised for growth) but also said he was able to advance so quickly because of his commitment to Trinidad’s people and shareholders, his work ethic (Whitmarsh is one of those first to the office, last to leave kind of guys) and, of course, his field experience.
“I think when I got to the table the reason I got to rise quickly was the fact that I could run the rigs and understood how to operate them, but I also respected the financial side of the business,” he explained.
Whitmarsh has been a driver of Trinidad’s growth – it has operations throughout North America and announced in 2013 that the company will be expanding into new markets like Saudi Arabia through a joint venture with Halliburton. He has seen the company grow from five rigs, when he started, to over 130, but he said his biggest accomplishment is maintaining a small-company culture despite the fact Trinidad is now a billion-and-a-half dollar company.
“Here at Trinidad, for anyone who’s starting or proceeds to come over, we have a very proven track record of taking care of our people. We promote our employees through the ranks, investing in them for the long term, and we’re very focused on that,” said Whitmarsh. “And I don’t see that changing as long as I am here.”
The company’s one-big-family culture is probably the reason Whitmarsh said his No. 1 priority is keeping everyone at Trinidad safe. This is such an important topic for Trinidad’s leader that we will devote an entire blog post to Whitmarsh’s views on safety in a few weeks.