"Standing on doorsteps in the rain on a January night trying to collect paper money does teach you the basics."
From a very young age, Bob Keiller cultivated the entrepreneurial zeal that ultimately led him to oversee the John Wood Group- a company of about 46,000 employees, located in more than 50 countries, and with sales of $7 billion.
Bob Keiller told the Aberdeen Now newspaper that he was only a young man when he established his first business empire based on selling the newspaper Sunday Mail in Jedburgh, Scotland. He started off with only a single paper round. Later he bought others and hired friends to work for him.
Eventually he covered the whole town and was in a sufficiently strong position to negotiate a sizable discount from the wholesaler. He eventually sold his first business to his cousin and used the money he saved from running his newspaper business, and that which he earned from its sale, to fund his first year at Edinburgh's Heriot-Watt University, where he earned a Masters of Engineering degree.
Thus Keiller's entrepreneurial zeal, joined with his academic pedigree, facilitated his rise in the oil and gas industry.
His first job with the industry was with Hewlett-Packard at Queensferry. But he quickly came to the realization that the job wasn't a fit. In a recent interview he said, "It didn't excite me tremendously...It was too much technology and not enough dealing with people, passion and teams so I joined BP on a graduate scheme and spent four years working onshore and offshore in hard hat and overalls."
His experience working with a small team enabled him to hone his ability to efficiently multi-task and coordinate teamwork. And he soon gained the attention of Amerada Hess, who hired him to work offshore.
Prompted by his desire to rekindle his family's stability in an onshore position, he eventually left Amerada Hess and joined Halliburton. "I felt stability for the kids was more important than me getting a fancy job overseas somewhere."
Within a very short time, he was appointed as head of UK business for KBR. After revitalizing this aspect of the business, he assumed control of KBR's global production services.
But he very soon recognized that this division of KBR did not fit in with the broader business and, through a series of financially risky and courageous moves, put into motion a series of events that eventually led to the creation of PSN in 2006 after a management buyout (MBO). Keiller had raised over $300 million and persuaded more than 6,000 staff, 100 customers, and several hundred suppliers to support the new business.
In 2011, Keiller merged a team of 14,000 from Wood Group with a team of 9,000 from PSN in more than 35 countries to create Wood Group PSN- one of the three divisions of the group he now manages.
The Keiller Philosophy and Wood Group's Core Values
Keiller's corporate philosophy is embodied in Wood Group's Seven Core Values. He designed these values around the concept of DNA fingerprinting. Individually, each strip represents a core value. Collectively, they represent the "DNA fingerprint" of the Wood Group.
Keiller says the "Core values are the DNA of our business- they're a global gold standard that guides our thinking, determines our behaviour, and allows us to adapt to local needs." "Safety and Assurance" and "Integrity," he says, are deliberately positioned as the "book ends" of the Core Values, and "People" is located in the middle of visual representation as the "heart" of the Company's ethos.
"Our Core Values are more than just words," Keiller says, "They are real and memorable; we use them as a key decision-making tool and they are communicated and reinforced regularly."
Impressive Results Foretell a Promising Future
Currently, Wood Group has an operational presence in 50 countries and employs about 46,000 staff.
Last year, the company saw revenues increase by 3% to $7.06 billion. Keiller says that 2013 was a year of "good growth" and said he expected the company to make further progress in the current financial year.
He said, "In my first full year as CEO, the leadership team and I have considered the group's strategy, which remains sound and positions us well for the longer term...our intention is to broaden and deepen the services we can offer in this sector."
Keiller said that Wood Group's management team has reviewed the company from three perspectives: risk profile, current and future financial performance, and strategic fit with the group overall.
This assessment resulted in the company's acquisition of Elkhorn last year, which greatly enhances the company's midstream US shale presence, and its planned joint venture with Siemens, which is expected to deliver $15 million of savings within three years.
Wood Group PSN, the group's largest operational division, saw revenues rise 8.3% to $3.99 billion last year as a consequence of growth in the US onshore shale market and a series of significant North Sea contract renewals.
The outlook is strong for Wood Group's three businesses: Wood Group Engineering, Wood Group PSN, and Wood Group GTS.
Wood Group Engineering's upstream segment experienced good contribution from Mafumeira Sul (offshore Angola) and Ichthys (off Western Australia) last year, while its subsea and pipelines business witnessed strong activity levels, particularly in the US. The downstream, process, and industrial segment of the business performed better than in 2012, but the company acknowledges the competitiveness of the market.
For 2014, Wood Group Engineering continues to expect reduced EBITA, growth in the subsea and pipelines segment but reduction in upstream, and a good long term market but a slower pace of significant offshore rewards.
Each of the three divisions of Wood Group PSN delivered growth last year. In the Americas, growth was led by US shale activities. In the North Sea, contract renewals enabled the business to maintain its leading position, and the acquisition of the UK's Pyeroy expanded its range of services in the region.
Internationally, Wood Group PSN reported progress in Africa, Asia Pacific, and Europe.
Wood Group PSN is positioned to deliver solid growth in the upcoming year, led by US shale and North Sea operations.
Finally, Wood Group GTS strengthened its position in power plant services, and entered an agreement to form a joint venture with Siemens last October.
The joint venture will result in the creation of a global integrated rotating equipment service provider which is expected to bring in approximately $15 million in revenue by year three.
Bob Keiller has come a long way from selling newspapers. The success Wood Group has achieved has largely been due to his vision- and his willingness to work toward its concrete realization in the daily company ethos. In other words, his core values have rendered Wood Group one of the world's core O&G services companies.