Three Rules in Houston…

Several years ago, I joined a software company who wanted to open a branch office in Houston as a base to cover the energy industry. They already had made some sales to energy companies, but wanted someone who knew the industry better to lead the effort. I happened to be tiring of constantly travelling for my partnership, so this seemed like a perfect match.

Early in the relationship when talking in person to the CEO and CFO (at the time), I told them that there were three rules to doing business in the energy industry that they needed to learn, and proceeded to share those rules.

  1. Every energy company is from Houston“, I said.
    “No matter where you go, if you are visiting an energy company, even if they have never been to Houston, they are from Houston.”
  2. In Houston, there are no secrets.
    “One reason you don’t mess around with companies from Houston is that they talk to each other. All the time. If you mess up one of them, they all will know. If you treat them right, they all will know that, too.”
  3. In Houston, deals aren’t made in the board room.
    “You make deals in Houston on the golf course, over dinner, or at a nice bar, and you make your deal over a handshake. You go to the board room to make the lawyers happy.”

Six months later, the CFO called me up and said, “You know, you’re right!”

“uh.. OK… about what?”

“Just a little while ago, I was talking to client A on the telephone about a special deal we are offering them, and no sooner did I hang up the phone than I got a call from client B about that very same deal.”

That proved one point, but not the one that I really wanted him to learn.

It’s all about Reputation.

I was raised in Houston back when Houston was a lot smaller – still bigger than Dallas, but not nearly as populous as it is now. We still had a big-small-town atmosphere and watched the farm and cattle reports in the mornings. One thing I always heard from my parents and friend’s parents was that your reputation is all you really have. If you have a good reputation, you will never want for work, but if you have a bad one, getting work will always be a struggle.

A lot has changed these days, and I see a lot of companies somehow skirt around their reputation. OK, maybe that works for now, but it will catch up with them. Just as our good reputation will catch up with us and propel us forward.

Just something to think about.