FAMILY AFFAIR: Cousins Continue Grandfather's Legacy in Oil Business
When Tom began working for his dad at Stewart Drilling, he was given a pickup truck and told to go out and roustabout, take care of the wells and learn the business. He did.
“My dad had a small family business. He did most of it on his own with few employees,” said Tom. “He went at his own pace. His goal wasn’t to become a big producer. His goal was to establish a small base of reserves and develop it.”
Tom learned this quickly.
“When I came to work for him, I went out and contracted some rotary rigs to drill wells and he gave me hell. He said ‘you’re in too much of a rush. Why do you have to drill your well in three days?’” he said. “He comes from the old business philosophy ‘do your business quietly and honestly.’ I remember him telling me, ‘Tom, 95 percent of the oil business is reputation … five percent is finding oil.’”
Because Robert and Tom are third-generation oilfield workers, one would wonder if they ever wanted to work in any other field – or if that was even an option.
“I thought I was going to be a doctor. I started off studying pre-med and I was going to also major in chemistry,” said Robert.
Robert attended a small liberal arts college in Ohio – the same college that many of his uncles, cousins and their children attended. There’s even a science building named after his uncle.
“I realized my junior year that I was not as good at that kind of science as I was at math and physics, so I changed my major and went into engineering,” he said.
Robert studied mechanical engineering at the University of Illinois for a couple of years, and then decided what he really wanted to do was go into the oil business.
“I loved it. I always did, I just didn’t think it was that cool at the time to do what everyone else had done,” he said.
Tom was already working in the industry when he became interested in the policy and legislation side of the business.
“In the late 70s and early 80s, the oil and gas industry really came into focus on environmental issues … it did need some scrutiny and there were some practices common at the time that we would find very disturbing today,” Tom said.
He initially become involved with the Ohio Oil and Gas Association (OOGA) in 1985 simply volunteering his time. This was when the OOGA was engaged in House Bill 501, the first significant legislative battle in Ohio related to environmental policy and oil and gas development. He was eventually elected to the OOGA Board of Trustees.