Russ: This is The BusinessMakers Show, heard on the radio and seen online at TheBusinessMakers.com. My guest now is Bill White, three term Mayor of the City of Houston, Texas, former Deputy Secretary of Energy at the United States level, Entrepreneur and Lawyer and now Chairman of Lazard Houston, a financial advisory and asset management firm; Bill, welcome to The BusinessMakers Show.
Bill: It's great to be with you.
Russ: All right, well, tell us a little bit about Lazard up front.
Bill: It's one of the oldest and most respected firms in the world's advising businesses, on what to do next; a lot of corporate mergers and acquisitions, discussions but we also have raised money in alternative capital markets for people who are building their companies.
Russ: Okay, and your focused, uh, quite a bit on energy, correct? Which you have a extensive background and Bill, isn't it extraordinary times in the energy space right now?
Bill: It's incredible, I mean, you know, who would have believed several years back that the United States would be the source of most of the world's new oil production and new gas production by not just most but more than the rest of the world combined. It's a great opportunity, it reduces the money that we send overseas every day, it creates jobs here and creates an ability for us to be buffered from some of the ups and downs on prices from the economy as a whole that will - that will inflict - be inflicted on companies that - and countries that don't have that domestic capability.
Russ: Well, and do we actually have the potential to be energy independent?
Bill: Well, I mean, you know, we're a big consumer too so, uh, we're - we're gonna get close. I can't tell you that we'll cross exactly in the - the line but, you know, if we combine energy efficiency with the trends that we're seeing in place right now then, uh, you know, someday that is possible. The m-most important thing for any business is not to be, you know, to - you don't want a hundred percent profit margin because then somebody else will come into the business, what matters is you want your profit margin to be going up and in terms of energy, all the trends are in the right direction.
Russ: Okay, and specifically you hear so much about natural gas and this - this shale exploration and production right now, and even - I saw a recent statistic from the Department of Energy that said the United States' CO2 emissions last year was lower back almost to twenty years ago because gas is clean burning.
Bill: Yeah, yeah and, you know, since I was a kid in co-I wrote my Senior thesis in college on the future of the Amer-North American gas industry and predicted that gas could become a real pillar of energy in the United States. We're seeing that right now, it's displacing, uh, coal in some of these coal fire power plants, uh, that cleans the air and it does create jobs in the business.
Russ: Well even the DOE implied that yeah, that that's what causing it and it was market trends that caused it more than anything else.
Bill: Not some mandate, it was - it was the market and the availability of natural gas.
Russ: Okay. Now, wasn't there a lot of innovation involved - and I've always contended there's real cool entrepreneurship and innovation in the energy space - but this has - this has produced extraordinary results.
Bill: Sure. And it's not incidentally that somebody, quote, discovered, close quote, where there's shales are that contained either gas or, for that matter, some of these things are being drilled in the Bachen and in the Permian Basin that are very tight oil bearing, that people just didn't think you could extract the oil from. It was, uh, just a number of different, I'd get bore - boring if I listed them, but a number of different technical developments, they were all proceeding in parallel, that all came together, that allow us much more than we ever would have dreamed to be able to drill, you know, right into and along side, in the middle of a sort - they call it horizontal, they're not perfectly horizontal but, you know, they're - they're more relatively parallel to the surface rather than just drilling right through those things and the ability to do that and then to crack the rocks so that you're creating a pool of oil that wasn't there, that is something that is really innovative.
Russ: Right. Well it seemed- particularly in our part of the world - to have spurred the start up of many new companies, I mean the whole oil field service thing, the whole water thing, the water cleaning initiative, the transportation of water, of gas, I mean it's just a huge job creator.
Bill: Yeah, it is and, for entrepreneurs and potential entrepreneurs out there, nobody should think that they have to have a PhD in Petroleum Engineering or a BS in Geology in order to take advantage of this. I mean, if there was a young person who wanted to get in business - or a person of any age who wanting to get into business if - I mean, if you set up a hamburger stand in South Texas, if you know how to repair modular housing in North Dakota, there are so many opportunities that are out there within the regions that are affected.
The job market in Mid-Midland Odessa is tight and, even if you have a college degree, one thing, you know, gave my kids this advice and I'd give them to anybody of any ages, you know, start, start, be content to start at the bottom and, start understanding operations and not just, uh, financial modeling. And if you understand operations and how to manage people and you're willing to make cold calls and you're willing to introduce yourself to people you don't know and find out what they're interested in, then you will have some great opportunities.
Russ: Cool. Well, this whole thing that's evolved, this dynamic shift in energy seems to be headquartered in the City of Houston here which which makes it really exciting, but Houston really has an - an incredible entrepreneurship history and I think you've participated in it several times yourself, right?
Bill: Yeah, and there's a number of reasons for that, some of which people can understand, I mean, you know, we're sort of a virtual city, a city that's - where most people have come here from somewhere else. There's some things that people don't notice as much. I mean most successful entrepreneurs have fallen on their faces one or two times or more and had a learning experience from time to time. We're a city where there are people right now that are doing just great, they went through insolvency proceedings, and then they learned from that experience and came back and we sort of admire that grit and which is something.
So, you have to have a risk-taking culture, but you also have to have that sort of blue collar, roll up your shirt sleeves, you know, ability and it's not all, uh, people sitting in the top suite of the Executive off-you know, offices. So many people I know that I worked with when I was at Wedge and we built companies there and I work with now at Lazard are people who come up from Operations, they've come up from the ground floor up. Uh, education is in training and - and - and lifetime learning is an important part of that so I'm not saying that don't - don't read a book or don't watch a video, but do lifetime learning.
But if you're in an organization and if you look around and say what can I do better in my job, learn how other people get mentors and learn how people that are successful do their jobs and then think in your own, you know, skill set, who is out there that I'm competing with that I could do a better job or could I do a better job than people where I'm currently employed if I set up my own shop? Then that's where you have to start. Don't start by saying okay, I want to be an entrepreneur - I've had many people come up I want to be an entrepreneur, we want you to tell us where you see opportunities - no. If that's your mentality - you ought to be thinking in your life experience in the job you have, where do you see opportunities? What do you think that you can do better than somebody else? And better means that you might be there if it's Customer Service that - that you will take somebody's, a customer's, call, you know, 24 hours a day or 18 hours a day, 16 hours a day but, the person who's got complacent in the big company, you'll get a recording device; that's where entrepreneurship starts.
Russ: Cool. I really appreciate you sharing that with us. That's Bill White, three term Mayor of Houston and former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy. And this is The BusinessMakers Show, heard on the radio and seen online at TheBusinessMakers.com.