Ask any business student, and many will confess: owning their own business is the ultimate dream job. Entrepreneurs Jay Graham ’92 and Anthony Bahr ’91, co-founders of WildHorse Resources, spoke with students about what it takes to start a business.
The duo started the oil and gas production company – named WildHorse after a creek running through Graham’s family’s ranch in Oklahoma – in April 2007 after securing funding from one of their former petroleum engineering professors and a big name in the oil and gas industry, Pete Huddleston. Shortly after founding, WildHorse partnered with one of the premier energy private equity firms to increase their capital and support the company’s aggressive growth plans.
“A lot of it was being associated with the right people,” describes Graham, President and Managing Partner.
“We were blessed early on with a lot of help from a lot of people,” added Bahr, CEO and Managing Partner. “This [Aggie] ring will open a lot of doors for you.”
Long before Graham and Bahr were looking for funding, they were preparing for futures as entrepreneurs. They knew they wanted to own a business one day, no matter the industry, so they prepared by taking different jobs in the oil and gas industry to learn the variety of skills necessary to run a business.
“Think about where you want to go,” Graham told students about choosing a job. He cautioned students against jumping on the highest-paying job offer. “It’s easy to get hung up on money, but get hung up on your future.”
Bahr agrees, saying he sees a lot of short-term thinking from college graduates and interns. Bahr experienced the consequences of short-term thinking first-hand when the company first started to take off and the number of employees jumped from four to almost 30 in a few short weeks.
“I was looking for warm bodies walking through the front door,” he says of how he handled hiring people while trying to staff up to handle the company’s first large acquisition. Bahr says not taking care to hire the right people was a mistake; they had people, but they weren’t the right people for WildHorse. “Good people are worth what you pay them, but great people are worth a lot more than what you’re paying them.”
They urged students wanting to start a business to choose a partner wisely. The two say part of what makes their partnership great is how well they compliment each other, both in personality and skills, and credit a lot of their success to the dynamics of their partnership. “Together, we can get a lot more done than we do apart,” says Bahr.
Casey Gattshall ’15, business honors major, says the biggest point the pair made was the importance of thoroughly understanding the area of business you go into, especially if trying to start a business. “Being a person interested in entrepreneurship, this advice really spoke to me.”
Almost six years after starting their business, Graham and Bahr are hugely successful for a private, independent company in the oil and gas industry, closing 12 acquisitions since 2007 totaling $900 million and now operating with an annual capital budget in excess of $200 million. They are anticipating almost $1 billion worth of acquisitions in 2013.
With about 85 employees, WildHorse has grown tremendously in a short time, but Bahr and Graham haven’t lost perspective. “Bottom line, you need to remember what a company is,” says Bahr. “A company is nothing more than a group of people. You need to be able to motivate them.”
About Mays Business School
Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,000 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.
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