The Primitive Podcast: David Bateman
Posted by Kade Wilcox | January 6, 2021
Getting out of the way with David Bateman.
Having the ability to change directions has been critical to the success of SitePro, an oil and gas and municipality technology company, ever since their inception in 2012.
In this episode, chairman and co-CEO of SitePro, David Bateman, explains how he differentiates entrepreneurs from leaders. And how the latter can be boiled down to two main things:
Get out of your head and out of the way.
Hear more from David Bateman on this episode of The Primitive Podcast.
Kade Wilcox (00:05):
Hey guys, welcome to The Primitive Podcast where we take a deep dive into all things leadership. Thanks for joining us today. On today's episode, we have David Bateman. David is the CEO of SitePro, a really cool oil and gas and municipality technology company. You're going to enjoy this conversation. As always thank you for listening and for joining us for The Primitive Podcast.
David Bateman (00:31):
I think that being a leader is really to set up the most key relationships for the business and the company that are going to establish it into what you want it to be. So that can be employees, customers, investors, industry alliances, things like that. I view my role as a leader is to really recruit and bring on the best team that I can and then get out of their way. Let them focus on what they're good at.
Kade Wilcox (01:03):
Well, David, it's great to have you here. Thanks for joining The Primitive Podcast. I've known you for quite a while, but we've never had an opportunity to dig into your story and I want to revisit the origin story of your company SitePro. And I'm excited to hear that, but thanks for joining us.
David Bateman (01:17):
Pleasure to be here. I've enjoyed listening to some of your podcasts and the work that you guys are doing.
Kade Wilcox (01:23):
We can now note for the record that at least one person listens to our podcast. So that's exciting. So for those of our listeners who don't know who David Bateman is, and don't know much about SitePro, just give a brief background of your story and then tell us a little bit about SitePro.
David Bateman (01:39):
Sure. So I'm David Bateman, I'm the chairman and co-CEO of SitePro Inc. We're a fluid management tech company that focuses historically in the energy space, but have recently expanded into the municipal and agricultural markets. So we provide technology that helps give our customers visibility to their fluid based systems, whether that's pipelines, storage facilities, or whatever it might be. We give remote operations and visibility assistance through our technology and services. We've grown pretty fast. It's been a great ride.
David Bateman (02:19):
The other part of the equation of SitePro is Aaron Phillips, the other co-CEO. He was one of the first guys I met at Texas Tech back in 2004. We were both young industrial engineers and we used to talk about how we're never going to go work for the man and take over the world. And then as soon as I graduated, I went and worked for a big corporation. Aaron and I always stayed connected and I wanted to look for opportunities where we could build and develop technology that we could leverage for the future and really change how something is done. We met a group in Midland that had a bunch of water midstream infrastructure. So like produced water, saltwater disposal, and injection facilities, and things like that. And whenever we met with them it just seemed to be this need for this remote asset management.
David Bateman (03:22):
Traditional SCADA systems didn't quite fit the bill for what these systems needed. They needed not only remote operating operation capabilities, but also ticket and commercial transaction management, who's taking loads, what time and when, and then also the safety and environmental compliance measurements that you can gain from technology. So we developed a system. I remember meeting with those guys and Aaron and I pulled out of their office in Midland. And I said, Aaron, you think you can put in a system like these guys are asking and he's like, I was sure hoping that you could, since you just promised them we would. And I think that goes to say with entrepreneurship, sometimes you have to put yourself out there and reach for opportunities. So that's really how we started SitePro.
David Bateman (04:12):
At the time we entered the market, I think in 2012, and it was a great market and energy at the time. We could do no wrong. A couple of young mid to high 20 year olds running a business. So we grew like wildfire for the first two to three years. And then the downturn hit in 2015. I always tell people, we had to learn how to actually run a business and get more efficient and started expanding out the facets of our technology and services to other parts of the space. And whenever it came back, we had like 12x growth in two years. So it's been a really crazy ride we've put together, one of the best teams in the business and I'm happy to be associated with all of them. And it's been a great story. So that's a little bit of a slower elevator pitch of what you're asking.
Kade Wilcox (05:11):
That's great. I get excited thinking about your entrepreneurial journey and what I assume were these really fun creative conversations where you're really excited and you're huddled up and you're thinking about the future. I sometimes wonder why entrepreneurial companies lose that. You know, it's easy to get bogged down in the business of an established company, but it brings back lots of great memories in our own entrepreneurial journey.
Kade Wilcox (05:38):
What do you see as your role as a leader? When you think of your team, when you think of your organization and you think of leadership, what comes to mind in terms of what you believe to be your responsibilities?
David Bateman (05:49):
I think that being a leader is that you need to set up the most key relationships for the business and the company that are going to establish it into what you want it to be. So that can be employees, customers, investors, industry alliances things like that. I view my role as a leader to recruit and bring on the best team then get out of their way. Let them focus on what they're good at. I talk about that big growth that we had, a glass ceiling we were hitting at the time was as a founder-run business how do you expand from that?
David Bateman (06:33):
Once we started sharing the responsibility and focusing on what we were good at and eliminating the distractions of what we're not good at, and bringing in people who are good at that stuff, that's whenever the growth really just started happening. A huge tailwind without us forcing it along. So that was a big thing. So I think my role as a leader and anybody's is to recruit the best people. You can develop some of the most key relationships. And then build in the cultural discipline that is needed. One thing we really try to emphasize with our team is if you make a commitment do what you say you're going to do. If you don't, then don't commit. I think that's something that we've tried to really implement in our culture and we have a good team where there's a lot of trust in our organization, especially at the leadership level.
Kade Wilcox (07:30):
What's your experience been like building culture, for you guys specifically, have you done that intentionally? Have you intentionally tried to define and document your culture and then implement that culture? Or has it been more organic or what's your experience been building a culture?
David Bateman (07:48):
I'd have to say it would be more or less organic. We have some materials and stuff that we put together from time to time, but it's really on the fly coverage, evolving and just instilling certain things. Being a good listener and really making sure the team understands the expectations. Jonathan Cox, our COO, has a good thing that he always says, he's says, process is whenever somebody is handing the ball to the next guy and he's taking it down the field, culture is whenever somebody slaps the ball out of their hand and everybody's scrambling, how does that team get it and recover it and take it. That's the difference in culture and process. I think that they're both inherently important, but that's something we focus a lot on trying to make sure everybody understands the goals. And I think if you have an organization that's customer service oriented, you have to have that as a base foundation.
Kade Wilcox (08:47):
That's really good. What role does vision play in your company? When you think about vision, where you're going and communicating that to your team. Feel free to be real practical, like, do you meet with your team on a weekly basis, monthly basis, annual basis? Do you craft a vision and say, Here's where we are, here's where we've been, and this is where we're going. Or is that also more organic for you guys.
David Bateman (09:13):
That's a lot more structured. As far as vision, you can't manage what you can't measure. So how do you measure if a vision is working well, financial results, awareness in the marketplace, different things like that. I think whenever I think about vision it's really from the leadership level, it's trying to be an effective communicator on whatever that might be and then having a team that's open enough to help you build what it is. For instance one thing we always hope is there's a lot of disagreements in meetings because it gives a couple of rounds of iterations to craft the best result.
David Bateman (09:59):
That's ultimately the vision. So for instance, practically, especially with this COVID downturn, and the energy crisis, we knew that we needed to get into some other markets and we knew our technology could do it really easily without a lot of force fitting, so to speak. And what we were able to do was craft, here's why we think this works and really get people bought into where we're going, what it's about, why we're doing it and how they can help. And I think that enabled us to successfully penetrate, municipal and agricultural markets.
David Bateman (10:40):
We had some opposition along the way, some guys saying I don't know, maybe two years from now. And we just don't have time for that. There's a book by Napoleon Hill. It's pretty interesting. The title's funny, but it's Think and Grow Rich. But Napoleon Hill was a guy that Andrew Carnegie had hired whenever he was like 80. And he said, I want you to go around the world and visit the most successful people that are around and write a book about what makes them successful so other people can use it. And the underlying theme is essentially that the most successful people visualize what they want and they won't take no for an answer to go get it. And it's just really that simple. I think from a leadership perspective, and if you're organizing a team, you just have to have clarity and openness on what that vision is.
Kade Wilcox (11:33):
That's good. What have you learned about yourself in 2020? You talked about the downturn and you talked a little bit about the pandemic and how your company has responded and tried to be creative, but what are some things you've learned about yourself, good or bad.
David Bateman (11:55):
I can take a lot of blows and keep getting up. I would say personally, there's been some interesting things. One thing that we really learned is family's importance. Staying at home, being with them all the time. For the prior years to the pandemic, I was so focused on schedule and hustle and bustle. For instance, I came straight from my house to this meeting this morning. I was around the kids a little bit, but I would never, in a million years do that. It would be right at the office, get two hours in and then come up here. So there's things like that. I think the time with your family and what's really important is one thing. And then also the perseverance and new obstacles continuing to come around the corner and how to deal with them dynamically and evaluate them and not make rash decisions.
Kade Wilcox (12:54):
That's interesting. Those are all great things. And it's interesting what you say about spending time with your family and adapting the way that you work. I've always felt like you hear people from time to time like leadership folks or whatever, say you don't have to work these huge, long-hour weeks to actually be productive. And I'm like, no, it's impossible. If I work 60 hours and the other person works 40, I'm going to be more effective, get more done. And it's not always the case. I really appreciate what you said about spending more time with your family and things, because it's this weird thing where it actually makes you better at your work. So you may work less hours, but those hours are way better and more productive. And so it's an interesting insight that you share when you think back on the SitePro journey.
Kade Wilcox (13:39):
What have you learned about through failure? You've probably hit some home runs and you've probably struck out some, so what have you learned from failure and do you have a process of learning from failure?
David Bateman (13:52):
Absolutely. I think first of all, failure is a natural process and evolution. You almost need to fail a couple of times to get it right. What we have learned I think is it's really just focus. I always say focused effort. If you want something to be successful, you focus on it and make it happen. Things will typically fall off the rails from time to time. And I think that's what ultimately teaches you. There's a funny saying I say about companies and ranches, would you like to know the one thing they have in common? There's always something to fix.
Kade Wilcox (14:39):
That's true. That should be the tagline for this podcast. That's really good. How do you approach your own personal growth? As a leader of a company, you've got all kinds of things pulling at you, you got clients, you've got products, you've got employees, you've got investors, you've got stakeholders, so you have all these moving parts. How do you focus on your own personal growth and what does that look like?
David Bateman (15:04):
I've been really fortunate to have a really good team that I associate myself with and some really good investor partners, board members, things like that have helped influence things that we do both inside SitePro and outside. I have a lot of mentors and things that I don't have any association with the company. I call it a fractional mentor strategy. It's really good to have different people you can go to for advice on specific things, general things, and not just having one person. I think sometimes conversations about things you have going on with people who are influential in your life will help you shape how you really feel about it. And so I've been lucky enough and fortunate enough to have some really great people that I can reach out to. And some of them are everyday, some of them are twice a year. That helped me formulate the vision and the direction we're trying to go. So I think personal growth is doing that. And then also with faith.
Kade Wilcox (16:14):
That's awesome. Are those also the things that you do to stay inspired? It's easy to think sometimes about personal growth is reading books and listening to podcasts and accumulating knowledge, and sometimes maybe a little bit more difficult to do things that nurture and cultivate staying inspired and staying a visionary. So what are those things for you even outside of work that really fuel that?
David Bateman (16:44):
I think time outdoors with my family is probably number one. I'm married to a girl from a ranching family, the Nail Ranch, Emily Nail, and we'll go out to the ranch sometimes and we won't see anybody for a couple of days and it just allows some real premium focus.
Kade Wilcox (17:04):
Yeah that's great. It's really good. I think there's a reason, some of the best presidents in history went to the outdoors when they needed to get away. That's great. Who or what have been some of the biggest influences on your life? I know a minute ago you mentioned some mentors, but specifically who or what have been some really critical things that have shaped who you are and how you lead?
David Bateman (17:30):
As Aaron likes to put it, jumping off the cliff and getting started as an entrepreneur, I think it's the willingness and the appetite and striving to do it. You said something earlier about ambition. What really keeps me going is just trying to develop and build something of what I want it to be. I always have a vision for the future and what that ought to look like and working towards it. And the family and employees and friends are a big part of that. And in that sphere of influence and what it might be. Does that answer your question?
Kade Wilcox (18:08):
It does. There's just so many things that shape us and if you don't identify the right things, then you're not shaped by the right things. And so I've just always been intrigued by asking the question who or what is shaping you.
David Bateman (18:25):
A couple of things that are noteworthy. I had a guy one time who told me, one of the key things in businesses is don't compromise who you are to accommodate a partner, customer, need. Don't let that shape you. And then ultimately also one of the guys on our board, I love this saying and it's real simple, he says, we need people on our team that are smart, hardworking, and honest. And if you can check all three of those boxes, we want you, but if that doesn't doesn't happen, maybe we ought to prioritize our time with another relationship.
Kade Wilcox (19:05):
That's pretty simple. Talk about old school. That's about as old school and simple as you can get, and yet extremely powerful. That's really good. If you could speak to your younger self, go back 10 years prior to starting SitePro, about to start site pro, and you could give yourself advice based on what you know now, what kind of advice would you give to a younger David?
David Bateman (19:35):
It's the journey, not the destination.
Kade Wilcox (19:37):
Which is hard when you're ambitious and you're just plowing ahead and you're trying to make things happen. Has that always been easy for you?
David Bateman (19:47):
No it hasn't but the older I get, I learn it more. I'm always like, it'll be good when we get this. Or I'll feel like we're successful when we have 20 customers. I'll feel like it's better when the revenue is this. I feel that constant drive pulling at you. I think that's always focusing on the next thing, instead of embracing what we did. It's like, wow, we just did this. And sometimes it takes looking back, we'll look back at the last couple of years. Let's not forget what we just did. Right.
Kade Wilcox (20:19):
No, that's good.It's easy again just to be so focused on where you're going, that you do lose touch with that and you don't learn from it, but then you also don't enjoy it because you didn't take the time to enjoy it.
Kade Wilcox (20:30):
I don't ask this question to everybody because not everyone on this podcast is an entrepreneur and a business owner, but I'm curious. We're around the same age. And I think a lot about our journey over the last nine years, what are some of the aspects of the journey now that you've really enjoyed? What are some of the parts about building SitePro that you have really enjoyed?
David Bateman (20:52):
Putting together the team. That's probably number one. Building the framework and a structure that will work and propel it into another dimension. I feel like this whole time we've been building the foundation. We've grown a lot, but I'm always trying to make the army stronger and bigger.
Kade Wilcox (21:20):
Yeah, I resonate with you on that. I wish we could have a thousand teammates and I completely agree with you. There's been so many fun things, but building a team and the relationships that come through that by far is the most exciting thing. I'm good friends with Robert Taylor and United has tons of employees and team members. And I always admire that because if I had my way, we'd have a thousand people here and we wouldn't have any money, but we would have a big team. So that's great.
Kade Wilcox (21:50):
Thanks for your time, man. It's been fun learning from you. Really proud of what you've built. It takes so much grit and tenacity. I love what you said earlier about what you've learned? You can take a lot of punches. Even outside of a global pandemic and economic crisis, it just takes a lot of tenacity. So you demonstrate that.
David Bateman (22:09):
I appreciate you saying that. And I would say the last thing to leave it on is let's not forget it's hard work. I think that some of the future generations and everything, I've heard a lot of people say it, like, you know, requires a lot of hard work and you have to be willing to do it.
Kade Wilcox (22:27):
Absolutely. Yeah. That's a central part of it. Thanks, David. Really appreciate your time.
David Bateman (22:31):
Thanks for having me.