You Know the Drill: Drilling In an Up and Down Economy
The earth’s makeup — including rocks, minerals and fossils — has intrigued Deborah Weible since childhood. So while she did not decide to launch a drilling business until after graduate school, it makes for a great fit. “I love what I do every day,” she says.
The president and general manager of Geo-Environmental Drilling Company Inc., located in Pittsburgh, studied geology in college and was introduced to drilling projects while working for an engineering consulting firm as a geologist at the start of her professional career. For the past 26 years, Weible has led the company of around 10 employees, which specializes in environmental and geotechnical drilling in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. Services offered include soil boring and sampling, hazardous waste drilling, rock coring, monitoring well installation, geothermal drilling, well rehabilitation and cleaning, well abandonment, and pump testing.
Because the majority of clients are commercial, one of the challenges the business faces is enduring economic changes. “A lot of what we do is related to commercial property sales, new construction and environmental due diligence, so when there are fewer properties transacting and less construction, there are fewer projects available,” Weible explains.
The biggest challenge is finding the right kind of employee — one who is not just physically capable, but who is able to think outside of the box. The work Geo-Environmental Drilling Company takes on calls for good communication, problem solving, and mechanical and management skills. In today’s work culture, Wieble says finding, training and keeping these kinds of employees is not easy.
Q. What do you do and what keeps you coming back every day?
A. My role as the owner of the company is pretty much do whatever needs done. Primarily though, I focus on estimating, project management and directing the finances of the company. I really love what I do.
Q. What does a typical workday involve?
A. My work days are quite varied. They usually consist of preparing estimates for drilling jobs, organizing and managing current projects, assigning jobs to the crews, ordering equipment or supplies, scheduling equipment maintenance, maybe a jobsite visit, etc.
Q. What does it take to succeed in what you do?
A. Perseverance, discipline and kindness. Perseverance because there are a lot of tough times and tough decisions that need to be made, and you just have to work through everything with a level head and keep moving forward. Discipline because you must not only work hard at the things you like to do, but you must push yourself to work even harder at the things you don’t like to do. And kindness because we all should be grateful and appreciative of those who we work with (employees, customers, vendors, etc.) that have helped us to succeed in our journey.
Q. What do you wish you knew when you started?
A. When I first started the business it was my life, and it was all consuming. Of course there is no shortcut to success. Being an entrepreneur is extremely hard work and takes a strong work ethic and commitment. But it is important to find and maintain a balance between work and life. Working 24/7 doesn’t necessarily mean that you are productive, and just because you didn’t take work home one night or over the weekend doesn’t make you a slacker or uncommitted. I used to feel incredibly guilty if I wasn’t working all of the time and it made me depressed, exhausted and miserable. It really took years for me to actually learn to feel good about taking time for myself. But now that I do, I actually feel more energized and excited about running the business.
Q. What tool can you not imagine working without?
A. My laptop computer. I can work from anywhere as long as I have my laptop.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
A. When I was trying to get the business started it was a struggle to be taken seriously and I was frequently dismissed because I was a woman. But my family said, if this is what you really want to do then ignore the negative people and work as hard as you can to succeed.
Q. How would you describe the present state of the industry?
A. Environmental drilling certainly has slowed a lot since I entered the industry in 1986. When I started the business in 1991, our work was 100 percent environmental drilling. We primarily were working on superfund projects or other contaminated sites. Having to work on Level B projects several times a month was normal. Now, we primarily do geotechnical drilling. I don’t really see environmental drilling coming back to the forefront, but hopefully there will be an increase in other types of drilling projects related to construction and infrastructure. I’m always optimistic.