You Know the Drill: A Juggling Act in Environmental Drilling
Travis Roberts, vice president of Millstadt, Ill.-based Roberts Environmental Drilling, followed his father into the drilling business after high school. Although his official experience with drilling amounts to 11 years, he’s been around it since childhood. “Back when I was a kid, I grew up with a CME sticker on my wagon,” Roberts says. The business, which he calls one big family, specializes in air rotary, auger, direct-push, geothermal and water well drilling. His biggest challenge: “Juggling all the balls and not dropping anything.” At the same time, he says the multifaceted role he plays in the family business and the fact that every day is different is what he likes about his job.
Q. What do you do and what keeps you coming back every day?
A. I truly enjoy what I do, knowing that in some way we are helping to clean up our environment.
Also, the pride knowing that I’m the third generation in the drilling business. My grandfather, which many of you may have known, is the late Lyle Henry of Central Mine Equipment. Lyle started drilling water wells in the late 1940s in Esbon, Kansas. My father, Charley Roberts, was introduced to the drilling business by Lyle, his father-in-law, and started drilling in the early 1970s. After my father had worked for several different drilling companies, he started Roberts Environmental Drilling Inc. in 1992. I worked with him off and on after high school, then went to college and did my own thing for a while. It wasn’t until 2007 that dad brought me back on as a project manager. Today, I’m vice president and part owner, along with my brother-in-law Sean Dodel (vice president), my sister Brandy Dodel (secretary), my mother Brenda Roberts (vice president and treasurer) and my father Charley Roberts (president). I carry on that heritage and hope someday to pass the “augers” down to my two boys, my niece and nephew.
Q. What does a typical workday involve?
A. That’s not easy to answer, as it can differ quite a bit. I do a little bit of everything: general management, project manager, ordering supplies and being a computer technician, or I might fill in out in the field when one of our employees is sick. I wear many hats and each day is different.
Q. What does it take to succeed in what you do?
A. To never stop learning, be fair and strive to be the best at what you do.
Q. What do you wish you knew when you started?
A. I wish I would have talked to my grandfather more about drilling when he was still around. I’ve heard several of my father’s and grandfather’s stories of what they have done and seen over the years. Like I said before, I went off and did my own thing for a while, not knowing that I would be back in the drilling business several years later.
Q. What tool can you not imagine working without?
A. My biggest tool in my tool box is emails. It would be very difficult to run a business in this day and age without having that ability. Even when I’m on vacation, I feel the need to stay connected with the day-to-day activities. Another thing I would like to mention, which is not a tool but I couldn’t work without, is our family. We are proud to be a family-owned company of which we are all owners. It not only takes the five of us to run our business, as I have to give a lot of credit to our awesome employees as well. We also don’t think of our employees as just employees, but as part of our drilling family.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
A. To always think outside the box, and it has served me well over the years.
Q. How would you describe the present state of the industry?
A. I see it steadily progressing. When we started out in ’92 we had one rig. Now we’re up to 10 rigs. So we’re steadily progressing. We can run five to six crews a day. We normally run four to five. So that’s a big step from where it was back in ’92. I think in late ’92 or ’93 is when we got our second rig and we were running maybe two crews at that time. It’s steadily progressed over the years.