Combating Competition with Creativity
David Leiper started his professional career in marketing and communications in 1983. His clients were retail, medical, education and industrial customers. After a few years, he started servicing oil and gas companies ranging from local drilling fluids specialists to worldwide operators. In 1998, a customer offered him the opportunity to serve as head of sales in the design, construction and packaging of their drilling and pressure containment line of products. He accepted and was thus introduced to Gardner Denver drilling equipment because his company bought and packaged their products. Then, in 2014, Leiper was approached by Tony McClain, director of sales at Gardner Denver, to join the company. “It was not a hard decision, as I had always been impressed by the quality of product, professional sales message and excellent customer service that Gardner Denver exemplified,” Leiper says.
The company specializes in the design and manufacturing of drilling, well service and high-pressure pumps to the oil and gas industry worldwide. While it serves offshore clients, the majority of Garner Denver’s products are made for onshore drillers and well servicers. As director of drilling pump sales, based in the Houston headquarters, Leiper leads a team of three and says international competition is one of his biggest challenges. He says that domestic manufacturers like Gardner Denver face an ongoing battle with low-cost manufacturers overseas who have filled the market with low-quality drilling products. “In the challenging climate of today’s drilling market, many drilling contractors have moved their business to the Chinese manufacturers, where they can purchase this equipment for half the cost of U.S.-made products, such as Gardner Denver pumps,” he explains.
Addressing this challenge keeps him on his toes and demands creativity.
Q. What do you do and what keeps you coming back every day?
A. I oversee the day-to-day operations of the drilling pump sales team, focusing on the sales of new pumps, support of our existing customer base and OEM aftermarket parts. The relationships I have formed and the new technology within the industry keep me coming back.
I travel extensively, here and internationally. It usually depends on the market and the projects and expansions of our company. We do offer our services overseas in the Middle East, Europe and Africa, and so forth. So there are times when we do need to travel to those regions. I would say that probably 75 percent of the work I do is here in the U.S.
The relationships I’ve formed, specifically that I’ve talked about, have been with the industry and Gardner Denver is part of that because I have such a long tenure with buying their products and manning their products to the packages my old company used to build. Primarily it has to do with the people we work with on a regular basis, which are our customers.
Q. What does a typical workday involve?
A. It’s never typical. Some days we are on the clock for 24 hours; some days it’s quiet. … A lot of it has to do with the unique position the industry is in right now. We have to be very flexible and competitive, above and beyond what we have in the past. So we’ve been very creative in how we approach our customers, how we sell our products, how we service our customers. So every day brings new challenges to that and how we package our proposals, and also how we take care of the existing customers we have in the field.
Q. What does it take to succeed in what you do?
A. Customer service and transparency. Transparency is telling the truth and that’s one thing I expect out of the people I work with, and I in turn do that with people that I service. So we strive to do that because it’s the right thing to do. It’s Gardner Denver’s philosophy and business model. It always has been. Sometimes it’s not what the customer wants to hear, but it’s what we tell them because it’s the responsible thing to do.
Customer service is one of the biggest facets of Gardner Denver that really separates us from any other pump manufacturer. We have an extensive team of service techs unlike any other. We have worldwide groups that we’re involved in that work with service teams and organizations that help guide and educate our customers on the proper operations of our pumps, proper maintenance procedures, proper protocol and so forth that most others do not do because they are not staffed to do that. That really is a separating point when it comes to someone deciding to go with us versus another company.
Q. What do you wish you knew when you started?
A. To buy lots of Apple stock! (laughs) When I started in the industry in the ’80s, I promised the moon to customers and did not always deliver. It’s best to always tell the truth to your customers on all bases as they are relying on you to deliver critical equipment to their success. They have options and it should always be you they turn to.
Q. What tool can you not imagine working without?
A. Cell phone and my pitching wedge. The pitching wedge is my most used club. I play a lot of golf for business. (laughs) But obviously the cell phone technology nowadays — without that tool, we would not be able to do what we do and serve our customers the way we need to.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
A. Take care of your family first. We tend to become workaholics in this business and overlook that we have a family in need of our time. Kids grow up fast.
Q. How would you describe the present state of the industry?
A. In-flux survival. It’s become a geo-political competition of supply and demand with terrorism, famine, corruption, and an uneducated world creating havoc and uncertainty with every turn. Social media is changing everything.
It’s the industry as a whole, as far as the operators that secure these leases and produce these wells and market the hydrocarbons that they’re after. In the last 10 years we have had numerous international countries come into play: Iran, Iraq, Algeria, Russia’s getting more involved, obviously OPEC is always there. Everybody’s getting their hands in the till, if you will. There’s not a whole lot of control that governs those countries. So from a geopolitical standpoint, the competition is what drives the price of a barrel of oil, which can drastically change with one move of one company or one country that can change their drilling philosophy or their production philosophy and start increasing their output, which in turn would drive the price of a barrel down or cut it back like OPEC is doing.