Thursday, May 26- Join us as we recap on EWNCON and take a look at our opening introduction video.
Jim Schauer: [0:24] Good morning, everyone. Welcome to this episode of “Coffee with Jim & James.” Thank you for joining us this week.
[0:29] James, how are you doing? Have you recovered from the EWNCON 2022 yet?
James Cross: [0:36] I don’t think so. I don’t know when that happens. I don’t remember what normal was like. Monday was funny, coming in and wondering, “What was life like before EWNCON?”
[0:50] As Coleman said, it’s been 31 months since our last one. If you know anything about events, usually you start planning the next one…
Jim: [0:59] The day after.
James: [1:00] Or during. You’re already correcting things. This one has been in the works for a long time. It feels good to be done, but still buzzing from it. There were so many communications flying back and forth over the weekend.
[1:15] I was blessed. I disconnected Thursday. I planned ahead. I knew I would go hard into the final weeks of EWNCON. I wasn’t sure how hard I’d learn that later, but thankfully, I had planned ahead and decided to go ahead and take Thursday and Friday off.
[1:33] I was able to disconnect and recharge and fill my cup some other ways. Then, it was nice to come in Monday and say “Alright, how do I start reaching back out to folks and catching up.” Digging out from my email from not answering it for a couple days. What about you?
Jim: [1:53] I did a little bit differently. I’m still following up from it. I traveled Thursday, so I Friday actually and the weekend. The nice thing about our industry is that it is definitely friend‑based. It’s not eight to five. It’s night times. It’s weekends.
[2:13] To follow up with a lot of the friends over the weekend, just seeing how they were doing. A lot of those conversations with friends are definitely business topics, but they don’t seem like business topics.
James: [2:23] That’s true, but I traveled home safe.
Jim: [2:27] Making sure that everybody’s good. Follow up this week is definitely the week after is a heavy follow up week just because you have so many conversations where you end up saying, “You know what, let me reach out to you next week or two and we’ll follow up on that.”
James: [2:44] Yeah. It’s almost like you’ve got a stack of stuff that are real conversations that you want to get working through, but then also you just think of little engagements that happen at various points and you’re like, “Man, I need to reach out and thank them for sitting down with me for five minutes.”
[3:04] Jim, we were kind of pregaming this a little bit, and we said we didn’t want this to be the normal…We’ve been talking about EWN Con. It’s been a pep rally for a while now.
Jim: [3:20] Yeah.
James: [3:20] What we didn’t want to do is come in here and just continue to belabor it. So we wanted to talk about it. You had a great idea. Talking about it like we do other conferences. Good, bad, ugly, and taking it from that angle. No different than any other conference that we might attend.
[3:39] So in that vein of thought, what, for Jim Schauer the conference goer, the industry icon, as some might say…Some might say.
Jim: [3:53] Please do.
James: [3:54] [laughs] What made EWN Con different for Jimmy Schauer?
Jim: [4:01] This event…It looks like there’s a ghost in here. You see that? This conference itself, or just in general, how this one compares to other industry events?
James: [4:11] Both. I mean, how does it compare to past events? Because you’ve been involved in several of those, of our own. And then also, you’ve been to a lot of industry events. How is it in comparison, across the board?
Jim: [4:27] I remember my first EWN Con in 2017, when I was CEO of Thigpen Energy. There we go. MRC Global. Shout out.
James: [4:37] Shout out.
Jim: [4:40] 2017, we were a client. We were invited to EWN Con. We didn’t know what it was. We heard it was at Texas Motor Speedway, and we had the ability to bring a 40‑foot LNG tanker into the infield. I’m like, we’re doing it, and the biggest thing…two things. One, for EWN Con, for myself, as well as anybody, just to get involved and ingrained into the EWN culture, is an experience unto itself, one.
[5:08] Two, to really realize that this isn’t a rah‑rah session for Energy World Net. This is Energy World Net putting ourselves, themselves, all of us out there to help the industry be better and to get together, and to collaborate, and to learn, and to share ideas.
[5:30] It’s an incredible mix of training sessions, thought leadership, networking. Again, I never want to downplay networking, because if you know me and you know me in the industry, networking is friendship. Friendships are respect. Respect is trust.
[5:48] When somebody calls me and says, “Hey, do you know anybody at Huntsville Utilities?” I could say, “I know the colonel, and I can introduce you,” and connect the dots quickly because somebody has a need that they need to talk to somebody or anybody in the industry that I know of.
[6:05] It’s that continued friendships. When you look at that industry and you look at our attendees and the ones that are there, they want the best for our industry. They’re willing to give their time, energy, and resources to participate. That’s a wonderful thing.
[6:23] It’s not unusual, but it’s very unique, the whole mixture of it, where it makes it this wonderful, exhausting, three and a half day event, where at the end you’re like, “Wow.” It does take a day to decompress, two days, probably, everything.
James: [6:43] A lot of people probably think, “Oh, so it’s all OQ stuff?” Yeah, I guess, but not really. I would say our agenda on the main day, it was probably 90 percent non‑OQ but 100 percent our industry, so maybe not what people would think.
[7:13] You mentioned it, transitioning it from a user conference to an industry event. I think it’s a good way to think of it. I think this one really took that lead because we were so intentional in the delivery to bring a lot of different vantage points to the table.
Jim: [7:35] 100 percent.
James: [7:38] There were straight‑up industry icons there from segments of all kinds, from damage prevention to pipeline safety to compliance and regulation to OQ to some of the biggest vendors, distributors, period. Thought leaders, period, across our greater segments of the energy industry were represented well.
Jim: [8:09] Absolutely. When you think about that and you think about that mixture, that is dynamic, and the conversations that would not have happened had they not had the opportunity to be in the same…
James: [8:25] Proximity.
Jim: [8:26] proximity together. That also goes, James, really. You could you take that down to the granular level of Energy Worldnet.
James: [8:41] For me, one of the craziest byproducts of this that I didn’t factor in myself…I know it’s going to sound bad because I’m the culture guy, so I should have. I should always be thinking that. I’ll be honest, too. The last six months have been hyper‑focused on EWNCON, the deliverable, as you can imagine.
[9:05] If you were there, you understand it. The logistics, the vision of all of it, it was a lot.
[9:17] One of the neat things, and I got to experience it myself and I picked up on it really quickly even on day one, which was Monday…Our culture, Jim and I were blown away that this is the right amount of years, but for the past four years now has been built around team building together, fellowship together.
[9:44] As often as we could, which back in the day was quarterly, we brought our team together all in one spot. We made it mandatory, and we made sure people sat. We broke bread with each other and did things. I’m not talking trust falls and stuff, but there were some people that went rock climbing, but made sure that they spent time and quality time together.
[10:12] We were robbed of that over these past two years. I mentioned it in my intro speech, but we grew 100 percent over the last 31 months as a company.
Jim: [10:24] That’s an incredible number.
James: [10:25] It is. It really is. We’re really proud of that.
Jim: [10:27] During a pandemic.
James: [10:29] What that means when you translate it is that over half of our company, they were recruited, hired, on‑boarded, and have worked their entirely within a hybrid or a remote work environment in a pandemic. We were robbed of that luxury of bringing our teams together.
[10:55] We got to do that. We didn’t have everyone there. There were still some people back [laughs] at home working and some remote people in various situations didn’t make it in. It wasn’t 100 percent, but a lot of teams got to sit together.
[11:11] Jim, you and I talked about the value in seeing the people that you stand shoulder to shoulder with, doing whatever it is that they do their best. If it’s Jim Schauer, it’s networking. Let’s say that’s your thing, Jim. I’ll just throw that out there…
Jim: [11:28] It is.
James: [11:28] seeing Jim do that.
[11:31] Seeing our designers glow as they watch their things come to life in this amazing arena, when you see a Matt Joiner and a Crystal Stromberg sit back and watch their training day turn out as they envisioned, those type of moments, seeing TRACER have its moment, it helps you to remember why you trust that person next to you or why you can take heed that that department has it covered.
[12:10] That byproduct was unbelievable. I sat down with so many of our own people that I’d never met, number one.
Jim: [12:17] For the first time.
James: [12:19] You said that, too. Also, I sat down with people that I’d grown accustomed to sitting down with over the last six years whenever I wanted, and I’d been robbed of that, too.
[12:33] I imagine that there were several others within our group, I’ve talked to so many since, that felt the same way.
[12:41] Imagine being one of the half that has never got to do that. That’s the part I’m talking about. I don’t even know how that feels. It was great for me, but what about for those people? That’s got to be the best byproduct of all.
Jim: [12:59] Let me elaborate on that. In my mind right now, you hit on the aspect of the veteran team members as well as the new team members at Energy Worldnet and getting together and team building. You know me, I’m one of those that thinks a little bit farther down the road.
[13:17] The team building that I saw with our team, the Energy Worldnet team, team building with the industry…
James: [13:26] That too.
Jim: [13:27] I can’t tell you how many conversations I passed by where somebody said, “It’s always great to either talk to you on the phone,” or, “We’ve emailed for years now, and now I get to meet you,” and the spark that happens with that.
[13:42] I’ve told a few of the team members, I said, “Now watch. When you go back over the next week, month, over the next year, and you have a conversation with he or she, it’s going to be at a different level because now you got to see them face to face and eye to eye. You built that rapport and that trust in person, not just on the phone…”
James: [14:02] I’m going to relate it to a department, down to a level people might understand.
Jim: [14:08] Do it.
James: [14:11] Let’s say we have an instructional designer that works in our education department and is new, which we have a lot of them. We’ve hired a lot over the past couple years in a pandemic, so they have never put their hands on maybe a device over these past two years.
[14:32] They are learning. They now get to put their hands on some of these things. Look, we have a few, I’m not saying that. I’m saying all of it. They get to meet the person that sells it, uses it. Now, when they’re writing the course and they read radio detection, or they read fill in the blank, line locating, whatever.
[14:57] They visualize that person. They know that person is doing it safely and why they do it. They’re able to connect those dots, which you’re exactly right. I cannot imagine. I struggled to find my place in this industry. I know that sounds funny now.
[15:15] For a while, I didn’t know why because I’d never been out there, couldn’t understand why this was important. I need to understand why I do things that I need to do. For me personally, that’s how I’m driven.
[15:29] I want to know what my purpose is, and why am I here? If it’s just to pad the pockets of others, then that isn’t going to really get me out of bed every day. If I can look someone in the eye and go it’s to bring that person home, I suddenly know what my job’s all about. You’re dead on with that.
Jim: [15:47] When your passion and purposes align, it’s a beautiful thing. Now, it was in my mind because you were talking about the people that may not have been out in the field and such.
[15:58] It took me to the main Texas live venue, two floors. I don’t even know how big this thing was. It was spread out and trade show booths, we call them. A lot of people think that those are sales booths.
[16:12] They’re there to sell. When in reality, I look at those as educational islands where you go there and you understand what the value, what the product, how it works and such like that.
[16:24] I witnessed a lot of the people that you were talking about, going around with those and asking questions. A lot of the vendors brought in devices to show and share, or they had TV screens up.
[16:35] A lot of people from our organization, that was a lot. For many, that might’ve been their first industry conference, could’ve been.
James: [16:44] No doubt.
Jim: [16:44] For them to meet, see, and understand that from that perspective, when you can have the passion of somebody at that booth that has the same passion that we all have for the industry sharing why this is a great thing, why this makes us safer, more productive, better, whatever the case may be, and to hear that and to see it and to feel it, unbelievable, epic…
James: [17:06] I’m going to hit one more point before we get off this…
Jim: [17:08] Do it.
James: [17:10] I think, too, there’s a common misperception. I’m going to take us, for instance, Energy Worldnet.
Jim: [17:19] You and I?
James: [17:21] Sure. It doesn’t really matter.
Jim: [17:22] I just want to…
James: [17:24] Energy Worldnet, I work for Energy Worldnet. I don’t know much about conferences.
[17:30] When someone says you’re going to a conference, my vision, without knowing what it’s like, is that everyone there is going to be talking about operator qualifications. All the people that are there are going to be people that I sell operator qualifications to.
[17:49] That’s what’s in my mind. I’m like, “Oh, this is going to be terrifying. Everybody’s going to walk up and be like, ‘Tell me about it,’ and I don’t know anything about it.” I’m new I’m saying.
[18:00] When in reality, you go there and there’s about eight people in there that deal in operator qualifications. Guess who the rest of the people are? They’re project managers. They work in technology. They do stats and analytics. They are engineers. They are trainers. They are educators. They are directors and leadership people. [laughs]
[18:29] What’s funny is seeing one of our people talking to someone, and they’re really two project managers talking. They’re probably talking about us, [laughs] about how hard it is to manage our projects.
[18:44] That’s the reality is you go there and they’re just a bunch of folks like us. They’re sales people, like sales. They are account managers and account execs, and there are marketing people. I promise you, there’s someone just like you there.
Jim: [19:00] Oh yeah, there were. Trust me, we chatted. Are you talking about me specifically? Absolutely.
James: [19:07] Right.
Jim: [19:08] James, we had people from HR in the industry attend the conference too. When you think about it…
James: [19:14] I think it says, yeah.
Jim: [19:16] It really does. They were very interested in the cultural aspect to be honest with that…
James: [19:20] It was a hot topic. I talked to a lot of folks after my intro, and then I was blessed to be able to teach on the training day, with Veronica Mars. It was about leaving people not like you. You’ve done it, we’ve done it.
Jim: [19:36] Great. One of my favorites.
James: [19:38] Absolutely. I had some great conversations with folks that pulled me aside after that. They were like, “Tell me about chief culture officer, I don’t get it.” I get to sit down and tell them about it.
[19:52] I had a lot of great engagement like that, which tells me people are all ears on it. My job was to paint the picture of how we treat our own people and how we focused on it, because I thought it was important because I like to know that who I do business with.
[20:12] It says a lot. If you’re not going to take care of your own house, then you’re not going to take care of mine. It was neat to see it come to life. Another thing that came to life, Jimmy was, our new campaign.
[20:28] We’ve talked about this for a while now but the reality was, we were in a pandemic and it’s hard to launch things in a pandemic. [laughs] This be brave campaign that we built the conference around, I was excited to see it come to life and paint the picture of what we’re asking of the industry.
[20:54] The goal behind it originally, was we challenged ourselves high‑level story. We challenged ourselves.
[21:01] We went through rebrand but also, it was about user experience to begin with. We wanted our brand to match who we were, and we wanted our products to match the level of products that we deliver.
[21:15] We went through this giant commitment and blew up everything [laughs] we knew of the last 25, 26 years and challenged the way we were thinking. It was a brave moment for us and it hurt.
[21:29] It was scary and terrifying. Then we bloomed out of it. Finally, we got to show it off of what was in our heads this old time, and what we’ve been meaning to say and wanting to say. We finally got the platform to kick it off.
Jim: [21:51] We needed that too. We needed that platform to do it. I have to tell you, you and I actually, took up to a whole different level on Monday night when we did a lot of impromptu coffee, Jim and James little short segments.
[22:06] We ended every little two to three‑minute conversation with what is be brave mean to you? We didn’t set that up. That was, we’re going to ask you a question, guest.
[22:18] They had no idea was coming in the diversity, and what that all meant to everybody. It didn’t take people long to answer that question. They thought about it for maybe three to eight seconds, and then they shot it off. I love that aspect of it because that was…
James: [22:36] It was fun. Sing the theme, the campaign, whatever you want to call it, woven into the entire day, was a nice touch. Jimmy, I didn’t even tell you about this, but I’ll tell you what, we’re going to let everybody watch the intro video from the conference.
[22:56] We’re going to cut through the video real quick and then we’ll come right back.
[23:02] Voiceover: Brave. wWhat do you think of when you hear that word? Our first responders, the men and women who risk their lives to defend our freedoms. Or the pioneers whose innovations have carried us to new worlds.
[23:17] Without a doubt, these are the courageous figures that embody what it means to be brave. At EWN, brave isn’t a word just reserved for our uniformed heroes, and the names in our history books.
[23:30] For us, brave is a word that’s found much closer to home. We believe that brave is a frame of mind. In every case from the history book hero to the every man, we believe that the spirit of bravery is revealed in the unflinching service to others.
[23:50] That ultimately is about you, the people we serve every day. We’ve put smart tools in hard‑working hands. We’ve provided a platform where partnerships begin and flourish.
[24:03] We’ve done more than build safety programs. We’ve built a team that truly wants to make the world a safer place to work. We want to inspire individuals, groups and industries to courageously step forward, and to meet a need wherever they find it, in the big things and the small.
[24:25] Be brave. Claim your seat at the table, and let’s build something awesome together.
James: [24:44] Pretty awesome.
Jim: [24:46] That’s what I’m talking about.
James: [24:47] It’s cool.
Jim: [24:47] That’s fun.
James: [24:49] For those that were there, it was pretty epic on the big screen. If you’ve been at a Texas live or a live event somewhere like that, it was really neat to see it come together.
Jim: [25:02] If you haven’t been to one, you got to go, because a picture absolutely helps. When you’re there live and watching this, I would call it a football stadium type of screen.
James: [25:13] No doubt. It’s a sports complex, so it’s built for showing off. It’s cool on there. Jimmy, I think that does a great job of bringing to life the message of this campaign. I was proud in different points throughout the conference because number one, we will wove it. Is that the word?
Jim: [25:40] Yeah. Wove it through.
James: [25:42] Throughout. Our intro set a tone with the videos and everything. Then our panels brought it to life because they were the ones out being brave and personifying it. Then we wrapped it all with Tim Kennedy, which…
Jim: [25:57] Oh, wow.
James: [25:59] I got to sit down with him. You did too.
Jim: [26:02] Yeah, at stage.
James: [26:04] He’s such a good, dude. Man, he brought it home. I felt like that was the right keynote for the right time, and what a better message to end on.
[26:17] I had so many people. He had a line of people take pictures with afterwards. It was really cool and a good dude. So much about him I had no clue.
Jim: [26:28] He has an incredible story. We can’t even give a justice if we devoted a half hour right now. If you don’t know Tim Kennedy or if you do know him, Google that name real quick and take a look at everything that he’s done.
James: [26:41] So neat. I’m excited to see that campaign continue to come out from the shadows there at EWNCON. That was the moment we launched it.
[26:54] From this point forward, we’re going to be pushing out some messages and stuff built around that. Cool. We may have a new question for guest for a while. No pressure.
Jim: [27:08] Great question. You know what? It’s so great because the answers were personal. They were business, they were all over the spectrum.
James: [27:15] Jimmy one last thing, it’s worth noting, you brought it up in the pre‑show. That is, the value, is going to sound like we’re beating a dead horse.
[27:29] The value of in‑person. EWNCON for us obviously, it was our own event, so we’re biased. The amount of people to be able to take five minutes and sit down with somebody and catch up and talk with them about business.
[27:50] Some folks came up was like, “I don’t know how we’re going to work together, but we’ll figure it out.” Those types of things. Or, “Are you hiring?” [laughs] That was very popular as well.
[28:04] You know what I mean? Those type of things are so big. I don’t know that we haven’t taken it a bit for granted the last two years because you know what? Remote’s comfortable. I’m not wearing shoes right now, and I’m full disclosure. You’re probably in shorts.
Jim: [28:25] I’m in shorts. I’m in Florida. [inaudible].
James: [28:27] That’s reality, and we talk ourselves into it because it’s internal dialogue that we’re telling ourselves like, this is better. The reality is, is last week again proved to me the value of in person.
Jim: [28:45] If I can make a plug for, I’ll say for industry conferences or industry trade events, or whatever the nomenclature is, I have to say I’ll challenge all the leaders out there that when you have somebody on your team that wants to go to an association event or industry event, and they mentioned networking, please do not put that as, “Oh, they’re going to go pat each other on the back and not…”
[29:12] The conversations that happen at these industry events are unique, because people go there, and it seems like the walls go down and the thought process increases.
[29:23] People from two different organizations might ask about a best practice, or how do you handle this, or have you ever done a trenching like that?
[29:32] Those conversations are not meant to be prideful or boastful, they’re mostly meant to be helpful, where people want to share, we’ve done it this way. By doing it this way, we’re safer.
[29:44] By doing it this way, we have better results. It’s that collaboration which again to me is what our industry is all about. Again, maybe I don’t know the best way to do a trench, but I can guarantee you one thing, if somebody asked me, “Jimmy, how do I learn about trenching?”
[30:03] I could put them in contact with friends of mine that I have met throughout the years face to face. That’s the value of our industry. It’s the smallest biggest industry I know.
[30:15] We’ve used that term before but it does…I have friends every day that are on the west coast, and it seems like they’re two miles, four miles down in Boca Raton. That’s how we talk. We talk very fluidly. That to me cannot be understated.
James: [30:35] There’s value to what we’re doing and being able to connect quickly on things like Zoom and text, and whatnot.
Jim: [30:42] Oh, yeah, we know that.
James: [30:44] Jim, don’t discount the value of in‑person activity. We have a lot of opportunity coming up to me. I’m not here to drive attendance to any of these things.
[30:58] Nobody pays us [laughs] to put their event in front of people. We have events like Natural Gas Connect coming up from SGA.
James: [31:10] Yeah, that’s going to be big, man. We’re all pumped about that. If you don’t have plans to go why? What else are you doing? We’re going to TGA in a couple of weeks, Jimmy, our old stomping grounds and to recap everything.
[31:26] We hadn’t been together as a Texas Gas Association in years now. That’s the truth of the matter. We’re excited to be together again. I hear some of our operators are opening up and they will be there as well. That’s good to hear. I know that group is excited too. No spoilers there.
Jim: [31:48] Have you met with Savannah, James?
James: [31:51] I will. I think my wife’s going to join me for that one. The APGA event in Savannah is going to be awesome. Again, if you’re not planning to go, why? What else are you doing? It’s my birthday week, I think, and I’m going.
[32:08] We got to get out there. That’s where innovation starts, is in that collaboration, in those conversations. No matter where it is, whether it’s on the golf course, at the bar, or in a session or after, right? We got to get out there and break bread together in fellowship.
[32:28] I was thankful, so very thankful of our teams this week, Jimmy. Shout‑out to them. Impressive. I’m not going to name people because I’ll miss people, and I don’t mean to. I mean the collective team. I said it on LinkedIn, I said it internally, I’ve said it to a lot of people ‑‑ I have never been part of a project or a team in which a better team effort was ever delivered.
[32:57] I’ve been on a lot of teams, and I’ve been a part of a lot of projects. No offense to these past ones, but this one was solid. So very, very proud. Proud brand‑daddy moment.
Jim: [33:09] Yeah. Speaking of a daddy moment, my daughter, Summer Schauer, just got to say…
Jim: [33:14] was her first industry conference, and I got to be there ‑‑ we got to be there ‑‑ with her, and she is, was, opened up.
James: [33:25] Buzzing around, buzzing around. So many great people there. Like I said, we could just name people all day long. So proud. I think just watching social media the couple days ‑‑ or really, it’s still going on.
Jim: [33:40] I can’t keep up with it, James. I can’t keep up with it.
James: [33:41] It’s cool. It’s cool to see it. Made us feel like we were doing what we aim to do.
[33:48] Hey, Jimmy, I hate to bring it to an end, but…
Jim: [33:51] Hey, we got to be…
James: [33:53] we got to dig out from all this work we haven’t been doing because of EWNCON.
Jim: [33:57] Let’s do it. Until next week on Coffee with Jim and James, everybody stay safe. We’ll see you next time.
Transcription by WatchingWords