CWJJ Episode 124: Tommy Precht
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CWJJ Episode 125: Tom Rider

CWJJ Episode 125: Tom Rider

Thursday, July 28- The guys sit down with the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Gas Association, Tom Rider, and discuss the value OGA members receive, as well as highlight the upcoming OGA Annual Conference in August.

Quick Links:

Tom Rider on Linkedin

Episode Transcript

 [0:00] [music]

Jim:  [0:24] Good morning, everyone. Welcome to this episode of “Coffee with Jim and James”. It’s great to be here. James, before we bring in our special guest, I have to tell a funny story that will resonate with you.

James:  [0:33] Please do. I already know what it is. This is one of my favorites.

Jim:  [0:36] OK. Covid. First year, 2020, when we’re getting into the virtual conferences and I had the honor of being asked to present at a OGA, Oklahoma Gas Association, virtual conference. I’ve given presentations over two, three decades. Love giving presentations, standing on a stage, seeing the people in the audience, having a clicker behind me.

[0:59] This was virtual and, literally, it was the first virtual conference I had to give and, the first thing they said, “Well, you have to have another screen.” I’m like, “Well, I only have one screen.” So I went out and bought a new screen and try to get it all working.

[1:14] We’re literally 10 minutes before the conference and sweats pouring down. I think it’s working, get into the conference and my screen that had my notes and everything goes blank, in the middle of the presentation. I was mortified because usually, if I’m in front of people, I can say, “Well I don’t need this,” and I just kept going.

[1:34] I didn’t know if there was three people out there and turned out there was fifty‑some people afterwards. I felt terrible.

[1:40] So, Tom I do want to apologize to you, two years later, for that. That was not as you’ve probably seen me present in the past. That’s not how I normally do it. That was the worst presentation I have ever done and I’m going to blame it on technical difficulties. With that, James, get me out of this and get me on a better path, brother.

James:  [2:01] [laughs] Today, we have Tom Rider from the Oklahoma Gas Association joining us. Tom, welcome to the show.

Jim:  [2:10] Welcome, Tom.

Tom Rider:  [2:11] I appreciate it. Appreciate being here.

James:  [2:13] It’s great sharing a laugh. I remember. I think I was booked. I was speaking on another slot on the same day. So Jim tells me this story that day and, anyway, it came to me this morning and I was like, “Man, that was a funny time to think back.”

[2:33] Thinking about Jim doing tech support on himself is fun to think about, Tom.

James:  [2:40] Tom joins us today from Oklahoma Gas Association. Tom, you’ve been you’ve been around here for a while. I mean that out of respect. I’d love for you to catch people up on on what it is you do, and your journey, and what got you.

Tom:  [2:55] OK. Thank you. The Oklahoma Gas Association’s been around since the late ’80s. It was initially formed by Natural Gas, or Oklahoma Natural Gas, and Oracle Gas, which is now Summit Centerpoint Legacy. All those transitions that go on in the business and several large municipalities, specifically Guymon and Pryor, came together with the purpose of providing safety and operational training for small gas systems.

[3:23] It was a request that came down from the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to make sure that the industry as a whole was as safe as it could be. As the transition of OQ1, OQ2 and everything else is going on. We too have had to transition. What we focus on now is operational best practices, leadership training and platforms to exchange ideas, for all segments of the natural gas industry.

[3:48] I’ve been fortunate enough to be with OGA since 2002. So, I am into, in fact this month, my twentieth year with the Association. I’m excited about that. I’m excited about where we’re going with it.

[4:02] Right now, as we have transitioned into more of a “How do we bring all peoples together within the industry?” we’re fortunate enough to have members like One Gas, Energy Transfer, Summit Utilities, One Oak, municipalities, including Pryor, Tuttle, Guymon, down to some of our smallest, which are Willow and Oilton.

[4:21] So, we continue to reach out. We are the only Association that hits all segments of the distribution system. As far as membership goes, we don’t focus on just one. So, we are fortunate in that.

Jim:  [4:33] That’s an interesting thing and I love that about the OGA. James, my first OGA, when I met Tom, was in 2009, I believe.

Tom:  [4:42] I think that’s right.

Jim:  [4:44] Yeah, yeah.

Jim:  [4:45] for a while now.

James:  [4:48] For those that don’t know it, I think I’ve mentioned it on the show and I’m sure we’ll talk about it again later. I’m on the board of directors as well for OGA. Jim was involved, at least from the energy world, that standpoint, as an advisor, was attending and working with the OGA a lot.

[5:13] Then, when Jim relocated to Florida, it was great timing, I think, Tom, because there were some needs also, with OGA, that I was able to step into, with my role, with Energy World and that I had access to resources, and all kinds of things. It felt very natural for me to jump in, where Jim was was having to relocate.

[5:35] I know I’m not from Oklahoma, Tom, but…

Tom:  [5:38] [laughs] I like you anyway.

James:  [5:40] I’m 40 minutes from there. I feel like an honorary member at this point. So, I stepped in and that’s how this relationship even started. So, Jim was like, “Hey, I want to plug you in there” and then I got involved. Then I was asked to be an adviser and then was asked to be on the board. I’m very thankful for that. That’s how this transpired.

[6:04] Tom, 20 years in the industry. It feels like, you had seen a lot in that time, especially in the technology and training space. I know you do a lot of leadership training and things like that. Man, that’s got to have been quite the journey, those 20 years.

Tom:  [6:22] It’s been something. We have gone from being able to host specific training, operational training, that everyone could claim as part of their training process to when OQ1 came out all of a sudden. Now you have to have subject‑matter experts. You have to have the field training. You have to have all this.

[6:40] And now, OQ2, even more refinement on that stuff. As an organization, trying to transition to promote the industry, to promote natural gas as a viable fuel source for a lot of things, not just generation of electricity, but cars and everything else, as well as our in‑home stuff. It’s been a unique ride. Some of it’s been uphill, even.

James:  [7:04] [laughs] Both ways.

Jim:  [7:06] It’s uphill today, sometimes, right? And I think now’s the time for us to put the pedal even further to the metal, as we like to say, because there’s so many great benefits and takeaways and usage and everything, referring to natural gas, and it’s wonderful to see the things that the OGA is doing to, again, help keep that on the forefront and help people to understand those values that our natural gas industry brings to not just our country, but the world.

James:  [7:36] Absolutely.

Jim:  [7:37] It does play a a big part in that.

James:  [7:39] Tom, I know we have a big… Look, I know, I’m on the board. I’m not a silly person.

Tom:  [7:46] Let me ask you. Is there a big event coming up, James?

James:  [7:51] There is. I hear there’s a big event coming up. We’ve been working, honestly, for a year. I would say longer than that, on this one, because, you know, coming back in person. The OGA Annual Conference is coming up. Will you share a little bit of details on maybe why people should attend.

[8:10] Is this a Oklahoma‑specific thing? How can they get involved? Anything like that? If you would, give the dates as well.

Tom:  [8:19] OK, sure, I’d love to. Our 2022 Annual Conference is August 29th through the 31st. It’s going to be held at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Norman, great conference center, great conference space, down there for us.

James:  [8:33] I was there not too long ago. Very good space.

Tom:  [8:37] Our challenge, and I say our challenge, because it’s the board working with staff to make this all happen, is always to deliver real‑time, impactful training in conference settings and events that make it worthwhile for people.

[8:50] We don’t limit it to Oklahoma only. In fact, we have members who are in Texas, Arkansas, Ar‑kansas, yeah, I know. We go all the way down to Houston and all the way up to Nebraska, where our members are located. It is open to all natural gas professionals and we believe there is something for everyone.

[9:08] We kick off the whole event on a Monday with some pre‑conference events, basically a golf tournament and sporting clays, strictly for the networking opportunity, the time to get together and meet, for our associate members to meet with their customers, to develop relationships with new customers.

[9:26] We end that day with our Opening Reception, again, a great opportunity. Then, on Tuesday, which is our big day, it’s a whole full day of sessions and everything else. We put right in the middle of that our People’s Choice Award Luncheon. This is a huge successful event for us.

[9:46] We have cook teams from four different utilities coming in and they get to prepare whatever they want to prepare for our folks. It’s amazing sometimes. We’ve had quail…

Jim:  [9:58] It’s a barbecue event out in the parking lot. Is that so?

James:  [10:01] Yes, sir.

Jim:  [10:03] Yeah.

Tom:  [10:04] We we move the eating portion of it indoors, of course, because it’s August, but the cooking all happens out there. They start early and they’ll do everything from steak bites to shrimp, to a quail. We’ve had crawdads. It’s whatever they choose to bring and then they provide samples, of course, to all of our attendees and everyone gets to vote.

[10:27] At the end of the day, there is that winner who has bragging rights for that year about providing the best fare for the Luncheon and people do appreciate it, all the time. I mean they’re constantly thanking the cooks for doing it. It’s fine coming on Tuesday.

James:  [10:41] Tom, it’s funny because I just told the story of how I’ve been involved with OGA, but here’s the kicker. I’ve never been to an Annual Conference because all of my time was in the pandemic, and right after the Annual had just happened was when I got involved because, Jim, that’s where you then went to Florida. So I’ve never even got to go to this event in person, only virtual.

[11:07] I don’t even know. We hear about it, the board meeting, and we vote on stuff, and and I’m excited for myself. If I’m playing golf, I mean, barbecue, it’s a tough life.

Jim:  [11:19] It’s epic. It is epic for my memory and my little taste buds, that are tingling right now. I mean, first class. It’s fun. It’s fun. Last time I was there, Tom, the whole back parking lot. Again, this Embassy Suites is a huge complex. People have to understand this is a huge conference center, hotel, and everything.

[11:39] And in the back, I think a good portion of that parking lot was blocked off, so you can walk around. It was almost like being at a county or state fair. I mean that sincerely. I mean it is that high. I loved it.

Tom:  [11:52] We don’t have as many teams as we had back then. Partially because we’ve got a lot of who purchased who, and what companies have we gone from three companies to two companies, to one company type thing. It’s still a lot of fun and the folks who do the cooking, they are serious about their business because it’s their reputation on the line and they want to provide the very best fare and our folks have always enjoyed it.

[12:17] I’m looking forward to James having his first experience with it. And, Jim, if you have to get out of Florida, I got a good place for you to come.

Jim:  [12:23] You know what, and I think we talked about this in the past, I just have to give a little plug for my great‑grandfather, Red [?] Shauer, who was in the patch in Oklahoma, a hundred and some years ago and, still, a few of those oil wells are in our family name and still producing to this day.

James:  [12:40] So Germans, technically, an Okie as well. Honorary, as well.

[12:52] Tom, there’s also some vendor time, as well, scheduled. We’re going to have time with our associate members. There’s a lot. I’m telling you. I’ve been out on the road. I’ve got to see a lot of associations, first foray back out since the pandemic, and it’s exciting, what is out there. The tech, the everything.

[13:17] You’ve got to be pumped about the exhibit hall, as well, or via social media.

Tom:  [13:22] You know, our associates are such a vital part of our association and we try very hard to make sure we we dedicate specific time and ways for our associates to engage with our attendees. It is very valuable.

[13:37] It’s valuable to our associates because, as I always tell our attendees, I said, “Look, here’s the deal. You don’t have to have every one of them come into their offices at a separate time. You’ve got this one location. They’re going to be there. Come see them. Visit with them. By the way, you’re going to get multiple times during the conference period for you to get to visit with them.”

[13:57] It’s a huge thing for us.

Jim:  [13:59] I love that you dedicate that time to them, but Tom, I am a exhibit hall…What’s the right word, James?

James:  [14:06] Rat? No.

Jim:  [14:08] Yes.

James:  [14:08] He’s a booth rat. That’s what I meant.

Jim:  [14:11] I embrace them. The other thing too, that the OGA…I’ve always been enamored with the sessions and the quality of the sessions and the people. I also hear that, maybe, this year, somebody, one of the three of us, might be giving a presentation himself. James, did that I hear that too? Let’s dive into the some of the presentations and sessions that are going to be happening this year, because those are great.

Tom:  [14:39] Yeah, and they are. We’ve got a lot of good sessions. I’m very pleased with the strength of our conference this year. One of the truisms that we try to follow in this whole process is, we learn best when we learn from each other. So, to bring in not only industry specialists but people who support the industry.

[14:56] To have that and then the networking opportunities that go on, not only within the sessions, but the times between sessions. Some of the sessions we’ve got this year are Understanding of Supply Chain Process with Angela Burnett from One Gas. She’s going to be discussing not only the challenges, but the opportunities, that the supply chain challenges that we are facing and what organizations can do right now.

[15:19] James, I’m going to let you talk a little bit about your session later on but I do want to talk about the fact that it’s Engagement. That’s what we’re bringing James in for. Talking about how do you engage your employees.

[15:30] Steve Taylor from Summit Centerpoint Legacy is going to talk about How to be a Champion. You know, if we, the employees of our organization don’t talk positively about us and promote our industry, why should others be engaged with what we do?

[15:46] We kick off with Dr. Chuck Jackson, whose session is I am their Leader, which way, did they go? We’re starting off with a little humor, a little bit of fun to really get people motivated.

[15:58] Then we’re going to end really strongly with Sue Forrester from the American Gas Association. Really strong sessions coming into this. I want to throw it back on you, James. Go ahead. Tell us a little bit about your session, please.

James:  [16:10] I will. I will do a shameless plug, but before that I do want to mention something. Being behind the scenes, and being in the board meetings and everything, and seeing this agenda come together, Tom and I witnessed it at the last board meeting.

[16:23] We didn’t expect to check all the boxes, get it all done and and have it all with a bow on it by the end of that meeting and it came together perfectly. I’m not saying it came together in one meeting, I’m saying this, to me, two years of work, because a lot of the things we wanted to do simply would never have translated virtually.

[16:45] With Tom’s vision, and Jason and Jeff and everybody, and the whole entire board really putting this agenda together in this main day, especially there’s some awesome sessions on there. I’m excited and I’m humbled to be on there as well. I’ve got to speak now a few times on kick‑starting and culture and, on that topic, culture’s big right now. It’s bigger.

[17:11] It’s not just the buzz word out there. There’s a lot of fanfare. The great resignation is very real and a lot of us are feeling it, seeing it and taking advantage of it. So, how do how do we navigate it? How do we make that important? How do we put that front and center?

[17:32] We take care of our most precious assets, which are people

[17:37] I’m excited. I’m excited. General session, get on there. There’s some awesome breakouts too, Tom. I mean, there are so many awesome things, like I said, I’m looking for. I’m going to go play golf. I’m going to go eat barbecue and I’m going to go learn from my peers. Sign me up.

[17:55] I’m going to put an invitation out, Tom. I was going to say, when we were talking about the associate time, I’m going to put an invitation. I’ll put it that way. A challenge, whatever. I’m going to entertain doing Coffee with Jim and James from there and having Jason Crow be my co‑host.

Jim:  [18:15] Are you saying if I can’t make it in?

James:  [18:16] live from the hall? Yeah, Jim, cause I don’t think you can make it in. I think you’re booked but we’re going to look at it.

Jim:  [18:23] Yeah. I’ll look.

James:  [18:24] If Jim can’t do it then, Jason, he stepped in and did a funny thing on a podcast at our show, and he was great.

Jim:  [18:33] Yeah.

James:  [18:33] And I said, “Man, you’re a natural.” I think he would enjoy it, and that’d bring some excitement to the hall as well, brings people on. So, a challenge, an invitation, whatever it is, Crow. If you’ll accept, we’ll make it happen.

Jim:  [18:47] It would be a first Coffee with Jason and James. I guess, guest host, James. I think we need to do this more often to give ourselves…

James:  [18:55] to make it everywhere. That’s my challenge.

Jim:  [18:59] I applaud that. I love it. That’s a wonderful idea.

James:  [19:02] Well, Tom, our time’s coming to a close. I do want to hit the dates one more time, if you don’t mind? It is August 29th, through the 31st.

Tom:  [19:13] Correct.

James:  [19:14] And, that first day, I don’t want to say it’s a play day, but it’s the welcome day. It’s the on‑ramp, main day being the 30th. That’s the big General Session day and then some more training on that final day as well. Two big training days there. So, come join us there.

[19:30] Where can we go? Go to the OGA website, I’m sure, to register.

Tom:  [19:34] Definitely, and you can register either as a sponsor, or exhibitor, or as an attendee. Both of them are out there on the website. Just click on them and fill out the forms as you would normally for everything you do, anymore.

James:  [19:46] Absolutely. That’s and it should be pretty simple how to get there. Tom, before you go, we always give our guests a little bit of time to, whatever’s on their heart, whatever is on their mind, give you the floor to our audience and say if you could give it all away, what do you want to leave people with?

Tom:  [20:09] We are a industry that is bashed a little bit because we’re not eco‑friendly, so to speak. And yet, many times and in many ways we are, but we just don’t promote it well enough. So, I think what I believe with the audience is this. We need to take the lead in developing innovative energy resources.

[20:27] We, as a gas industry, need to be looking at hydrogen renewable gas, some other maybe even yet‑to‑be‑identified resource that we can bring to play to benefit not only our customers but our future customers and their desires to continue with the carbon issues.

[20:44] How do we become more effective at carbon capture? What can we do? Cause, like every industry, if we don’t evolve, we’ll be left behind and become obsolete, and that’s not where we want to go as an industry.

James:  [20:57] That’s awesome. Tom, I’m going to circle back just one more time because I think it’s important and it’s a mission of our show as well. You saying that, this kind of reminded me. We’re big advocates of that. There are plenty of seats at the table, if you would like to get involved.

[21:16] Oklahoma Gas is no different. Whether it’s membership, or being an associate member, or getting involved with the board. Tom, what’s the best way for them to do that? Reach out via the website? Reach out to you? Reach out to me? You can reach out to me. I don’t care. I’ll make it happen. There’s plenty of seats at the table. Am I wrong, Tom?

Tom:  [21:38] No. You are absolutely correct and we do want more involvement. The more engagement we have now, the better all of our training can be, the better all of our events can be, because we do have that input. Everyone brings a different perspective.

[21:52] You may have been on the pipeline, in the field for 30 years, but you still haven’t had the same experience as the guy in the next company. So, let us hear from you. Let us hear from all of you about that. Go through the website. You can email me there. You can email me. Through the website’s the best way to get hold of me. Just click on it and get to me.

James:  [22:11] Will do. Awesome. Well, I’ve enjoyed working with the OGA. I’m very humble to be on the board there and help to effect change. Tom, you’ve been a big help there and I appreciate your work.

[22:25] It was great to sit down with you today and get to fellowship, share some coffee, or some water, and get ready for this conference. I better go study, Jim.

Jim:  [22:36] [laughs] I got to check my schedule see if I can get out of my other engagement so I can get there.

Tom:  [22:42] Great to see you again.

Jim:  [22:45] Absolutely. Tom, thank you for your time today. It’s an absolute pleasure. Proud to be a member of the OGA. Proud that we are members. Proud of everything that you folks are doing for our industry. Please keep it up.

Tom:  [22:56] Thank you.

Jim:  [22:57] We appreciate you. Until next week on Coffee with Jim and James, we appreciate you tuning in. As I always say, stay safe. Take care everybody.

James:  [23:05] Goodbye everybody.

[23:05] [music]

Transcription by WatchingWords


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