We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Courtney Stephens a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Courtney, thanks for taking the time to share your stories with us today Parents play a huge role in our development as youngsters and sometimes that impact follows us into adulthood and into our lives and careers. Looking back, what’s something you think you parents did right?
My parents taught me that all people are created equal. They taught me not to judge people or treat them differently because of any physical or financial characteristic. I saw this in the way they treated people, always being kind to everyone, from the servers at McDonalds to the teachers at the school. They treated my friends and I like we were equals, even when we were five years old. My family gave me an equal voice at the table, and I seek to do the same with others. I was taught to have as much respect for the janitor as I would for any CEO. Everyone is a person and deserves respect. When our yard man would come to rake the leaves in the winter, my mom and dad would meet him in the front yard with rakes and help get the job done. They taught me to serve others and to take pride in a job well done. They taught me to be responsible and care about the people I serve. They gave generously of their time and resources to anyone in need. They taught all of these things through example.
Coming from a little East Texas town, this served me well when I started my career in Houston. I try to be mindful of their lessons at all times. I can remember at a job interview once, I saw the receptionist busy wrapping a big stack of gifts. I was interviewing for an investment banking position, and the people I was interviewing with were running late. I offered to help wrap the presents, and the receptionist happily handed me the scissors and tape, and I got to work. Years later, my boss from that job asked me why I thought they had taken a chance on me. I joked that I hoped it wasn’t my research on semi-transitive and bi-transitive graph theory. With a proud heart, he told me it was because I was wrapping presents that day. That job put my career on a trajectory so high that I couldn’t have envisioned the opportunities it would yield back to me and so many others throughout my future.
Awesome – so before we get into the rest of our questions, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers.
After college graduation, I wasn’t sure what to do with a math degree. It turns out that mathematicians are sought out in oil and gas to do a very specific set of calculations and data analysis regarding the amount and value of oil and gas in the ground. I was happy to get a job offer to do this job, and I learned it well by shadowing industry experts. I found my training, although very good, took a great deal of time. I was in charge of training new hires in the following years, and I learned by doing that training could be optimized. After having my son I took a year and a half break from industry. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to go back to work for someone else. Instead, I decided to start my own company offering training for new hires to provide this niche data analysis and modeling. It didn’t take long for me to realize that not many of my clients wanted to buy my training; they wanted to buy me. The number of people that know how to do this type of math is very small, and the number of companies that need this service is very large. It sparked my niche business, which is to train new professionals to do this work and place them in roles within the energy industry. I seek to hire about 12 new professionals each quarter, and I spend a great amount of resources making sure they can do the job and do it well. My clients hire them for a fee, and the two hundred or so professional careers that I have launched are my greatest achievement. I am most proud that I offered unlimited technical support, additional training, and mentorship for all of the trainees I have placed. I am happy to take their calls, be it midnight or Monday morning, and provide any kind of assistance, technical or personal, as they build their careers. They are my legacy.
How about pivoting – can you share the story of a time you’ve had to pivot?
In the oil and gas industry, there are ups and downs. I started my business in 2010, and by 2012 it was blowing and going. Clients couldn’t get enough of the professionals I created, and we have lots of success stories from those early years. We recruited and trained as many great candidates as we could find, and we placed them at roles in energy lending, investment banking, energy production, consulting. My clients were happy to pay a fee to hire my professionally trained technicians. The first downturn I experienced was in late 2014. OPEC made an announcement that cut oil price in half, almost overnight. Our clients immediately stopped any hiring processes. I hedged my bets on the fact that they would likely over do it with layoffs. I knew those companies would be head-count constrained and they would still have the same amount of work that needed to be done. Could we sell our services hourly? Could I pivot to as-needed consulting services? Well, yes, I could, and yes, I did. We made it through the 2014-2015 downturn, and the only salary we had to cut was my own. My employees all remained gainfully employed. We have hit another downturn since then, that of the pandemic. We utilized the lessons learned from the 2014-1015 downturn, and we made it through another one. During the good times, QED frames up for our clients to hire our expertly trained professionals. During bad times, we know our clients will use our consulting services to make ends meet.
What do you think helped you build your reputation within your market?
QED has hustle like no other. We are customer first. We have a company policy to never say no to any task. If a client asks us to do the impossible, we must endeavor to do the impossible. We are known for speedy and prompt service which means we work many late nights and weekends. I wish that wasn’t the case, but I am proud to say that I have never asked an employee to stay late or work a weekend where I wasn’t personally right there with them on the task. As the leader, I seek to set the example. If it is ten o’clock at night and we are about to send out the completed consulting assignment and we think of just one small thing that would make the product better, I am the one to stop, restart my computer, take the time to do the thing to make our work better. There is no substitute for hard work. If someone has a preference for a good work/life balance, I would not recommend starting up a company that thrives in the oil and gas consulting sector. I have missed many family events, weddings, baptisms, dinners with friends, holidays, and all of my vacations involve good internet access for as-needed work. That is a sacrifice that I have to make to ensure all of the QED’ers at large maintain their reputation as second-to-none. My commitment is to them. I always have to be willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done, and I always do my best. I set this expectation for everyone on my team. I am first choice in the market for this reason.
- Website: https://qedea.com/
- Instagram: https://www.linkedin.com/in/courtney-stephens-35b93842/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/QEDenergyassociates/
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/courtney-stephens-35b93842/
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- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCU5fvZFAsIlySGOKN7lXYkQ