Decision-making in uncertain times

Closeup hand underline at Opportunity word on chalkboard, crisis and opportunity concept

My first decision to enter the oil and gas business came with a lot of uncertainty! On a bright summer day in 1979, I got a call from my brother Aziz. I was in Edmonton, Canada living a middle-class Canadian life with a secure government job and a few side hustles. Aziz asked if I could go to Kansas in America and try to buy oil leases there and he had mentioned the same opportunity to another family member.

I jumped at the opportunity without thinking twice. I packed my bags, took vacation time off from my job, made a calculated risk and left to join an oilfield industry without any prior knowledge or education. I was hungry and eager for a better life and my decision-making came with an inbuilt confidence that I could do this despite the odds.

However, the other family member told Aziz that he had to pray and needed divine intervention to make a decision. My decision to go to America didn’t come easy but it became a pivotal point in my life as an entrepreneur.

Leaders must make quick decisions. Sometimes they are spur of the moment decisions, otherwise they need to be thoughtful and analytical. Your coworkers look upon you to make decisions especially in uncertain times like these.

I’ve been challenged to make quick decisions and thoughtful ones in my business on a daily basis. Just recently I had to make a major decision whether to drill wells on a large leasehold that we operate in Texas with short deadline. Here, I chose the thoughtful, analytical route. I hired an independent Texas geophysicist consultant to give me his assessment and he gave the green light. I then hired another independent consultant and cross-checked his report and finally made the decision to go ahead. In instances like these, going with the experts’ advice is the correct way, and trusting people with knowledge is a proper way to handle such a task. Here, you have to make thoughtful decisions especially in uncertain times when you are dealing with a volatile oil market.

In the mid-eighties, I decided to move my operations from Wichita, Kansas to Houston. I was apprehensive as I had fallen in love with the sunshine in Los Angeles and had owned an oilfield in Bakersfield, CA. Moreover, my first visit to Houston was a disaster as it was muggy and terrible. However, I knew I could interact more with large energy banks in Houston than in other parts of the country. I made the decision to move to Houston in 1985. This decision came with extended thinking, calculated risks and a study of future opportunities.

As a leader, you must communicate clearly during your decision-making process. For example, always make sure that your engineers and field workers communicate well with each other. I’ve had experiences where miscommunication between engineers and field workers have caused a well to be drilled at a wrong location incurring a tremendous waste of money and resources.

In uncertain times, it’s easy for us to sit idle and follow a world that says, “everything is uncertain, it’s a global phenomenon.” Like other businesses in our country, my oil and gas and real estate businesses have been affected by Covid-19 which has caused low oil prices and economic uncertainty. But I am making more decisions each day than I was making a few months earlier. I’ve moved from my semi-retired workday of 4 hours to working over 10 hours daily . I don’t brood over uncertainty. I am focusing on what’s certain and taking decisions that will help me and the people around me.

I look at the cause and issue at hand and make decisions as a leader telling my operations crew about what we can actually accomplish now with what we know. A leader must make decisions and not sit idle siding with the collective thoughts of the world, instead, he should act with what he has available.

This is the right time to add value to your business and to be creative. For example, If you own a donut shop, transform the way you deliver donuts by offering drive through service, send free delivery donuts to your most loyal customers and treat them with empathy.

Remember, some of them are going through hard times as well. This is not the time to be self-centered, instead, be collaborative. If your business is hurting, discuss the issues face to face with your vendors, landlords, so forth, negotiate mutually beneficial terms in your contracts and leases, pay the lease rental as a percentage of your gross income because of the current losses until the economy gets better. Look at creative ways to spread the message that you are open for business and that you are still the best, the most affordable and the cleanest donut shop in town!

In these challenging and uncertain times, make decisions that add value to your business. Don’t sit idle listening to a world filled with stories of gloom and doom. Be consistent, persistent and positive!

Find out more about me in my best -selling book “From dirt roads to black gold.” Note that 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale of this book will help people in need through my foundation, the YBC Foundation.

The views, thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity whatsoever with which I have been , am now or will be affiliated.
The author does not warrant or make any representations concerning the accuracy, likely results, or reliability of the use of the materials on its website or otherwise relating to such materials or on any sites linked to this site. The author makes no warranties, expressed or implied, and hereby disclaims and negates all warranties including, without limitation, implied warranties or conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, or non-infringement of intellectual property or other violation of rights.

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