“I better take a hundred boys.”
And with that, our first ever client slid a cheque across the table, and WellTraxx was officially born. He was the late, the great, the incomparable Grant Armstrong of Bow Cattle Company in Bassano, AB.
Kris and I had just started the company two weeks earlier. We had known Grant for years and thought he might be interested in this new service we were offering. To take all those piles of oil and gas paperwork and get them organized, and load all of that information into a brand new software package that would simplify the whole process for him. We figured it would take 50 hours. He wasn’t overly concerned with how long it would take; he just wanted us to succeed. He wanted us to be around in 6 months to be able to help him out, and maybe some of his neighbours too. We had quoted him 50 hours, so he asked for 100. He was that kind of guy. That was November 2009.
Now here we are ten years later setting out and yet another exciting journey. Launching a new website, re-branding our company and our messaging to reflect better who we are, what we do and how we do it. Working on new projects, new software packages and other solutions for a whole new set of clients. Just like every other entrepreneur who survives the experience you reach these checkpoints and look back and wonder how in the heck did we do it? And, what were we thinking of taking risks like that?
We weren’t supposed to last six weeks. That’s what we heard people were saying about us. We were energy company land agents who had gone to the “dark side,” we were now working for landowners. Traditionally this had been a career killer. Those who had done this before had built their business model on conflict. Based upon a concept that landowners only needed land agents to fight for them. To stick up for them when the big bad oil company came calling. From where we stood, that need was filled. The opportunity we saw was with farmers and ranchers like Grant. He really had no bone to pick with the oil companies that were operating on his land. Maybe every day wasn’t perfect, gates get left open, cows get out, etc. but he was also very aware of the opportunities oil and gas had created for his ranch. He knew he wasn’t making as much money as he could be from his oil and gas holdings, but starting a fight wasn’t going to change that. He was a busy guy. He was missing the details like managing rental reviews and pipeline damages. That wasn’t really the oil companies fault, as it wasn’t their job to make sure he was on top of these things.
So we starting thinking, what if there were land agents that used their skills and training to fill these gaps? What if there was a software program that took care of some of these details automatically? What if we communicated with oil companies, had them understand what we were up to and didn’t demonize them. What if the vast majority of landowners just needed administrative support and not master negotiators to make significantly more money from oil and gas development on their farms and ranches. Grant thought it would work. He told a few of his neighbours. Then they let a few of theirs know. Today it’s 2019, and we work for landowners from Peace River, AB to Virden, MB. We work for 70 Hutterite colonies. We have five employees. We can pick up the phone and have a great chat with pretty much any oil company or land broker operating in Western Canada. We work for Saskatchewan rural municipalities. We work for Alberta Metis Settlements.
I guess Grant was right.
The world became a lot less funny, and a lot less entertaining when it lost Grant in 2014. I don’t know much, but I am confident I will never meet anyone quite like him again. With those extra hours, he asked for he had us take pictures of all his surface leases, and create a reliable filing system that would make any oil company proud. Those files are still in use today and make things easier for his family when they are dealing with oil and gas and other matters on their ranch. That crazy old cowboy knew precisely what he was doing with us from the start. He knew WellTraxx would work long before we did. We put in the work, and we put on the miles. But it had to start with one.