Staying in the Game: 7 Tips for Independent Landmen06/02/2021
This article was first written by Richard Hines, former Vice President and Owner of iLandMan. It has been revised and updated by P2 iLandMan’s Jay Williams, a professional landman with over a decade of experience in land and lease management. A special thanks to Richard and Jay for their contributions.
As an independent or staff landman in today’s market, you are trying to figure out if you are still in the game. Maybe you are wondering if you even want to be in the oil and gas land business anymore. Was your project discontinued? Were there major cutbacks? Are you worried that the future is bleak given the bad news around layoffs and more?
As a landman today, you are required to do more than you have ever done. You must possess a vast arsenal of talent and resources to stay relevant to an employer or the company that hires you. This means that the typical landman needs to be open minded about job opportunities, job performance, and going beyond what has traditionally been expected.
Landmen today should set in place a plan of action to help boost confidence and organize work habits. Here are seven tips that can help:
Tip #1: Remove Your Fears
Remember, the landman is the energy team’s most innovative and motivational member, so confidence in your actions is key to making deals a reality. Have confidence in your ability, education, and work product. You have spent years learning and honing your skills to do the best job, so why not tell others that you are the best? Remember, telling the truth about your skill set is not boasting!
This is important because landmen often have little oversight or formal training. Day one you are tasked with having to be self-motivated. It is up to you to show up every day, educate yourself, get advice when needed, market yourself for employment, and withstand the turbulence while adapting to industry changes, processes, and technology with confidence in your ability and personal responsibility.
Tip #2: Set Goals and Start With Small Steps
If you are afraid to speak to crowds, start by speaking in front of a few friends, then work to a larger audience. If you need help using technology or software, start by asking the right people for assistance. This will guide you in attaining your goals one step at a time so you can continue moving ahead to the next set of goals you have identified for professional growth.
Setting goals helps to keep you focused on the end game. Goal setting is a process and how you go about it will determine your success. Set SMART goals as outlined in this article.
As a landman, you may want to set goals to:
- Learn how to use one new technology for productivity per week for the next six weeks
- Complete an industry-specific course before the start of your next project
- Grow your LinkedIn network by 500 connections within the next six months
Tip #3: Take Action
Don’t hesitate or procrastinate; rather, move forward realizing that you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. Make a plan, write it down, and act on it. This is so important, as most people just think or talk about making a change.
Sure, you have goals and a plan, but how do you effectively execute on it and make sure you and your team are taking the right actions at the right time? The land business can be fast and furious with many different moving parts and people all over the place: courthouses, offices, hotels, at home, on the road; planes, trains, and automobiles. Using the tools outlined in the video below will not only keep your team on the same page, they’ll increase efficiency and quality of work. Having the tools and processes in place allows you to know when and how to take action and helps communicate that throughout an entire team. This also reduces the madness that comes with the inevitable rush that is part of any project. Implementing some of these tools will give a sense of control and responsibility to all working as part of a cohesive team no matter where individuals are located.
My personal favorite is Microsoft Teams. I use it to communicate and track tasks, collaborate, and share files involved in a project all in one place. This keeps us organized and stores historical data that we can use to reference when needed. For example, we have a Teams channel dedicated to the due diligence project we are currently working on. If you have ever worked on a due diligence project, you know how important it is to be able to communicate effectively and be as thorough as possible all under a tight schedule.
Here is a great video showing the different tools that Microsoft offers and how and when to use them.
Tip #4: Use and Improve Your Skills
Just like in sports, practice makes perfect. The repetitious nature of research, agreement creation, and negotiations make them ideal for improvement. Remember that you may need help from others to improve these skills, or maybe you just need additional practice. If you find that you are lacking in some areas, take classes, ask a mentor, or find an article published on the subject and read as much as you can. Training courses and seminars abound, so take advantage of all you can.
It is important to always hone your skills or “sharpen the saw” as Stephen Covey likes to say. Increasing your industry knowledge will help you in many aspects of your role as landman: negotiations with landowners, collaboration with your land team, and discussions with other departments where you may need to provide a clear explanation on a land topic.
Here are links to different resources for training and webinars provided for free by industry organizations, experts, and service providers.
- NALTA (plus its local chapters) has been offering webinars lately that you can attend even if you are not a member
- NADOA has a catalog of free publications
- YouTube is a good resource for free industry training. Here are a few channels to check out:
- This law firm offers informative webinars
- Alyce Hoge, owner of Land Training, has a library of free tutorials on her website
- And don’t forget about podcasts. Here are a couple good ones:
Tip #5: Build a Network
Colleagues and friends can help you get the most out of your work. No matter if they are employed inside or outside of the energy industry, surround yourself with people who can help you succeed. Join groups or associations both in your home region and at the national level. Don’t be shy about introducing yourself and/or your achievements.
Landmen that don't keep up with what is going on in the industry – news, peers, competition, companies, activity – stop working when the job ends or times get tough. Networking is, and always has been, a key to the success of a landman. Join local chapters of industry organizations, attend webinars, meet peers at events (whether virtual or in person). Here is a list of some of the most recognized industry organizations. Find the local chapters that apply to you.
Tip #6: Ask for Assistance
Learning how to ask for help in the land business is essential to your success and survival. Understand, too, that most people are willing to lend a hand in solving problems and are happy discussing their experiences, especially if it means they can help someone achieve success. Once you have succeeded, don’t forget to say thank you and return the favor or pay it forward.
A good practice may be to look for a mentor, as there are many professionals that would love the opportunity to share their knowledge with a hard-working fellow landman. The skills and knowledge you gain in some cases is less important than the personal relationship. A landman who has been established in the land business for a long time will be the first person called when opportunities become available. You want to be the person your mentor feels confident in recommending. Soak it all up, be grateful, follow through, and don't burn any bridges.
Four Tips to Ask for (and Get) Help
- Be concise and specific. Asking for and offering help can only be productive under one crucial condition: clear communication
- Don't apologize for asking for help
- Make it personal, not transactional, i.e. don't ask for help over email or text
- Follow up with results
Tip #7: Use Technology
Technology has come a long way in recent years. With mobile apps, computer programs, search engines, and smart maps, today’s landmen have a wealth of information tools at their disposal. Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions, as you will find that some companies are making claims they can’t support, and other companies are doing things nobody else is doing or has even thought of. Just because it seems out of the norm doesn’t mean it is not the better way of completing the task. Don’t be afraid to try something new as the results might surprise you.
As a landman, technology is your friend. Whether it is industry-specific software like iLandMan, or productivity tools that make you more efficient, seek the knowledge that will set you apart from the herd.
Tech Tools to Explore
- Linkclump (app/extension) – This Chrome extension saves time and frustration on tasks involving mindless clicking and opening multiple links and docs. It adds a hot key function to your web browser that gives you the ability to drag a selection box around multiple links to quickly open as new tabs or windows, save as bookmarks, or copy to the clipboard. Link Clump is similar to Snap Links or Multi Links for Firefox. I use this in situations where I need to open 20 oil and gas leases in separate tabs all at once to review the royalty of each lease vs. clicking back and forth through each lease one at a time.
- Excel Macros – If you have tasks in Microsoft Excel that you do repeatedly, you can record a macro to automate those tasks. A macro is an action or a set of actions that you can run as many times as you want. When you create a macro, you are recording your mouse clicks and keystrokes. An example of how to use macros to increase your efficiency would be automating the process of renaming multiple documents for organizational purposes like instruments in date order form past to current for a title review. I often use a macro when organizing files collected from the office of conservation to produce a well history for a client. Macros not only save time, they help eliminate human error through repeatable automated processes.
The great news is you don’t have to be a developer to write macros. Just about anything you want to do already has a macro written and can be easily found by searching the internet. Efficiency is a simple copy/paste away.
- 101 Excel Macros Examples
- How to Rename Multiple Files with VBA Macro in Excel
- How To Quickly Create Folders Based On Cell Values In Excel
Though these times may be trying as we maneuver through the current low commodity price environment, remember that opportunities only come around once in a while. Take advantage of this time to improve your skills, investigate new technology that will help you get ahead, and make new friends. Yes, you can still be in the game, get ahead, and even be a leader in the land industry with a little planning and effort.
Remember, you are an expert in land, but also an energy team’s connector who, outside of land, is tasked with knowing a little about a lot. So, work/think outside the box. Be resourceful. Step out of your comfort zone. Everything oil and gas starts with land. As the adage goes: God, land, oil, and gas. There is no other order.
Jay Williams, Senior Landman