Joining the team less than 18 months ago, Susan Steyn, Add Energy’s Vice President of North America, could not have predicted the challenges that the region would face during 2020.
Based in the Houston office, Susan led her team through a turbulent year. From political unrest, racism protests, severe weather issues, and low oil prices, the team had a lot to handle before even factoring in a global health pandemic.
In this article, Susan takes a look back over the last 12 months and discusses how 2020 was her most successful year to date, lessons learned and her plans for the future.
How would you sum up the past 12 months in the energy sector?
“The last 12 months have felt like we’ve been on a rollercoaster. It’s been a crazy year with a lot of ups and downs. For the first time ever, the US oil price was below zero and the impact was felt across the world.
“Although a lot of companies were making cuts and holding projects, our region saw growth, new customers came on board, and we received extensions to projects. Every day has been different which is exciting, and thankfully I had the correct structure and a strong team behind me for support.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, I found it hard to make decisions based on the uncertainty and lack of data available. I quickly learned that it’s ok to make a decision based on the information that you have available at the time, and then review and adapt your approach as you go. It’s better to make a decision, rather than delay until you have a full understanding. You could wait for weeks and never have the full picture.
“When it comes to planning or developing a business strategy, I always refer back to Darwin’s theory, ‘It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It’s the one that is most adaptable to change’. The last year has been unpredictable, to say the least, and although we are experts in our field, if we were unable to adapt and change quickly we would not be in the position that we’re in today.”
How would you describe the past year in one sentence?
“2020 has been the year that forced everyone out of their comfort zone. In these unprecedented times, the world had to take a step back, hit the reset button, and find a new way of working."
What do you believe are the biggest opportunities that arose during this period?
“In November 2019, Add Energy opened a new office in Canada and at the beginning of 2020 we set out with a clear vision, measurable objectives, and a strategy to achieve our goals.
“Thankfully, because of the nature of what we do, we were still able to work. During times when the Covid-19 outbreak, and it’s associated restrictions, were at their highest, we mobilized four teams to complete critical assessments.
“A lot of our businesses were, and still are, looking to streamline their operations and save on costs. By listening to our customers and establishing their business needs, we were able to offer a solution that saved them both time and money.
“Our hard work did not go unnoticed. Potential clients were becoming aware of our achievements, and wanting in on the action, they quickly signed up as new customers. This led to our division growing the type of work that we do, entering new markets, and expanding our team. Despite all of its challenges, 2020 has been a very good year for our division.”
What were the biggest highlights for your region this year?
“One of the biggest highlights for my region has got to be the launch of the ePAV™ software, a digital collection app that allows companies to conduct field data collection, verification, or audit exercise with four times more accuracy but in half the time.
“The software stemmed from a physical asset verification (PAV) we completed in Trinidad last year. During the delivery of this project we realised the traditional, very tedious and manual process of a PAV could be vastly improved through the use of technology and began developing the ePAV™ app in collaboration with our award-winning software programmers. It was our baby, the team spent a considerable amount of time developing the software so that it could be sold commercially. Seeing our consultants, engineers and software programmers come together to develop a product that has now been used in multiple projects globally, has been a massive highlight for me and I am very proud of the team involved.
“Another big achievement is the work that we have secured in Canada over the recent months. When Covid-19 hit in March, the office had only been open for four months, yet we’ve managed to secure 4 new projects worth over 2 million USD.”
What was the key to your success?
“Definitely the team. Having employees that are willing to work in difficult situations and a team that is agile and able to adapt to new situations quickly played a massive part in our success.
“Although we had the technology in place to work from home, putting it into practice was another thing. As the schools closed around the world, we had parents working from home, trying to successfully balance a full-time job with homeschooling and childcare.
“At Add Energy, our team and their family’s wellbeing is paramount but we had to make sure that projects were delivered on time and clients were receiving a high-quality service. As both tasks are equally as important as each other, we worked with our team to create a solution.
“In the current working environment, one of the hardest things to do is to maintain relationships and build new ones. Although there’s the technology to communicate with people across the globe, the use of Microsoft Teams and online events can only go so far. Recognizing this, we quickly started investing more in our business development tactics through the use of digital platforms and high value content.
“Another factor that I believe contributes to our success is our adaptability. We proactively made changes to the way that we do things. Taking a look at the business as a whole, and what business will look like when this is all over, we found new ways that will save the company money that can be reinvested in other areas.
“I am immensely proud of my team and what we have overcome during 2020. If this is what we can achieve during a worldwide pandemic, I cannot wait to see what 2021 will bring.”
What opportunities do you think 2021 will bring?
“A lot of the opportunities will be around recovering from the impact of Covid-19 and low oil prices. Projects that were once on hold will go live and the industry will start moving at a more stable pace again.
“Around the world, we have seen businesses trying to save money and streamline their processes. As a result, mass redundancies have occurred and companies are now left with dangerous skills gaps. There has been a focus on being more efficient, more effective working and for teams to achieve higher levels of productivity and profitability.
“This is a niche where we play. Because of the nature of our work, Add Energy is in a strong position to step in and provide a service that will save customers both time and money, without compromising safety. Due to our investment into digital transformation and the technology that we have available, we’re able to complete tasks quickly and safely but with fewer people.
“When interviewing for vacant positions within my team during the peak of the pandemic, every single applicant I interviewed had been made redundant as a result of Covid-19. So as well as providing opportunities to win new work by plugging the gap for our customers, this year has also given Add Energy the opportunity to recruit strong candidates to support the delivery of our solutions to our global clients.”
What are your team’s goals for 2021?
“This is our year, I can feel it. One of our objectives is to grow the business by 20% in the US, which is ambitious but definitely achievable.
“As well as building on our existing business in Canada, we are also focusing on broadening our partnerships throughout the region, which will be key to our success.
“Next year we will enter new markets and expand our operations in Latin America and South America, with the intention of opening an office in Trinidad and Tobago off the back of our recent projects in the region.
“From a technology standpoint, we have a lot happening over the next twelve months. So far, we have invested into the development of autonomous tank inspection drones that have been extremely successful and it’s important that we nurture this. As companies are focusing on identifying opportunities to save time and money, having technology in place that can complete inspections in a matter of days while the tank is still full will be a huge benefit for our customers. As well as reducing the costs and time required to complete an inspection, not having to empty the tank for the inspection enables the tank to stay in service, assuring no economic value is lost during periods of inspection.
“I think that our Effio CMMS build software will also continue to be a popular technology with our customers in the coming years. Effio provides a faster, more efficient, and effective way to manage and build CMMS data, facilitating the process of tag extraction through maintenance and materials allocation, to the generation of client specific CMMS upload sheets.
“The software is already being used in North America by a few of our customers and it has achieved great results, with some clients reporting that they have cut CMMS data management times by 25% when compared to traditional projects.
“It’s important to Add Energy that our clients receive the best quality and cost effective service available, and that we are continually providing new technologies that will help them achieve their goals. For this reason, we will continue to invest into the research and development of cutting-edge innovative technology that will unlock efficiencies for our clients.”