John Geddes honoured with CEEA’s Lifetime Achievement Award

Lana and John Geddes

John Geddes knows well how networking builds value.

So too does his wife Lana.

That is value creation measured both professionally and personally — and it is value capital that continues to return over time.

Indeed, long before the notion of the “network effect” became part of daily business vernacular, the couple defined the “effect” in the way they conducted their business and family lives. In many ways, their half-century partnership also defines how the energy sector works best when fully networked by people, companies and organizations working toward common goals.

Thursday night, Geddes was honoured by the Canadian Energy Executive Association (CEEA) with its third Lifetime Achievement Award at its annual Energy Business Forum in Banff. Geddes joins industry giants Allan Markin and Clay Riddell as previous recipients.

But as should be expected from a man who served Canada’s oil and gas industry — and particularly the oilfield services sector — so selflessly for more than five decades, Geddes believes the industry should recognize itself in the award as well — for its collective achievement dwarfs any one individual’s accomplishments.

One of Geddes’s personal maxims underscores that industrial altruism: “You don’t measure a person’s success in life by what he accumulates materially … but by the spectrum of friends and colleagues who respect and appreciate how you have conducted yourself in life,” he said.

“One of the things I fall back on in life are some words my father gave me when I was leaving home. He said, ‘It doesn’t really matter what industry you work in or what job you choose, as long as you’re passionate about it, do your best and be the best man at it … but being the best man means just that … not trying to win at all cost,’” Geddes noted in an interview prior to accepting the award.

But Geddes will be the first to point out his wife Lana is as big a believer in that maxim, and, that synergistically as a networked couple, they created an energy greater than either one of them could have achieved individually. As is a CEEA tradition, a wife-and-husband team working within a broader governance structure defines the annual theme that executes CEEA’s mandate through its various outreach and advocacy initiatives, such as the business forum.

The award symbolizes an enduring synergy that is key to CEEA’s past, present and future, notes the team that will lead the association’s 72nd cycle, Allison and Brent Quinton.

“The Lifetime Achievement Award helps symbolize that the ability to network through our organization can help build prosperous businesses and drive our industry forward, while developing a group of lifelong friends … that’s invaluable to the way our sector has succeeded and will continue to evolve,” explained Brent Quinton.

Added Allison Quinton: “We truly believe that being a part of CEEA has allowed us to connect with people that we would not have had the opportunity to do so otherwise … and we look forward to measuring the impact of our next year of leadership, as we learn from the past and lay a foundation for the future.”

As CEEA convenes its 71st gathering in Banff — the business forum, various networking events and Oilmen’s golf tourney — the networking dynamics and conversations will tie directly to this year’s theme: Mission Possible, which speaks to a vibrant future for Canada’s oil and gas sector.

That the business forum’s networking impact — and the dialogue it enables — evolved seamlessly out of a popular golf gathering that ran successfully for 60 years, is largely down to the Geddes, who saw a way to creatively synchronize the power of tradition with the industry’s changing dynamics.

Indeed, history will point to John as the leader who was the true catalyst for crystallizing the idea of a business forum at which the industry’s key stakeholders could convene, converse, and strategically contemplate the future.

He and Lana have been attending the Oilmen’s for more than 20 years. Even before the tournament’s 60th anniversary, Geddes was advocating for another type of accretive networking mechanism. From its first iteration, timed to coincide with the 61st milestone, the Energy Business Forum gained — and continues to gain — traction as a convening platform for the exchange of diverse views and perspectives.

But while the golf, business forum and associated camaraderie are important, of equal significance is the power of connected and networked influence created by diverse industry stakeholders working toward a common cause.

Hence, the concept of value creation underpinned by social and industrial networking. In many ways, the Geddes story is simultaneously the CEEA story. A key criterion for the Lifetime Achievement Award is measurable positive impact on the sector.

That fits John Geddes to a “T.”

Geddes defines the inside-baseball industry one-liner, often spoken with the tongue only half-in-cheek, in terms of energy talent: Alberta’s best imports are Saskatchewan’s exports. Born on a farm near Kindersley, his view has always been global in context.

As his career in managing oilfield services companies evolved — paired with an enduring entrepreneurial spirit — Geddes travelled the world, seeing Canadian energy DNA in many of the 60 countries he visited. That worldview reinforced the sense of Canadian value creation. When he started SCF Partners in Canada in 1998, he oversaw processes that resulted in the birth and nurturing of more than 14 companies, seven of which were eventually taken public on major North American exchanges.

Many of those firms — PTI, CE Franklin, IPS, Global Flow, among others — are household names in the sector. The crown jewel, Flint, with annual revenues of $2.5 billion and 11,000 employees — is a colossus constructed by 35 acquisitions.

For Geddes, Canada’s opportunity to again stand tall as a global energy giant is readily at hand — but the recipe for success must be carefully considered, including dependence on one key customer.

“If you look at the oil and gas industry as a business, and Canada as a business, you have to have clients to sell to. One of our key problems today is we still have just a single customer. We need to participate globally in diverse markets and until we achieve that, we will continue to ride the cycles up and down,” he noted. “We need those markets to help investors understand the risk is worth the return. At the same time, we need to reinforce with Canadians the importance of our sector and that we want and need their support.”

Lana Geddes believes Canada’s next generation of leaders should think as owners and investors.

“I would say (to young entrepreneurs), invest part of your earnings into oil and gas because it is coming back and our work on the environmental front is an investment in our country’s future,” she noted.

It’s the entrepreneurial spirit that the couple believe will provide the momentum behind the sector’s next wave of success. That being an entrepreneur is genetic in a way also makes sense: The Geddes and their sons, Michael and Paul, own Zimco Instrumentation, a leading OFS player.

But it’s the helping-hand dynamic that continues to produce rewards.

“I think you have to have passion, and also be prepared to work hard and take some degree of risk. Over 25 years at SCF Partners, I think the most satisfying part was helping young entrepreneurs and businesspeople who had dreams and visions,” noted Geddes. “They wanted to take their companies higher, bigger and faster and they needed capital. We provided that access to capital and the opportunities to help them aspire to levels they probably didn’t think they could accomplish themselves. That was the biggest reward by far.”

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