Working for a Small Independent Company


(Harkins & Company February 1987 to December 1989)


Bill Maxwell*, Exploration VP, hired me to open a Corpus Christi district office for Harkins and Company—they had offices in Alice, Midland, Fort Smith, Oklahoma City and Jackson.

He wanted more exploration projects in south Texas. And he had a seismic budget—get any line or lines you need! And the technique was to put the best prospects together in a trend. Harkins supported a regional mapping approach—map a trend, get to know it, get to know what works, get to know who is successful. Don’t put the first closure you see together that you run across—put the best prospect together first. And like Chevron and Win Sexton, he liked larger, higher potential prospects—minimum 25 BCF.

Harkins allowed geologists time to do the regional work. That time often came when the oil and gas prices were low. My approach was to work steady freddy – don’t be concerned with the current oil and gas prices, they will always be going up and down, but concentrate on the mapping and the science. Slow times are great opportunity times to do mapping, phones don’t ring and the library is quiet. Take advantage of slow times to get your mapping done.

Harkins & Company always took 25% working interest in any project approved by Bill and then by Burt Harkins. But I always had to be ready for the question that Burt always wanted to know about any prospect we presented to him—If this prospect is so good, why didn’t Shell drill it? Good question, Burt. Don’t be frustrated with a question like this, sometimes we get so close to our deals that the answer to this question will actually be a selling point of the prospect. Run your ideas across others in your company—consider any and all comments—you may hear them again when presenting to outside investors.

The great advantage at Harkins & Company was that they were spending their own money up front just like a potential investor would—this made it so much easier and better and faster to sell a prospect. Make sure your company owns some working interest

And Bill and I began to trust each other—he did what he was supposed to do, I did what I was supposed to do—we each could concentrate on our own areas and depend on each other to get the job done. Don’t take on the entire exploration effort yourself, depend on the team.

Owen Hopkins
February 8, 2007

*I took Bill on his first logging job offshore Gulf of Mexico before Christmas 1970 just after he joined Chevron in Lafayette, Louisiana. Little did he, or his wife know, that we would be gone for 5 days with no communication with home—the 2-way radios were for business use only. So he was stuck on an offshore rig 100 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico with me until the well was ready to log. I was always ready for that contingency and had projects to work on— these kinds of situations I consider as gifts-of-time not a waste-of-time. I was working on my MS at the University of SW Louisiana—so I had plenty of things to do and the time to do it.

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