Home-grown success: Fort Worth energy firm continues fast-track growth

Betty Dillard bdillard@bizpress.net Bryan Cortney and Jesse Hejny believe the bar can always be raised. “‘Good enough’ never is,” said Hejny, president of Purple Land Management LLC. He and Cortney, both 30, founded the Fort Worth-based energy services firm in January 2010 as Barnett Shale drilling activity escalated. PLM serves clients such as energy producers, midstream operators, state and local agencies, engineering firms and mobile service providers in lease negotiation and acquisition, right-of-way acquisition, title services and project management.

“We’re always looking for a way to bring more to the table and better results for the communities where we do business,” Hejny said. That philosophy of giving above and beyond to clients and their communities, coupled with a canny business strategy, continues to keep the partners’ company on the fast track to growth and success. Today, PLM is one of the fastest-growing privately held companies in North Texas. In three years, its annual gross revenue has zoomed more than 1,100 percent each year, while the number of full-time and contract employees has ballooned from two to 250. The owners expect growth to double in 2014, due in large part to their carefully charted national expansion plan that capitalizes on the boom in shale gas drilling.

“We’ve made some smart decisions early on,” Hejny said. In addition to its headquarters overlooking downtown Fort Worth’s Water Gardens, Purple Land Management has offices in Houston, known as PLM South, and in Midland, known as PLM Permian. The company also operates in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado and California. Three of those offices opened in 2013 – Bakersfield, Calif., known as PLM West; Midland; and the Denver office, a.k.a. PLM Rockies. The Denver office facilitates project expansion into the Bakken, Niobrara, Uinta and Powder River Basin oil and gas development plays. The co-owners expect the Denver office, already staffed with 30 employees, to double in size this year.

In January, PLM expanded its presence in the Bakken Shale with the opening of a new office in Dickinson, N.D., and in February, the firm added its 10th location nationwide, a mid-continent office in Oklahoma City. David Brooks, a 30-year landman formerly with Chesapeake Energy Corp., serves as its vice president of land/business development. “It’s an exciting time for us and we feel we’re just hitting our stride,” said Cortney, the firm’s chief executive. “We’ve got a 30-year vision. Our vision toward sustainability sets us apart. We’ve built up a management team we believe in and components we believe are sustainable. When you have a sustainable business model with those structures and that type of foundation you can and will succeed. The reinvestments we’re making and the people we’ve hired have laid a foundation that makes it easier to reach our vision.” Technology and teamwork Both from the West Coast, Cortney and Hejny met as football teammates at Texas Christian University. They founded their colorful company – purple is TCU’s school color – on the principles they learned playing under Coach Gary Patterson. The duo has passed the same drive, motivation and winning spirit learned on the playing field to the business field, but with a kick. The partners believe there’s a different way to provide land services, what they’ve dubbed the Purple Way. Their corporate logo, a purple P with a circular arrow, reflects sustained growth and their commitment to clients, communities and new approaches to tried-and-true services. One of the keys to their sustained growth and success, the entrepreneurs say, is teamwork. “Bryan and I didn’t start this company with the attitude that we want to be individually successful,” Hejny said. “We both came from team backgrounds. We both played team sports. We grew up where it was all about team success rather than individual success.” PLM staffs each office almost entirely with local hires. Lately, Cortney and Hejny have been on a hiring spree, recruiting at Texas Tech University, the University of Texas of the Permian Basin and other regional universities, and particularly looking for recent law school graduates interested in working as landmen.

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“Our biggest success has been hiring good local people,” Cortney said. “That’s also been our biggest challenge – hiring good local people. I think it’s a challenge we’ve been overcoming and we’re getting better at it.” To reach their vision of sustainability and to stay ahead of competitors, the partners have developed technology they believe will revolutionize the land services and oil and gas industries. GIS Overdrive, mapping software that PLM recently patented, includes multi-dimensional mapping, database management systems, computer-assisted reporting, coordination with handheld devices in the field and cloud computing. The new technology is designed to increase efficiency and speed up results. PLM’s goal now is to grow the individual offices, ultimately doubling the size of the business this year. “This year is all about focusing on each one of those offices,” Hejny said. “The infrastructure is in place and we’ve developed technology above all the rest. We’ve created a brand and have really positioned ourselves in the marketplace to be a different company. “We’re excited about where the company is going – our employees, our technology, our growth,” Hejny added. “We’ve made some big capital investments back into our people. That’s a big difference. At a lot of land companies the employees are contract, but almost half of our 250 people are full-time employees. Those things make us different. We thought we could build a business model that is sustainable and could weather. We have.”