In Market: Learning the lessons of business – and life

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Crude Blessings: The Amazing Life Story of Glenn Patterson American Oilman

T.M. “Roe” Patterson is best known as the CEO of Basic Energy Services. He’s also a Fort Worth resident and third generation oilman. And now, author.

Last year, he published a book about his father, Glenn Patterson, a rags-to-riches story that starts in the small West Texas town of Blackwell. Glenn Patterson’s mantra, “Always do the right thing,” turned out to be an enviable formula for success in a highly volatile industry – and in life as well.

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Crude Blessings: The Amazing Life Story of Glenn Patterson American Oilman tells many a story of a life in the Texas energy industry. But it’s more than just a story about a successful businessman. It also talks about Glenn Patterson’s struggle to deal with being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at too early an age.

“My dad taught me that honesty and integrity are everything in business and in life. He always said the decisions you make are only as good as they are for everyone you work with. There is always plenty of room for decency and trust,” said his son Roe Patterson, who was named Fort Worth Business Press CEO of the Year in 2014.

“There’s nothing that I do as a CEO of a public company that I didn’t pick up from him and my uncle, Cloyce Talbott,” he said. “I think the main thing is the amount of ethics and integrity you have to carry yourself with. You have to treat everyone like you want to be treated, like you would always want to be treated, and expect to be treated. That goes for customers, it goes for employees, it goes for associates, it goes for competitors. Just a level of integrity is so important.

“That’s lost in a lot of business cultures today. People don’t have that same level of ethics that they hold themselves accountable to, and what I picked up, probably more than anything else, was that, hey, at the end of the day, when you’re done with whatever job it is that you’re doing, you want to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and say, ‘I did it right. I did everything the right way.’”

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Roe Patterson learned the value of hard work, too. In the book he tells the story of how his father used scrap metal from the oil field to help pay off loans to the bank – and to pay his workers. They worked from dusk to dawn cutting up pipe to earn enough to keep the banks at bay – using an acetylene torch and setting a few fires along the way.

“We’ll never pay this off with pipe!” Roe said to his father as they labored away on the pipe.

“Damn sure won’t with that attitude,” said Glenn. And we went back to work.

Glenn Patterson’s work ethic and values have proved their worth. Basic Energy has seen more than a few ups and downs through the years.

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“My dad used to say, ‘You show me a guy who’s been successful in the oil and gas industry and I’ll show you a guy who’s been broke two or three times,’” Patterson said.

Aside from the normal day-to-day, roller-coaster aspects of the energy business, the company also had to withstand an embezzlement scandal. And not just any scandal, but one the SEC called one of the largest ever.

“By 2003, [the CFO] was authorizing more than $15 million in fraudulent invoices,” according to the book. When the company’s young CFO was finally caught with his hand in the cookie jar, an estimated $78 million had been embezzled.

“Dad did a good job of getting the company right back on pace after all of that came out,” he said. “They got everyone refocused, got the company back on track, and the fact that the company had done so well, and never missed the $78 million over the eight-year period was a testament to how successful the company was, but it doesn’t make up for what Jody Nelson [the CFO] did.”

But Crude Blessings goes beyond the many lessons learned in business to also tell the story of a family man who was hit with an early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

The hard-charging, detail-oriented Glenn Patterson retired soon after the embezzlement scandal, at 58, but his son and other family members were starting to notice something else about the now former CEO: The man who used to remember phone numbers easily was starting to forget things. Eventually, they convinced him to see a doctor who “He died at 68, so there was a nine-year battle with Alzheimer’s,” Roe Patterson said. “I would say the first four years were pretty, pretty good. We got by. He would slip a little bit every day but it was so subtle and so slow – the progression.”

“It was a nightmarish kind of disease,” said Patterson. “It wasn’t a disease where he just would be absent-minded and start to forget things. For dad it was a real crushing thing.”

For a while they were able to deal with it.

“We still had a lot of fun and a lot of laughs and we got along as a family pretty well. Then I would say about year five after the diagnosis, things started to turn quite a bit.”

His son and family learned a lot from dealing with the disease. “Cherish every day,” said Patterson. “Dad put off so many things to his retirement. He wanted to wait to do some traveling. He wanted to wait to do some things in his life after he retired. I think my lesson from all of that is you need to live for today. I still work hard to take care of my family and make sure that everything is set up for them but you’re just not promised tomorrow.

“You need to make sure you’re doing everything you can to make the best life you can today. That’s what I learned from that – and I don’t know about the rest of my family, but I would venture to say that they probably did as well. You need to seize the moment.”

Twenty-five percent of the proceeds from the sale of the book are going for Alzheimer’s care, support, and research.