Lloydminster –Garrison Oilwell Servicing Ltd. is in its 37th year as a family run business that is co-owned by Darryl and Beverly Garrison in Lloydminster.
The Lloydminster-based company does completions, blowout preventions, workovers, abandonments and a variety of pump to surface work with its core fleet of five service rigs.
The Garrisons have two daughters, one son and a son-in-law on the payroll, all of whom are vital to their succession plan with retirement looming in a few years.
“They’ll probably look at taking over slowly over the next few years,’ said Darryl, who is 58. “They’ll be doing more than they are right now.”
The Garrisons also have three granddaughters and a grandson waiting in the wings.
The Garrisons believe running a hardworking family business like theirs can help to generate new business during the current downturn in the industry.
“It helps because everybody works that much harder for the company. The family works that much harder, too. It’s partially theirs, too,” said Darryl, who is company president, with Beverly as office manager.
The couple’s youngest daughter Chantelle Villeneuve works as the safety coordinator while her husband Shawn is the rig manager in charge of one double double and four single double service rigs.
The Garrison’s oldest daughter, Natalie Mark, handles the payroll and billing while their son Sheldon is a field supervisor.
The company had four of their rigs active in the field when Pipeline News dropped by their office in late August with oil hovering around US$45 a barrel WTI.
“We’re working around Lloyd and in the Provost and Macklin area too. We’re working more in light oil down there. It’s a little better price than heavy oil is right now,” said Darryl.
“We’ve been doing completions and workovers and we were doing some abandonments there for a while.”
As for the Viking light oil play in the Kindersley area Darryl said that’s slowed down lately as oil prices fell back after a bit an uptick in June.
“When it was $60 a barrel there was work coming up, but now that it’s down to $42 a barrel today, the work has kind of slowed down again too,” he noted.
“There are projects coming up, but they’re just on hold until the price stabilizes again.”
Garrison Oilwell Servicing is equipped to service horizontal wells in the region with four truck-mounted TMX Xcelerator units, three pumping units with tanks and nine-inch blowout preventers.
Over the years, their crews have worked everywhere from Turtleford and North Battleford in Saskatchewan to Provost and High River Alberta and many points in between.
The company started in 1978 with one single single rig and a slow and a steady mindset to growth during the boom and bust cycles of the oil and gas industry.
The key to their longevity is, “just growing slowly and to with the ups and downs in the oilfield,” explained Darryl.
“We’ve slowly expanded here in the last five years, too.
“We went from three rigs up to five rigs and we built two brand new rigs and we rebuilt the other three rigs, too.”
The company saves money by owning its equipment and doing its own maintenance at its yard south of Lloydminster or at a shop on the Garrisons’ acreage and in the field.
“We don’t have any lease payments. There are some bank loans out there, but we’ve got everything under control pretty good too,” said Darryl about their financial footing.
“We’re going to hold tight right now for a while. We’ll probably stay at five rigs for a while with everything all paid off and then we’ll see what happens if the oilpatch gets busier.”
Their prudent approach to running a family business has helped the Garrisons wait out bad downturns in ’86, ’99 and ’09 and the current downturn that caught them off guard.
“This one didn’t look as bad to begin with, but it’s looking like it could be long-term with the price of oil going down and staying down. It could last a year or two, who knows,” said Darryl.
“I find it kind of scary,” added Beverly. “To me, it just seems like one of the worst ones because the whole world economy seems to be in turmoil and nobody seems to have an idea – everybody’s speculating.”
Darryl admits he keeps a close watch on the price of oil while cutting costs and looking for efficiencies with his field operations.
“Everywhere you can cut costs – you watch your people and make sure they are as efficient as possible. We make sure we keep our equipment well-serviced so we are not spending an extra bunch that way,” he said.
“We haven’t laid any people off. We slowed down a bit last fall, so we didn’t hire for the last couple of rigs.
“We just kind of kept everybody going and we’re moving people around between rigs. We’ve got job sharing going on too.”
That work policy allows rig hands like Bailey Abellanosa to pitch in as office receptionist for a day or two as he did in August and earn a paycheque until he goes back to the field.
“Being a small company we like to think we have better employees. They are closer knit. We treat them as family and they work that much harder and give really good service to the oil companies,” said Darryl.
“A lot of our people have been here over 10 years.”
Garrison Oilwell Servicing also gives back to the community as a current sponsor of the Bobcats hockey team in Lloydminster and a variety of other minor sports teams, causes and events over the years.
“All of our money that we bring in here stays here in Lloydminster and the surrounding area,” said Darryl.
Darryl said the most memorable aspect of running a family business through thick and thin has been the opportunity to meet a lot of different people.
“We’ve got of friends from years back too. It’s been pretty good. Of course, you go through slow times too. There’s good times and bad times in the oilfield,” he said.
Despite the stress of working during the ups and down in the oil and gas industry, Beverly said everyone in the family gets along.
“We’re really fortunate that as a family our communication is pretty good. We all seem to get along really well,” she said.
“There is really not much friction or conflicts. We can all have good communication as far as work and stuff goes.”
The downside is finding a time that the entire Garrison clan can vacation together.
“We can do it at Christmas and during breakup, but the rest of the year, we pretty much go one family at a time type of thing,” said Beverly.
The Garrisons are especially pleased that their kids are well-trained for their jobs and they are proud of their accomplishments.
“Chantelle has taken her safety course through the University of New Brunswick and passed with really high marks – and she’s training all the time,” said Beverly.
“Natalie’s done some courses in safety and bookkeeping – she did a little bit in college which has helped her out immensely.”
Sheldon just got his pilot’s licence and has taken welding course and is an instrumentation technician.
“He can work inter-provincially anywhere in Canada, which helps out a lot with the company,” said Darryl.