Team Player: Integrity Wireline CEO Kelly Connally Fosters a Group Effort
Encourager, supporter, achiever, listener, leader—Kelly Connally, president and CEO of Integrity Wireline, is these things and more.
Having been moved up to the helm of the business two years ago, Connally has steered this company through times that have been challenging, to say the least. Numerous direct competitors have faltered and failed while Integrity Wireline has held its own and more. Today the company is solid, solvent, and surpassing expectations as it builds success stories for its customers.
Connally set aside his studies at Eastfield College to go into the working world, and began working his way up during an era when oil and gas was going through momentous changes. In the 21st century, oil and gas taken giant leaps in innovation. The wireline sector has seen its share of transformations and technological breakthroughs.
The company is solid, solvent, and surpassing expectations…
Connally was active in the Barnett Shale when it was in its heyday. Those veterans of the Barnett became prime movers in the Permian Basin. The Permian boomed because it worked out to be a fresh proving ground, and a bigger universe, for the innovations pioneered in the Barnett.
From the Ground Up
Every top manager in the Integrity organization is someone who has worked his way up through the ranks. Some are Barnett veterans, and all have experience running trucks in the Permian Basin. That’s the nature of the company—it is extremely hands-on.
That kind of field competence starts with Kelly Connally, who has paid his dues, just like the people he employs.
“The exact same person he’s always been.” —Hargett
EOG Resources’ Alex Richter, someone who has employed Integrity Wireline teams for years in the Permian Basin, knows Connally well. “Kelly is a good guy,” Richter says. “He’s easy to work with and he manages the business really well.”
Integrity’s own director of operations, Matt Hargett, has known Connally from years back when Hargett was still a schoolboy. Hargett says Connally is a steady figure. “Kelly, from my earliest memory of him, to today, is the exact same person he’s always been,” Hargett says. “He hasn’t changed one bit. Kelly cares a lot. And that has to make it hard for him. I mean, just in terms of the person that he is, Kelly cares about every single person, and not just the people in this company. He cares about every single customer on a personal basis. To me, that holds a lot of value.”
“The Oil Patch is a Heartbeat”
Integrity’s safety manager, Kit Payne, credits Connally for reinforcing the values by which the company operates. In describing the culture of the company, Payne says, “We’re more [about] handshakes—your handshake matters—and being one-on-one with people and looking them in the eyes. That’s everybody here. It doesn’t matter which guy you talk to on the management team—he’s one of those guys. We’re hands-on. What we say to you, that’s the way we’re going to be. Kinda old school. And we take care of our employees.
“If you have an employee who is going through hard times, well, the oil patch is a heartbeat,” Payne adds. “It’s going to be ‘through the roof’ or ‘through the baseboards.’ There are ups and downs. And when things are down, Kelly and Becky Connally, I’ve seen them more than once open up their wallet and help somebody make a utility payment, make the mortgage, whatever. They do that, knowing that, if we keep that employee, we’ll get our money back out of it. It’s an investment.
“Our employees are not just hired hands. They’re an investment. You get the right guys, you can’t help but succeed. And that’s what’s happening here. I mean, we’ve invested in our employees, and they’re invested in us.
Wireline with a Difference
“That’s why, if a man is leaving, if he will walk in and tell you why he’s leaving, look you in the eyes, and shake your hand—well, that matters to us,” Payne adds. “Kelly Connally, Bubba [Poe], Matt, Mark [Everitt]—they’ve never said a negative thing about anybody. If you’re trying to better your family, that’s the ultimate goal. Take care of your family. And we understand there can be times when a man has to venture into something else to take care of his family. There may be opportunities that we can’t offer him at the time.
“But unless they left for a disciplinary reason, those guys are still in good standing with us,” he says. “Meanwhile, they carried our name with them. Because if they went out and did a good job for somebody else, they learned it at Integrity. I mean, we put them in a truck, we trained them, we did all that, and it spreads.
“We’ve invested in our employees, and they’re invested in us.” —Payne
“You know, you take care of your employees,” Payne concludes. “If they leave you, it’s not a divorce. We have guys that come back. Frequently they come back and they’ve learned that they had a personal relationship here. Not very many guys [at other companies] can walk upstairs and talk to the CEO of the company. And at other companies, the CEO may not ask how the kids did at the football game or the little league game. Or might not ask, ‘What did y’all do over the weekend?’ Here, we sit around and have conversations with our employees. All the time. So there’s a bond that we build here.”
“She said, ‘I think you can do this, Kelly.’”
Kelly Connally credits his wife with encouraging him to pursue opportunities that led to his move to Integrity and later to his appointment as CEO.
“Becky’s been a part of this since we started things up here,” Kelly said. “She doesn’t get involved in the field operations, or in what those managers do. But everything downstairs [clerical work, office/staff management] is hers. Anyway, even before I came here from my previous place of employment, she approached me several times and said, ‘I think you can do this, Kelly.’ I felt then that I was still in the learning process, because I’d only been in the office [and out of the field] for about three years. Was I learning a lot? Yes. But I wasn’t sure I was there, yet. But she said, ‘I want to set you up with the investors and you go sell yourself.’
“Well, it took me a few months to sell myself,” he continues. “But it happened.”
A Trust Factor
Kelly trusts in Becky to keep the business functions operating smoothly, and he trusts in his management team to make decisions about field operations. There’s a lot of sharing of power.
Anyone who has spent much time observing managerial teams up close will see a difference with this bunch. There’s no “C-suite” uppity-ness here. There’s a lot of shared humor. In meetings, they butt heads sometimes, but, as Connally has said, they don’t give up until a consensus has been reached, and when there is consensus, everyone buys in 100 percent. Because Connally trusts his managers, he empowers them.
Those who know Connally remark on his openness. His accessibility. And his generosity.
Kudos from a Wireline Competitor
Keith Maxey, founder of Bullzeye Oilfield Services, worked with Connally years ago when they both were at Basic Energy Services. Maxey described Connally as “a super good guy.”
At one time Maxey sold out his [prior] business to Basic Energy. At the time, Connally was working for Basic. “We got thrown together,” Maxey says. “And he ran his first bond log with me. That must have been 10 or 12 years ago. I’ve been in wireline almost 40 years, and he’s got to be going on about 15 or 20 himself.”
Bullzeye operates yards in multiple locations in Texas. They’re primarily active in South Texas. Maxey said he had as many as 18 wireline trucks not long ago, but with the slowdown in activity in South Texas, they are running only four trucks now.
“I can always count on him to bust somebody loose to help me.” —Maxey
When Maxey has found himself in need of help on a job—whether through lack of a hand or of certain equipment—Connally, at Integrity, has been good to furnish him the needed help. “Even though we’re kind of competition, I can always count on him to bust somebody loose to help me. Or to send a part or loan a crane truck. Any time I’ve ever needed help, he’s given it.”
It ought to be said that, for his own part, Maxey has done likewise. “Last year he [Kelly] got on a job down here in South Texas for Endeavor, and when they got here they [Integrity] were short a sheave wheel, and we got one to them,” Maxey said.
Work Hard, Play Hard
According to Maxey, Connally is a hard worker. “He answers his phone 24 hours a day. If he’s not working, he’s spending time with his kids. He’s into horses, too.” (Kelly’s passion for being horseback has been picked up by his beautiful teenaged daughters Madison and Landry, both of whom compete in rodeo, and both of whom are super-achievers.)
Maxey also said that Connally, in his high school years, played baseball at Abilene Cooper, during a time when that school won a state championship. In more recent times Connally has coached youth baseball. He even has at least one employee who formerly was a ballplayer for him.
Today the Connallys maintain a rural lifestyle at a homesite they purchased recently, north of Abilene, Texas. It’s a picturesque place where the barrel horses that the girls ride can be worked out and kept in top condition. West Texas suits the Connally clan well. Kelly says, “I’ve been blessed”—something he says often, whether at work or away from work. What the future holds is never clear, but Kelly Connally and his family and peers will be hands-on, whatever it is.