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Russ: Welcome back to the Businessmakers Show brought to you by Comcast Business Built for Business coming to you today from the Lemonade Day Entrepreneurial Excellence Award. And I'm very pleased to have as my guest the winner of the Entrepreneurial Excellence Award, John Walker, founder and CEO of EnerVest. John, welcome to the Businessmakers Show.
John: Thank you very much.
Russ: You bet. Congratulations on that award.
John: Well, thank you. I'm thrilled about it.
Russ: Good deal. Well, tell us about EnerVest.
John: EnerVest is a pretty good-sized company now. We operate 23,000 wells in 16 states, and we have about five and a half million acres under lease. And we have about eight billion in assets under management. About 20, 25 percent of that is in a public company called EV Energy Partners, and the balance is in our institutional partnerships.
Russ: Okay. Well, I know quite a bit about the company, having had you on the EnergyMakers Show previously. In fact, it was about nine months ago, a year ago. And I remember at the time you were doing something real unique. It seemed like you were selling your oil assets and buying gas assets, which was very contrarian at the time. How has that worked out?
John: It's worked out pretty well. We sold our Permian assets for the highest metrics ever achieved in the Permian Basin.
John: And I think our rate of return was in excess of 300 percent. So that's pretty good.
Russ: Wow, that is pretty good.
John: And we're selling our Balkan assets right now. Beginning about two years ago when I talked about the improving demand situation for natural gas, we started buying long-life natural gas reserves. And we've probably bought somewhere between two and three billion dollars' worth in that ensuing time and so know it's working very well because we're seeing right now the natural gas prices are coming up some, but I think that they'll come up more.
Russ: My goodness. Well, the performance of the company has always been exceptional. And as I recall, the things that you guys really focus on is buying right, which is what you were just talking about there, but then implementing operational improvements as well.
John: Uh-huh (affirmative answer).
Russ: And I assume all of that, you're hitting all eight cylinders.
John: Well, buying right is by far the most important and then trying to integrate and improve production and lower cost. And one of the things we do there is we buy positions in big concentrations, and so we're very concentrating the Barnett. We're the largest acreage holder in Ohio. We're the largest player in the Austin Chalk in other places. And that allows us to be a lot more efficient, but it's also important that we are able to sell right. And timing that sale is extremely important.
Russ: Okay. Well, I also know, and this I think plays a huge role in your winning this excellence performance award, is that your employees, your team is just real dedicated. You frequently win on those best places to work contests. I would say that played a role even on this win. Tell us a little bit about your team.
John: We're fortunate that we have about a thousand employees now. And over the years of the essentially contests on best place to work, and these are anonymous surveys by most of our employees. It has to be over 70 percent. The questionnaire takes about 20 minutes for them to conclude, and so they have to be dedicated to do it.
John: But we appreciate the fact that they like where they work, and apparently we're doing some good things to make them feel good about our workplace. And I think we're one of the few, if not the only company, to have won the award with the Houston Business Journal three times. So that's something that makes us feel good.
Russ: Wow. Congratulations for that, and congratulations for this award for sure, the Entrepreneurial Excellence Award.
John: Well, thank you very much.
Russ: You bet, and that wraps up my discussion with John Walker, the founder and CEO of EnerVest. And this is the Businessmakers Show brought to you by Comcast Business Built for Business.