Chris Samanns

President, Signal Peak Silica, Houston

Chris Samanns believes adaptability and the ability to manage change are essential qualities of a good leader. With this leadership style, Samanns was able to help lead Signal Peak through an initial operational turnaround during the COVID-19 pandemic, ultimately growing and expanding the company.

Why did you enter the oil and gas industry? 

“My brother worked in the accounting department at Preferred Sands. He referred me for an open supply chain role that aligned with my background. I worked at Preferred for seven years and had many different roles in sales, supply chain, product management and operations, ultimately serving as one of the company’s senior leadership team members and driving the push to in-basin sand. After a restructuring at Preferred, the company split and the three new in-basin plants built by Preferred fell under new ownership and was rebranded as Signal Peak. I was asked to join the management team for Signal Peak and relocated to Houston in early 2019.”

What is a career milestone you reached sooner than you had planned, and what helped you reach it earlier than expected? 

“I don’t think there is really one specific milestone I can point to, but I am grateful for my time at Preferred and the trust that was placed in me. I had worked at a very large pharmaceutical company before Preferred, and that was very focused on tenure and not talent. At Preferred and Signal Peak, I have been elevated multiple times based on my results and ability to lead people. I learned and grew at each level and kept rising.”

Which of your professional achievements are you most proud of?

“I am most proud of being a large part of the in-basin sand revolution that has taken place and being a first-mover in that space. While at Preferred, we executed an aggressive plan to identify locations, customers and financing to build three new plants. We were the first operational in-basin plant in the Eagle Ford and the STACK and the third operational plant in the Permian. I am proud of the initial strategy but equally proud of being a part of the operational turnaround of the plants and validating the original approach.”

What has been your most challenging project to date, and how did you meet the challenge and accomplish your goal? 

The most challenging project was navigating through the COVID-induced downturn. Our company was still emerging from an operational turnaround, and we did not have the balance sheet to withstand a prolonged down period. We were able to maintain some level of sales and revenue coming in, ensured customers continued to pay and reduce costs to survive. It was hairy at times, but we made it through and rapidly grew back to a point where we ultimately exceeded pre-COVID highs.”

How have you exercised leadership to help shape your company? 

“I try to lead by example as a leader. I hold myself accountable first, and I’m not afraid to roll up my sleeves and understand details. I want my people to be able to explain and drive change from the ground up. I want to be able to offer support but also challenge recommendations or actions. In my view, it’s challenging to do that if you are too high level.”

What are your long- and short-term career goals? 

“Short term, I want to continue to contribute to the success of Signal Peak and make a positive impact in frac sand. Long term, I am keeping options open but would love to continue to participate in the energy industry.”

What keeps you motivated and passionate about working in the oil and gas industry? 

“There is never a dull moment. Because it is a rapidly changing business, you can never be too comfortable, and I am passionate about always remaining on the leading edge of change.”

What do you think young industry members as a group have to offer that is unique to them? 

“I think many of us who have been working in this industry for eight-plus years have seen some of the most transformational changes the industry has ever seen. Our experience and our ability to embrace technology, change and new ideas is valuable to the industry.”

Three More Things
  1. I like to spend time at the beach and hiking.
  2. I enjoy time with my wife and five children and watching the kids’ sports activities.
  3. Don’t take things personally; this is a business. Focus on making decisions as if it was always your personal money at risk.