Michael Hart

CEO, Rio Grande E&P II LLC, Houston

Michael Hart comes from a history of oil and gas workers and spent his childhood listening to stories about their experiences, which led him to join the industry himself. With a willingness to learn everything the quick-changing industry can throw, Hart has developed a leadership style that’s built on taking dynamic approaches to problem solving and allowing room for growth. 

Why did you enter the oil and gas industry? 

“Both of my grandfathers and my father have worked in the industry, so it was a natural part of dinner conversations or holiday gatherings. I enjoyed learning from their experiences and hearing their thoughts on why some things worked and some things didn’t work. These conversations usually focused on technical elements or business specific topics. When picking an industry to focus on career-wise, this was familiar ground and an industry where I felt most at home.”

Which of your professional achievements are you most proud of? 

“Our recent successful sale of Rio Grande I stands out. We were able to make a solid return for our investors as a natural gas-focused team during a time in which the industry realized some of the worst natural gas prices in the past 26 years. Our team performed exceptionally well in challenging circumstances, which highlighted our resiliency.”

Describe a memorable experience.

“Just before my grandfather passed away, I had the chance to spend some time with him and my father, passing time by telling stories from our careers. My grandfather was a geologist by background and started in the 1950s. My father is a petroleum engineer and started in the 1970s. I was working in investment banking focused on the industry at that time. We covered a fair bit of industry history, with some good boom/bust stories. This just felt like a different way of connecting with them, specifically around a topic that provided not just a way to earn a living but something in which we all directly participated and to which we felt a strong tie.”

What qualities do you think are necessary for a good leader in the oil and gas industry?

“Being adaptable and able to quickly learn from setbacks is crucial. I have found that if I get too set in my ways there is a chance that I’ll miss an opportunity. Things often don’t go the way we would like in this industry, but it’s the response to that setback that can set an organization up for failure or success.”

Who is your mentor? What is the most valuable advice they have given you? 

“I have had the opportunity to learn from a number of smart and accomplished people so far, but one in particular immediately comes to mind. From my father, I have had the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of entrepreneurship, seeing opportunities across energy industry cycles, while also forming views on real estate, ranching and the sports business.”

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

“From the very beginning, this industry has excelled at pushing known boundaries to source the energy that has accelerated improvements in standards of living and powered economic growth. These boundaries have been pushed by innovation and continuous improvement, which are needed more than ever as the industry embraces new objectives and challenges. We have always found ways of doing it better, cheaper and cleaner than before, and I don’t think we’re done yet.”

What advice would you give other young professionals in the industry?

“My recommendation would be to continue to challenge yourself. When you remove yourself from your comfort zone by accepting new challenges, you’re likely to expand your skill set and hopefully end up with an improved version of yourself.”