John Brawley
38

Executive Vice President & CFO, Maverick Natural Resources, Houston
4 FortyUnder40 Brawley, John

Reflecting on his career in oil and gas, John Brawley said he “thoroughly enjoys difficult challenges.” There’s no question that his tenure as executive vice president and CFO of Maverick Natural Resources attests to that.

Brawley “became CFO of a company the scale of Maverick sooner than expected and did so with a broader array of responsibility than typical for a CFO,” he said. He is responsible for A&D, M&A, finance, accounting, marketing, reservoir engineering and IT functions for the company.

He recently led Maverick’s divestiture of “almost $200 million of assets at valuations significantly higher than proved producing present value in one of the toughest A&D markets in recent history.”

Shortly before joining Maverick as CFO, Brawley led the $4 billion restructuring of an E&P company “with the approval of almost all stakeholders” in a 120-day period, he said.

Maverick’s transformation

“At Maverick we have undertaken the term “transformation” more literally. Transformation for us is a defined term used by management consultants which changes every way in which a modern oil and gas company operates.

“Maverick was previously Breitburn, a large public MLP. Following the restructuring of Breitburn, a new executive team was brought in by the new equity holders to run the company. We had to completely change the company’s culture and drive performance to achieve the industry leading cost efficiency we have today.

“To achieve this we implemented a change management transformation process. Implementing that process was challenging as we changed the company’s cultural fabric from a public MLP, aggregating assets for stock value accretion, to a privately owned, nimble company, focused on production costs and investment returns. In the process we had to overcome internal and external resistance and build our own, largely new, team.

Changing the guard

“I believe the old-guard paradigm of leadership, which was focused on acreage aggregation and drilling, is outdated in the face of the collapse of energy prices.

“Leaders need to be cost-focused with manufacturing-style discipline. The days of eschewing efficiency because of value creation from acreage flipping are over.”

“New leadership needs to focus on modern management practices (such as management by objectives or objective key results) to drive results using KPIs and targets, much like an Amazon logistics facility. Leaders need to be cost-focused with manufacturing-style discipline. The days of eschewing efficiency because of value creation from acreage flipping are over.”

Tough leadership

“I prefer tough views of success advocated by athletes and military leaders. I am most influenced by my father, brother and great uncle, all of whom served in the U.S. Army.

“My brother, Lieutenant Colonel Chris Brawley, currently commands the 1st Ranger Battalion (under U.S. Army Special Operations Command) and I share the name John Brawley not only with my father (retired U.S. Army Corps of Engineers), but also my great uncle who orchestrated the intelligence communication plan for the D-Day landings on Utah beach, where he was present on D-Day.

“This exposure to the military combined with well-accomplished, tough and direct oil and gas executive industry mentors has shaped my particular management style.”

Empowerment and accountability

“Since joining Maverick, the responsibility of [helping lead] a large organization shifted my management style to focus on placing the right talent in key roles and then empowering them to make decisions. I have pushed decision making down and by doing so motivated and empowered employees to excel.

“Along with empowerment comes accountability. If you have the authority to make decisions, it is much harder to shrug away accountability for results. Empowerment and accountability go hand-in-hand.”

Industry outlook

“In order to survive, oil and gas must adopt management practices from other industries (such as manufacturing) and focus on costs and efficiency. Oil and gas is behind other industries in these practices, which enforce discipline and accountability to drive results.

“Investors will demand the same level of efficiency from oil and gas as other industries, now that the opportunity to provide value creation through acreage acquisition, exploration and development is severely muted.”