Plenty of things set Kirk Goehring apart from the typical industry executive. He grew up near Washington, D.C., lacks a technical background and spent the early part of his career outside of the energy sector. Despite these differences, he’s had great success at Jones Energy II Inc.
“My background is unique among oil and gas chief operating officers who are generally engineers or geologists,” says Goehring, who previously worked in private equity and investment banking.
“I feel as though I’ve made an impact not in spite of but rather because of my financial background. I believe COOs with my background will become increasingly common as capital markets force oil and gas companies to recognize they are more in the business of producing cash than in the business of producing hydrocarbons.”
A natural fit: Since transitioning from corporate development into an operating role over two years ago, Goehring has helped transition Jones into a more cash-return-centered, accountability-conscious and data-driven firm. His financial acumen and leadership have been rewarded with regular promotions. Earlier this year, Goehring was named Jones’ senior vice president and chief operating officer, which he sees as the highlight of his career.
“I’d point to a handful of factors that helped me reach this goal earlier than expected,” he says. “There are no substitutes for hard work and perseverance, and I was fortunate to have those traits instilled in me at an early age by my parents, who are both small business owners. I was also surrounded by an incredibly supportive management team, in particular Jonny Jones, who pushed me and instilled confidence in me to think beyond the traditional finance career path.”
Before joining Jones, Goehring was a private equity associate at Metalmark Capital and a mergers and acquisition analyst at Greenhill & Co. He is a graduate of the business honors program at the University of Texas at Austin’s Red McCombs School of Business.
“First, focus on what you can control and appreciate what you can’t. Also, enjoy the good times, but the time to prepare for the storm is before it’s forecasted.”
Crash course: Goehring’s first job out of school was with Bear Stearns, where he worked in the healthcare investment banking group. That was in July 2007, and the firm was at an all-time high. Eight months later, the recession hit—and Goehring was out of a job.
“That experience certainly helps put things in perspective,” he says. “First, focus on what you can control and appreciate what you can’t. Also, enjoy the good times, but the time to prepare for the storm is before it’s forecasted.”
A rewarding challenge: The 2008 recession wasn’t Goehring’s last brush with market volatility. When he assumed the COO role at Jones Energy, the company was in the thick of a comprehensive Chapter 11 restructuring. Goehring helped pull the company through by keeping the business running smoothly throughout the restructuring process.
“The outside distractions were many—nervous vendors, anxious team members, an uncertain future,” he says. “It was critical that not only we keep the business running, but that we create true operating momentum to demonstrate to all stakeholders that we were a viable, go-forward, profitable business.”
The strategy worked. Jones didn’t just survive. It thrived. Its results improved, it made more money and it arranged a new $225 million borrowing base at a time of extreme market headwinds.
“The operating results speak for themselves—we delivered some of the best wells the company has ever drilled in both of our core operating areas,” Goehring says. “Without the strong, positive operational momentum generated, the company would not have emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy as quickly or as cleanly as it did. Our operating team’s execution in the face of uncertainty was not only the most challenging project to date but also the most rewarding.”