Archive Monthly Archives: August 2011

Mysterious Ohio memo meant to harm industry or the real deal?

A mysterious memo that was left in the driveway of a Greene County, Ohio, home at the beginning of April, appeared to coach prospectors of oil and gas leases in the less-than-finer aspects of acquiring a lease using unscrupulous practices and deceptive key talking points. The rhetoric and wording used in the memo was disturbing enough to warrant an investigation by the state’s Attorney General Mike DeWine, resulting in no solid conclusions.

Northeast Ohio is no stranger to the Marcellus Shale boom and company representatives from large energy companies have descended on the area, going door-to-door in an attempt to lock up leases for natural gas drilling. The question the memo’s lack of ownership raises is, is the memo real or a plant to stir up more controversy in an already-heated debate?

Read the full details on what the memo included here.

No link could be found to the 20-year veteran with West Bay Exploration Co., who had been primarily working in the area last spring trying to seal up leases in the neighborhood the memo was found. West Bay Exploration Co, based out of Grand Rapids, Mich., was the only drilling company in the county seeking leases at the time.

Some have suggested theories such as that it was planted by either an environmentalist with a larger agenda to rid the area of new drilling, or that a rival drilling company planted it to plant seeds of distrust in the small community.

For those outside of the industry, it’s no surprise that many suspect it’s a real document that landmen use when talking with landowners on what topics to avoid discussing in light of the industry’s poor public relations and spotlight on hydraulic fracturing.

For those inside the industry, what is it really?

Do you suspect the memo is a plant by someone? A poor joke? The real deal?

Is the memo a less than stellar side of the industry made apparent by the vast amount of potential available in the Marcellus Shale or a twisted joke meant to screw the industry over yet again?

 

3 Signs You’ve Outgrown QuickBooks

If you are an owner or even an employee of a small business, chances are that a majority of you use or have used QuickBooks to handle your accounting needs. Statistics show that more than 90 percent of small businesses in America use QuickBooks – which is a good reason to use it.

If you are familiar with the product, then you are also familiar with the reasons why it works so well for small businesses. It is accounting software for dummies – no insult intended. You don’t have to have a knack for accounting or understand double-sided entries or ledgers to operate the system and accomplish your accounting needs. It is also a product obviously familiar to a majority of business professionals, which means finding and hiring help if the need arises is a cinch. But what about when it isn’t going to be a good fit for your company?

At SherWare, we are obviously supporters of QuickBooks and use it in our own business. Its integration with our oil and gas accounting software is one of our most popular products. However, no product is a one-size fits all product, no matter how good it is, and QuickBooks is no exception.

For potential clients and current clients, here are three signs that your business may have outgrown the need for QuickBooks.

1. You are doing more accounting outside of QuickBooks than you are in.

Since QuickBooks is intended for the average business user, it isn’t meant to always grow with your business. There comes a time when QuickBooks just can’t handle ALL the accounting needs your company has to grow and stay up to speed within its one program. For more robust financial processes, greater speed and more accounting functions than the basics it offer, it may be time to move to an integrated system that can handle your company’s growth.

2. You have more than 200-300 wells you operate and are trying to track in QuickBooks.

Along a similar path as the sign above, the integration between QuickBooks and SherWare’s oil and gas accounting software works seamlessly. However, when you start getting several hundred or more wells, with all the investors included to have to track, the sheer amount of transactions QuickBooks needs to track will slow your speed down, leaving you frustrated at its limitations.

Two takes on this sign: If you are coming in looking to purchase oil and gas accounting software and have more than several hundred wells, you may want to consider the fully integrated Accounting Manager software simply because the size of data files you probably will have and because with that much detail to track in your business, you’re likely going to outgrow QuickBooks quickly anyway for a more robust system that grows with you. That’s not to say this is hard fast rule, as we have many clients with more than this amount of well that have no issue with QuickBooks slowing down – but merely something to consider.

For those who are using QuickBooks, once you find yourself dealing with a slower connection speed and QuickBooks transactions taking longer than expected, it may be time to upgrade – no matter if you’re using our oil and gas software integrated with it or not.

3. You have more than 10-15 users attempting to run QuickBooks.

Another limitation that you may run into is again – related to the speed with which you can handle transactions and complete your work to be efficient. If you have more 10-15 users – again this is a variable that is determined by the amount of work your users do within QuickBooks.

I understand that QuickBooks offers a multiple-user Enterprise edition so multiple users shouldn’t be an issue – but when you get that many people working on it at the same time, it will invariably slow the system down.

Are there any other limitations you’ve run into that’s made you have to upgrade from a QuickBooks edition?

2012 Elections Not a Solution for Oil & Gas Industry’s PR effort

Political debates are already underway across the country as Republican Presidential nominee hopefuls throw their hat into the ring in an attempt to retake the political throne in Washington. While this early campaign rhetoric will likely focus on religion, past accomplishments and the infamous T.E.A. party, soon enough it will turn around to topics that actually matter to Americans such as the economy, getting past debt and job creation.

With America’s disapproval of Congress and politics in Washington at an all-time high, it’s no wonder America’s perception of the oil and gas industry is equally bleak. In the midst of the drama surrounding our economy lie the oil and gas industry, the Democrat’s scapegoat who has had a rough eighteen-months of public spotlight. Hit from all sides, the industry has dealt with everything from Josh Fox’s Gasland to hydraulic fracturing bans in New York and Pennsylvania, environmental protesters across the country screaming out against new drilling and the intentionally slow approvals of new drilling leases in the Gulf.

The industry would have to be ignorant to not realize that public relations are turning into a nightmare across the country and not enough is being done to rectify it. The interesting question that comes out of this situation is what is the correct solution to turn opinion around?

Two solutions are rising to the top right now: 1) The oil and gas industry needs to become more transparent and gain the public’s trust or 2) the elections for 2012 will bring the industry back.

When I first began hearing the two solutions proposed by those in the industry, I literally laughed out loud. I understand there is no love lost between the Democratic Party and the oil and gas industry. However, simply waiting until elections roll around and hoping the tide swings to a more favorable party doesn’t seem like a solution. It certainly isn’t a proactive solution.

Republicans may eventually make their way to the White House, but that doesn’t guarantee an easy road for the industry in terms of fewer regulations and restrictions and keeping tax breaks. In fact, I suspect that even if Republicans do win this next election that the oil and gas industry may be offered up as a sacrificial lamb to bridge the gap between those not in favor of Republicans in an attempt to keep approval ratings higher. Just a thought.

The oil and gas industry may not agree with or like the fact that to get you have to give a little in return, even if that means disclosing hydraulic fracturing fluid components – regardless of whether they truly are harmful. The point isn’t to steal patented chemical concoctions; it’s about building a relationship of trust with landowners across the country and showing goodwill.

More regulations handed down by either political party may not be in line with what the industry wants, but if it will help smooth tensions and also make the workplace and environment safer, then it should be embraced and not fought tooth and nail. And as I write this, I want to clarify beneficial regulations – not regulations imposed by the government for the sake of more regulation. I understand there is a difference.

A lot of time remains between now and when elections results are in. If the industry doesn’t jump start its efforts to foster stronger relationships with its communities and the public across the board, it will be too late, regardless of who’s elected to the White House.

Natural Gas powered vehicles gain popularity in U.S.

Having recently moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, I can’t help but notice all the bright green, “We’re powered by natural gas” public transportation buses that crisscross the city all day. It’s a phenomenon growing across the country as more and more heavy-duty and consumer vehicles are turning to natural gas fuel sources instead of diesel fuel and gasoline in an effort to reduce costs and emissions.

Natural Gas Fuel – A growing trend

Two recent news articles sparked my interest to look at what exactly is this natural gas fuel excitement about. The first was a few weeks ago when Waste Management, one of the largest natural gas burning heavy-duty truck owner and operators in the country announced its acquisition of the company’s 1000th natural gas burning truck– making up 1/3rd of the companies trucks that now run on natural gas.

Waste Management also has built a plant that turns landfill gas into liquefied natural gas (LNG) for use as fuel in its trucks – producing nearly 13,000 gallons per day.

Read the full article here.

The second article was that 150 natural-gas fuel stations are planned for America’s highways beginning this year – showing that the natural gas as fuel drive is reaching on-the-road trucks. Clean Energy Fuels Corp is working alongside Chesapeake Energy Corp, the nation’s second largest natural gas producer to create these stations along major trucking highways.

The highways include U.S. 10, U.S. 40, U.S. 5, U.S. 95, U.S. 90, U.S. 70, U.S. 20, U.S. 35 and U.S. 45 and they will be part of Pilot-Flying J fueling stations.

The article suggests that the trucking industry – hit hard by rising and fluctuating oil prices at the pump – and an industry that affects the price of goods and products shipped across the country – is highly interested in the jump to natural gas because of the significant price reduction.

Read the full article here on the new fueling stations.

How does Natural Gas as an alternative fuel work?

Interest in natural gas as an alternative fuel source continues to grow because of its clean-burning qualities and abundance across America. It can be used in vehicles in two forms: either as compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG). A CNG-powered vehicle gets roughly the same amount of energy as a gallon of gasoline at nearly half the cost.

In April 2011’s Alternative Fuel Price Report, released by the U.S. DOE, the average fuel price for gasoline was $3.69 while average fuel prices for CNG was only $2.06 per gallon – a significant difference if you own a natural-gas powered vehicle.

Honda is currently the only company that offers consumers a natural gas powered vehicle in its Honda Civic in the U.S. The price for a 2011 Honda Civic Natural Gas car starts at around $25,000 and gets 32 mpg. Other big names in the auto industry such as General Motors and Chrysler have plans to unroll a natural gas powered vehicle in the near future.

Natural gas as a fuel alternative is already popular in other countries around the world and automakers Volkswagen, Toyota and Fiat all have bifuel cars available – vehicles that allow you to switch between natural gas and gasoline as fuel – just not in America.

LNG powered vehicles take natural gas and cool it down, creating the liquefied form and are typically only used in heavy-duty vehicles.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s website, only four states don’t have any natural gas stations available: South Dakota, Iowa, Kentucky and West Virginia.

As the energy debate continues across the country to reduce our carbon-use, natural gas vehicles may take a larger step forward, as seen so far. Do you see yourself switching to a natural gas powered vehicle in the future?

Customer Service can transform or destroy your company

How much does customer service matter today? It’s everything. Whether you are on the receiving or giving end, customer service makes every experience and interaction between business and customer either a winning one, or one that leaves a bitter opinion in your mind about the organization.

Case in point: After scouring the Internet for the perfect baby bedding for my soon-to-be-born son, I finally found a company that didn’t have this particular set on backorder and it would arrive in a week– perfect timing to begin setting up the nursery.

The same afternoon that I placed an order, I received an e-mail from one of the customer service reps explaining that the shipment was actually on backorder (just like everyone else I’d seen online!? Is everyone buying this product?) – and to plan on three weeks for the order to arrive.

At this point I’m irked that they didn’t just post on their website that the product was on backorder because I only ordered from them because they said it was available. Whatever. Three weeks – I can handle, this baby isn’t coming for a few months yet.

Fast forward four weeks to yesterday. No baby bedding and no further contact regarding when it is to be shipped. The not-so-helpful status order link included with my order remains blank with no shipping estimates or even a status.

Now I’m not a confrontational person – not even slightly. I refused to place to-go orders in high school for the family because I didn’t want to talk to someone on the phone – just ask my parents. They’re still rolling their eyes at this. But you don’t mess with a pregnant woman during the height of summer.

So as I look up the customer service number for this company, I’m all worked up just thinking about how this order is still not here. For all I know, I could have been duped and they charged my credit card but aren’t legitimate. Right? Who hasn’t thought of things like this when they’re having issues with online purchases?

When the customer service rep comes on the phone, she is very pleasant. I explain in a calm voice why I’m calling – although from the way I described my problem, I left little doubt that I was a very unhappy customer. With only a slight pause, she began by apologizing for the delay and that I hadn’t heard anything else from the company on my order. She then went on to say, “Let me call the manufacturer directly and see when they are shipping it and why it’s taking so long. Can I put you on hold for a few minutes?”

Slightly mollified that I would at least be getting answers, I waited while I was transferred to the land of terrible hold-music. Just a few minutes later, she came back on and said, “OK. The manufacturer said they are shipping the orders out for this product directly from their warehouse by the last two weeks of August.”

She said the manufacturer had a huge surge of orders for this bedding after a special online promo was run – throwing all their ordering numbers off – which, in my opinion, should have been planned for, but oh well.

She asked if there was anything else she could help me with and we ended the call.

I entered the phone call with the intention of canceling my order and looking elsewhere online again because I didn’t trust the company. While I am still not thrilled that it will be the end of August before I should receive my order, because of my interaction with her yesterday, I can be OK with the circumstances and thankful that she was so pleasant to work with and that she gave me the answers I needed immediately.

Her customer service skills won me back over from being an irate customer to one that can handle that the circumstances are out of her and my control. Now granted, my experience wasn’t over-the-top amazing customer service like many of us come to expect after dealing with customer service behemoths like Amazon.com and Zappos.com – but she was pleasant, quick, friendly and informative – all characteristics you want when dealing with a customer service issue.

Customers are fickle. I understand this. I am one. We expect the world and want it now with a slice of cheesecake to go along with it. As a business, you may not be able to promise and deliver on the moon – but you can still aim high and deliver the best customer service possible – one that will still make customers smile and happy they chose to do business with you.

What has your best customer experience been like? How did it change your opinion of the company you were working with? What customer service qualities are you looking for in a business?

Why Obama hates the oil and gas industry

Perhaps someone else can explain this conundrum to me. Try as I may, I can’t come to a logical solution despite my best efforts to do research and ferret one out. President Obama has been consistent in one thing during his tenure as president since elected – his disdain for the oil and gas industry. Is this simply because he’s a Democrat and that’s what those who toe the party line do or is it something more?

Since I actually pay attention to the happenings of the government and political decisions made now that I have a say in who takes office, I have paid attention more or less to his speeches, press releases and annoying special reports that break in to my very important nightly television shows. In the majority of them, he’s made some reference to the oil and gas industry that needs its subsidies taken away or the fact that the industry has, shame on them, made a profit.

Is it only me or is anyone else confused at why during the three-plus year economic recession we’ve experienced that the oil and gas industry should be vilified for actually staying afloat and making progress in a downward economy? Or that it should be punished and strung up for public lashing by an Administration looking for a scapegoat when it’s helping to restore the economic unbalance through investments and job creation?

I came across this quote that API chief economist John Felmy said earlier this spring regarding the Obama Administration’s negative response to profits announced by the industry.

“Oil companies are not owned by space aliens, as some people would argue in Washington,” Felmy said. “They’re owned by tens of millions of Americans who have their IRAs, 401(k)s and pension funds invested in the companies.”

Is seems the President forgets that the oil and gas industry is not owned by aliens as well. With no resemblance to our green Martian friends, the industry is instead owned and run by hard-working, white-collar, blue-collar, black-collar, whatever-collar Americans you want to call them. It takes all kinds and it is made up of people from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic and everywhere in between.

Trying to crush the industry with an iron fist because you’re in power only hurts the country you’ve sworn to protect and uphold, Mr. President. It’s time to remember who the real villains are in this world, and stop pointing the finger at those that have the power to elect – or more likely, not elect you again come 2012.

Is the oil and gas industry behind in data management?

The latest buzz for how to boost your business in the oil and gas industry is data management and standardization. Poor data quality and mismanagement of that data are two huge factors affecting how effectively businesses run across the globe, and even more so in the oil and gas industry – an industry that may not have jumped aboard the IT and digital era as fast as other industries in the world.

Let me back up and explain. When you hear data management or data standardization, your eyes instantly glaze over, right, and you begin to fall into a coma of boredom. Think about it though. Data are what makes your entire business run. Without accurate data how can you run your financial reports and make adjustments for the next quarter? How will you know how productive or behind your wells are operating than projected without the data to back up your theories?

Why is the oil and gas industry behind in data management?

Data clearly are central to being able to run a business efficiently. So why hasn’t the time, effort and money been given to make sure that your business practices are flawless?

In listening to a podcast on Oil & Gas IQ on data standardization, guest speaker Dave Wallis, chair of marketing for the Petroleum Industry Data Exchange Committee, offers an interesting perception on why the oil and gas industry is behind in data standardization.

In the podcast, Wallis explained that the oil and gas industry began investing in data standardization and management techniques at the end of the dot com boom, which really became a bust by the time the practices were expected to begin, negating any return for the companies who just dumped all that revenue into a practice that would never get off the ground.

The industry just went back to what it had been doing beforehand in the late 1990s and never really got started again because of how much the cycle of oil prices fluctuates, he said.

“Either oil is above $100 a barrel, and everybody is too busy trying to produce oil to look back at business systems and improve them, or it is at $30 a barrel and everyone is saving money and doesn’t want to spend money on business systems improvements,” Wallis said.

Now PIDX is an organization that “provides a global forum for delivering the process, information and technology standards that facilitates seamless, efficient electronic business within the oil and natural gas industry and its trading community,” according to its website, which explains Wallis’ presence and push for data standardization in the buying and selling aspect of the industry (meaning buying and selling products associated with the oilfield), but I saw some interesting parallels that can be made for those of you who are involved in the production and distribution revenue part of the industry that we work with.

Why is data management so important?

As stated earlier, every business in the world runs on data. Why is it so important that the oil and gas industry also be on board? Because the risks, rewards, costs and potentials are so much higher. If you can’t make accurate business decisions regarding purchasing, financials, payroll and future ventures because your data management is a nightmare, then you may have a real problem. Two ways to begin standardizing your data now:

1. Data standardization is as simple as making all data consistent and in the same, easily understandable format across your systems.

Knowledge is power and just knowing how much and what type of data you control in your business will empower you to make better and smarter business decisions. This begins with making sure your data records are consistent and in the same format. This includes something as simple as spelling, abbreviations, and the same names across all systems for the same product, account, well, expense code, etc.

2. Make the leap from paper to electronic documents when possible.

Here at the office we have seen requests for a scanning module increase in the past year for clients to be able to scan their documents, production spreadsheets, invoices, bills, etc. directly into the system instead of having to sort, store and file paper documents.

I know for small operators and producers this isn’t the easiest task to meet. For some of you, just working with your records on a computer is a big step. For those comfortable with the cyber world and how efficient electronic documents make your business, consider how your business can begin the transition.

One issue operators and producers have to deal with along with the fact that data is now passed on between businesses both electronically and through paper, is that the formats are all different. Companies now have to merge paper documents with PDFs, spreadsheets, AutoCad, scanned images and Word documents.

How can your business overcome this? Are there any good solutions you’ve seen for those who have made the transition already?

What can we do to help?

For those of you familiar with oil and gas accounting software, what can we do as a software provider to make data management easier? Are there additional modules, fields or features that would help turn your revenue distribution and well data into a goldmine?

How postcards shaped my future and could shape yours

Ever do something in life and think to yourself, “I never imagined I would be doing this 10 years ago. What was I thinking then?” Well, here’s one of those moments for me. Nearly 15 years ago I was a homely middle school student thriving in my overalls, pigtails and much needed braces. Enter the awkward picture on the right chronicling some early high school days I’d rather forget. I was also the postcard girl for my father’s growing oil and gas accounting software business – a gig I pictured ending once my illustrious college and professional life took off.

Introducing Postcard Girl

Postcard girl, you may ask? Yes. Back in the late 90s I was the one tearing apart the four-to-a-sheet postcards and laboriously applying postage for the company’s only marketing technique at the time. It was when we offered seasonal deals off software packages and had different colored postcards for each season. I was paid to sit in front of the old school postage machine some of you may remember owning that would take 10 seconds to ink the stamp on the card, waking the dead with its loud 1900 cash register sound. Sadly, I couldn’t find a picture of myself actually doing postcards in the family scrapbook to share today.

A glamorous job? No. But easy if not mind-numbing work? Yes. I spent many holiday breaks – even in college — using postage machines, postcards stamps and page after page of addresses to make sure our postcard mailers reached the intended audience country-wide. Did I think then as I cursed the addresses on the postcards as I postaged them that I would one day actually work for SherWare in a real capacity and share a horrific picture of myself? You know what they say about karma….

The postcards get a new purpose today

Back when SherWare started, the postcards were sent to get our name out to prospective clients about our business and products. Today, we still mail postcards out periodically throughout the year but with a different purpose. And thank God, we got wise and now have someone besides me postage and address all of them!

Perhaps you’ve received a postcard from us in the past, or are holding one now which is why you are here. The purpose of our so-called “marketing tactics” is to start a conversation with you and not sell a product, but offer solutions.

That’s why as you browse our site, read our blog or talk to one of our staff members on the phone, you’ll see us asking you questions about what you’re looking for, how you want the software to work for your business and what features would rock your world.

Do my job for me

The business landscape is rapidly changing in how businesses now interact with potential clients – something both challenging and exciting for people like me who spend all day brainstorming how to better educate clients and potential clients.

My job is to educate and poke your brain for how your current solution really works for you and suggest alternatives that may work better. Here are some resources from our website that may help you learn more about what solutions we could offer.

Resources:

1. Solution Center – Visit our solution center to see what solutions our software has solved for current clients. See screenshots, testimonials and case studies.

2. Do I Need This? – Download our Needs Worksheet and ask yourself and those helping you search for a new software solution these questions to help you determine if you need a new product and what it would include.

3. Information Packets – Check out the information packets on our three software products to see how they could work for you.

Accounting Manager Info Packet

Disbursement and JIB Manager Integrated Edition Info Packet (works with QuickBooks)

Disbursement and JIB Manager Info Packet

4. Blog Posts – Here are some popular posts you may have missed:

A case for Oil & Gas Software that Integrates with QuickBooks

Stop Using Spreadsheets to track your Oil & Gas

Four part series on switching software products

Why It’s OK to Switch Software Products

Do I Really Want to Learn New Software?

What if I Don’t Like the Software Once I Start Using it?

Are the software’s benefits worth the price?

10 Steps for Picking the Best Oil & Gas Accounting Software for You

Why Invest in an Oil & Gas Accounting Program?

Clients Share Best Tips for Picking Oil & Gas Software

Have a question that isn’t answered yet? Send me an e-mail or leave a comment so I can help!