Profiles in VUCA

What is Seaweld?

Seaweld is one of the leading petroleum service providers in Ghana. Our services includes: technical support for drilling operations such as building mooring systems, which hold and secure oil rigs, toxic waste disposal, and tanks maintenance.

While active in the oil and gas sector, we also provide services to the mining and renewable energy sectors.

We have operations in 10 countries across Africa where we serve both local and global companies such Shell, BP, and Anglogold.

 

What is your role at Seaweld?

I play a double role: i.e, as a fortune teller and a foot soldier.

I would say a fortune teller because I have to anticipate the state and development in each operational country and to identify opportunities over a given period. With this I can align our company goals.

As a foot soldier, I coordinate the operations within the countries to help build and maintain relationships between them.

The challenge is we rely heavily on the oil and gas industry, which is very sinusoidal. To manage these ups and downs, I have to understand the sands of time inside and outside our typical business pathways. This helps identify opportunities that contribute to a stable business even with all the uncertainty in the market.

For example, we just built a solar energy system to power a rice farm in Benin. This project, in agriculture and renewable energy, is the type of opportunity we have to look out for, as it seems the days of $80 to $90 a barrel of oil are in the past.

 

What is your biggest challenge?

Most of the time, because I have to work in the future space far ahead of where people in other roles are looking, it’s difficult for others to understand what I’m trying to do. It just requires me to be precise in my calculations and precise in justifying the moves I want to make. Some may seem counter-intuitive. For example, when operational revenue is down, that may be the exact moment to take a risk and spend. 

That’s the life of a business developer—always looking ahead at how the tide is changing and what we need to do to stay afloat.

How does each part of the VUCA acronym manifest in what you do?

Oil prices. A decade ago, solar and other renewable energy technologies were so expensive, they didn’t make a sense as an alternative for petroleum. But that has changed  a lot. Gone are the days of $90 a barrel oil prices and $50 – $60 seems to be the norm. Will this precipitous drop continue, or will it slow down considering the recent steps backward the US has taken in climate policy?

War. War is always good for the oil industry, so all eyes are on geopolitical situations like tensions between the US and North Korea. The uncertainty alone can cause companies to start hoarding fuel, so fuel demand would go up, along with prices.  

At the same time, I hear OPEC wants to cut production over the next 9 months, but if they change their mind and beef up production, and the US market continues to pump a lot of shale gas into the system, we could go back to $40 and $30 a gallon.

Current financial markets. At the moment it looks like there’s steady growth coming back into the system. But now there’s talk of bank deregulation. Is this creating undercurrents that could lead to another global financial crisis in the next 3-4 years? This question is complex because of the possible misalignment of what is happening in the markets at face value, and what is happening below the surface or behind closed doors.

And if markets do continue at a steady growth, and western markets are profiting, how does that affect Africa? Africa is the next frontier of development and opportunity, but investors could still shy away from the 30% or 40% profit they could make here, and instead opt for the 6% profit in Europe because the perceived risks in Africa are too great.

Complexity also comes into play when you look at the whole geopolitical structure: will the US continue to be a super power? Will it be supplanted by Russia or China? And how do they approach doing business with Africa? How do we navigate all of that?

And how do we navigate growing environmental concerns, especially as they interface with the previous political concerns I’ve mentioned?

Who knows if I’ll even be alive to see tomorrow? And why am I worrying myself about something I may or may not realize will or won’t happen?  

It’s dizzying to the point of being funny, but the bottom line I always go to is not to make any decision written in stone—be ready to change and adapt.

How do you react to the “VUCA-ness” of our current environment?

It is exciting and energizing for the most part, but it can be overwhelming. When it does get too much, I try to hold on to a trustworthy baseline, a situation that is least likely to change. Disruption can always happen, and risk is always part of the job, but you have to build resilience and the skill of hunting for opportunities.

 

How do you react to VUCA?

At The Futures School, we couldn’t agree more with Michael’s advice not to be chained to your strategy when you see that it no longer works. This is the approach adaptive leaders take to make sure they’re always iterating, gaining the resources they need to survive in an ever changing environment.

Now it’s your turn. Take our quiz to find out what kind of VUCA leader you are.