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Adrian Kane, Vice President Business Development North America, Atmos International

How would you describe your job in a minute?

I work a lot on our strategies, pricing and our product offerings. And I guess I dabble a little bit on the marketing side. Additionally, I'm responsible overall for the customer relationship journeys. I have a team that helps me with these things.

What is your biggest achievement to date – personal or professional?

Well, I can give you one of each! On a personal level, I finished top of my class of over 400 MBA students. I studied in addition to working which was tough going but the reward was worth the long days and nights. Then on the professional side, I’ve built a team that has helped to grow the business here in North America by almost 400% since I arrived. That's a whole team achievement, but as the leader, I feel very proud.

What does a typical day look like for you and what are you currently working on?

It really depends whether I'm at home or traveling - you know in the job I travel more than once a month, maybe four cities in a month. I have a workout machine here at home, so this morning I got up and did a quick workout before getting ready to speak to you. I’ll normally head to the office or meetings depending on where I am in the country. There's a lot of communication with clients and I like to check up on how things are going, talking a lot with our engineers, as well as working on proposals and contracts.

If I'm on the road, I try to schedule a little bit of time for the gym. And then it's about seeing as many customers as possible during the day. I also try to schedule breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings, as far as possible, to maximize the value of the travel budget.

This can take me all over the US such as Texas, the Permian region, the Dakotas – focusing on where our customers are based. And then we're in California – a lot of people don't know this, but the biggest producing oil-producing county in North America is Kern County, hence why we have our Anaheim office. We’re also working hard up in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada too.

Recently, we’ve added staff in a lot of those areas, so I don't need to travel quite as much as I used to, but basically, if a client wants to have a conversation, I will make every effort to do it face to face. That's one of the parts I really enjoy, getting to meet customers, see their environments and then to try to find a solution for them.

The face-to-face engagement is extremely important and that's why we have a strategy of putting people in key locations. For example, here in Southern California, there is the Long Beach and Carson refinery area. The same principle applies to have someone in Houston. When people are in more remote areas, they see fewer and fewer vendors making the effort to go to see them. So Atmos creates a big advantage by traveling to client sites and locations. I'm very lucky that we have no restrictions on traveling to see clients and I try to do it as much as possible.

One further thing that I really like to do is presenting solutions to clients, I love to go and get find out what it is they really need – asking questions first and then adapting the presentations to their needs precisely.

What three words would you use to describe your role?

Service as in customer service, Care, as in Customer Care and Sales as in selling (maybe change that to business development but that's two words!)

If you could switch jobs with someone, who would it be?

Internally, I wouldn't swap with anyone. I have the best job in Atmos, in my opinion. So quite happy to keep it.

Externally?

I don't think I really want another job. I would like to do other things but having a job is not really one of them. I guess I'd like to be a professional golfer, but I haven't got the talent!

What is on your wish list for your next five years here?

I think it's more of the same, the job here is certainly not finished. We need to continue the growth and the reason why that's so important that to me and I think to the company is that it moves us into an improved and unique position within the market.  It means people see us in a different way. I totally believe that, in terms of what we do, we're by far the best customer service company with probably the best products in the market. I want to give more customers the opportunity to work with us.

The other thing I think that's important is some of the developments that we're working on for example, in multi-phase pipelines. There's a huge need in the market for that and nobody really has a good solution right now, except for Atmos. If we could help resolve that problem within the market, that would be immense. And, it would enable our growth, as multi-phase pipelines can leak as easily as a single-phase pipeline. It's very important, for the environment, the general public and for our customer’s bottom lines that we minimize the spill size from those pipelines with leak detection.

What are your biggest professional challenges?

The biggest challenges that I face are really the market itself. Our customers are trying to do more with less, so their op-ex budgets are being reduced. As a result, there's a huge pressure on all the vendors within the market to be better and to be cheaper and to do more.

It's a big challenge to do that while maintaining excellent customer service. For me, that's probably the biggest challenge. Then the second thing really would be just making sure that everybody knows who we are and what we do so that we are considered in every circumstance. If people have more information, they can make better decisions.

There’s also the motto that you can have something cheap, fast or good, but you can't have all three! We need to explain our approach and why choosing Atmos is the right option for each customer.

If you could choose anyone, who would you choose as our mentor?

I thought a lot about this, and I would have to go with Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon. He had a great career beforehand but with Amazon, he took an idea to have a little online bookshop and turned it into the biggest retailer in the world plus other very diverse business streams. I'd love to understand if that was his idea from the very start, or if he had a plan for something much smaller. Then when he got it going, he developed his plan, branched out into different areas and made it bigger and bigger. I am also interested in the wider ideas that they came up with. For example, Amazon has no manufacturing despite being the biggest retailer in the world. I mean, how did he come up with that idea? The way that business is growing is just incredible for me, I just love to know how he did it and how he thinks!

If you could go back and speak with a 16-year-old self, what would you tell yourself?

The one thing that would have been very helpful is to learn and appreciate that collaboration is key to business success. In my generation, we were taught to be very competitive with each other. I think especially today the key to business success, both internally and with your customers, is to collaborate a lot more – though you still need to watch your competitors! The importance of collaboration is something that I kind of wish I'd learned much earlier.

Is there any advice that you'd give to those new entrance to Atmos?

The main thing is for anybody coming in, but in particular, for younger guys and girls coming out of college is to be patient. You're not going to be the CEO on your third day and believe me, you wouldn't want to be. It takes time. A lot of people want to have a big impact on the company, and you can totally do that within Atmos. You don't need any particular position or role. We had a young guy start in our California office, and he is just fabulous on the phone with customers. The way he can deal with customers is just really incredible – we are talking about a very young guy. He’ gone on to train Atmos staff in similar time zones on answering the phone and in dealing with customers. He did that within his first year and influenced everybody. By taking responsibility and finding your little niche, you can have a big impact on the company from almost any role. What I'd say is be patient and you don't have to skip up 18 levels in five years, because that doesn’t add value to the business or your own learning.

It’s about your experience. I started as a project engineer and went through various project management roles, working with almost all the products. Then I moved more towards the sales side leading to my current role. That experience and all the skills that I picked up along the way feed into what I’m able to do today. Experience counts.

What is your motto or personal mantra?

It took me many years to understand this. It is to do the right thing every day. Understand what your role within the company is. That should be your main goal. For example, my main goal is to grow the business in the areas I'm responsible for in North America. That's my main goal. Everything I do should be working towards that. Then have a strategy and put processes in place that help me do that. Then I do that every single day. Over time, again it’s the patience thing again, you can move steadily towards that goal.

What's really great about that is it helps you decide on very difficult things because it makes decision processes easier, because what you can say is does this take me towards my main goal or not? And don’t just have main goals, you should have a subset of goals that lead to the main goals. In my mind, I'm very clear about that and I try to get my team to focus on that, too.

The question I ask is if we have a difficult decision that one of my team is trying to make, ‘how does it fit with your goals?’ Are we getting closer or further away? It's really quite easy to decide after that. If you do the right thing every day or do the things that get you nearer your goal every day, over time you start to get there.

What’s your favorite blog?

I don't read blogs so much. I do follow a few people on Twitter like Bezos and a few others. In terms of podcasts, the main one I would listen to is the Pipeliners Podcast which I think a lot of people now within the industry in North America are listening to.  Living in Greater Los Angeles, I do a lot of driving, so I listen to a lot of audiobooks. A lot of these tend to be business type books and I'm listening to a lot of Robert Kiyosaki, right now. Coming back to Amazon, the Audible delivery method is something I really rate highly.

What’s your favorite country to visit?

It's hard to say, I like to go to Ireland because it's home and I get to see family and friends. Now that I live in America, I'm exploring here a lot. Yellowstone was absolutely incredible - any of the National Parks really. There's so much living to be done in Southern California too. You can be on the beach at the weekend or playing golf in your T-shirt in winter and then go skiing the next weekend with a relatively short five-hour drive from home. I’m really embracing this. The other countries that I've really enjoyed in the past were France with the whole culture, the food, the wine and again the skiing. I also enjoyed Thailand a lot when I used to live in China, that was my go-to place for the beaches.

Categories: Employee spotlight

By: Will Stone
Date: 16 September 2019