Running a Water Well Drilling Business Requires Both Offensive and Defensive Strategies

It’s not only sports teams that run offensive and defensive strategies, but a water well drilling business must do the same to remain profitable.

Overwhelming tasks that seem daunting often make companies go into the defensive part of operations. The reaction is based on ensuring business survival and longevity.

“This is a normal response, but it seems this response is taken on longer than needed, especially during lucrative periods of when you should have growth,” says Chad Grignon, driller/owner of Pine State Drilling Inc. in Athens, Maine. “Those lucrative periods can be challenging from trying to add employees, handling workload, and making decisions on large investments and equipment upgrades.”

When a business is on offense, Grignon says a company strives to increase profit margins, add to retirement, savings, etc.

“Even during these periods, we can find ourselves back on that defensive mode by underbidding projects, not hiring qualified personnel, or making that leap into a new drill rig when it was the time to do it,” he says. “The offense of this industry will be you dictating your price, confidently ensuring future risks and the longevity of your business.

“Then the defense comes easier and makes a stronger team when those times require buckling down for an extended economic downturn.”

Grignon, who thinks most small family businesses today run on defense and not offense, explains that part of the defense can be not being proactive on maintenance because of cost.

“But we all know what happens when we gamble on this, and the costs can be much more than the risk we took being on that defensive mindset,” Grignon shares.

“Another example of a defensive mindset is our equipment is paid for so we can work at a lower price and maintain profit margin. But the complete opposite is the outcome since that equipment needs to be treated as it always has a monthly payment to ensure the next machine will be within budget.

“Defense is important but should not be treated like you’re going to recess your entire school years to take the beating from the playground bully.”

Grignon believes setting goals and building relationships can create the needed balance between offense and defense.

“Both methods are needed,” he says, “but we are all guilty of being on that defense too long when the game is in offense the last three seasons.”

Examples of the good of both strategies are:

Offense:

  • Market penetration: Identifying untapped areas for well installation and targeting potential customers.
  • Innovation: Developing new technologies or techniques to improve water well drilling, water quality testing, or water treatment.
  • Customer service: Providing excellent service to build a loyal customer base and generate positive word-of-mouth referrals.

Defense:

  • Regulatory compliance: Staying updated on local regulations and ensuring all operations meet legal and environmental standards.
  • Risk management: Implementing safety protocols to prevent accidents during drilling and ensuring the longevity of the wells.
  • Diversification: Offering additional services such as water testing, well maintenance, or water treatment to create multiple revenue streams and adapt to market changes.

Grignon told his father 30 years ago that mud rotary drilling “makes a nice place to set pipe but absolutely destroys our biggest investment [drilling rig]. I looked for options which led to the casing hammer that cut our downtime and breakdown costs by 70 to 80 percent.”

In spring 2022, Grignon converted his 2016 REICHdrill T-650-W LEGEND 3 rig to dual rotary (DR). His rig became operational in June 2022, one month behind schedule, but he was still able to catch up to the company’s 2021 total wells (nearly 140 completed wells and nearly 12,000 feet of casing).

When not drilling, Grignon enjoys reading geology books and even took classes on the subject for personal interest while in college. The two books that he references the most are Glaciers and Granite: A Guide to Maine’s Landscape & Geology and Roadside Geology of Maine.

“I think if drillers can identify formations and understand how overburden was placed, we can use better tools and be better drillers,” he says.

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