COO of the Year: Myles Bosman

Myles Bosman
Photograph John Gaucher

When an intermediate energy producer picks up new operating assets, the job of making those new acquisitions work within the company’s portfolio falls to the chief operating officer. It’s no easy task. And for Birchcliff Energy, it’s been no small one either.

Myles Bosman has filled the COO role at Birchcliff since the company’s 2004 beginnings. A professional geologist and Birchcliff’s vice-president of exploration to boot, Bosman has had a distinct presence in all of the company’s senior decision making all along—albeit, he stresses, a fair presence. “Our business philosophy is the executives each have specific areas of responsibilities but we all have an equal voice on business decisions,” Bosman says.

“Trust and respect need to be earned, you cannot demand it, and the best way to earn it is to lead by example.”

One such decision of great consequence came in June. Birchcliff moved to buy up more than 54,000 acres of Encana land and infrastructure in the Gordondale Montney region, in a $625 million acquisition and concurrent $690 million equity financing. For an intermediate company like Birchcliff, the transaction represented more than half its market value. The fact it was happening during a time of historically low gas prices is one thing. That it was happening at a time when the company was preparing to implement a shareholder dividend was quite another.

“Our major challenge last year was integrating the Gordondale acquisition and proving the upside value of it,” says Bosman. “Part of our strategy was not just to raise the money to buy the asset, but to also raise the money needed to finance an aggressive capital program on the asset to prove up the upside, grow the production and grow the reserve base.”

By all accounts, the process of integrating the Grande Prairie area assets into a cohesive production center has been seamless, and the cost-saving opportunities it presented are already paying off. Then, of course, there’s the integration of the people. “We were fortunate to negotiate to retain almost all of the field staff—including the field foreman and 12 operators as well as three key Calgary technical staff for continuity of the asset,” Bosman says. “These field operators and staff members have integrated very well to the Birchcliff team and are a major asset.”

The greatest strengths he brings to Birchcliff include his strong technical understandings of the geological, engineering and operational issues involved in the day to day running of an oil and gas company, and leadership skills. “I have had many jobs, starting working on the rigs when I was 18. I have been fortunate to have many great bosses, mentors and leaders in my life. The most influential leader in my life was my father,” Bosman says. “I like to think his leadership, personality and work ethics are the basis of my own.” A few dollars in his pocket and only able to speak Dutch, Bosman’s father took the two-week boat trip to Canada after the Second World War. In Alberta, he found a Dutch farming family that gave him a roof over his head and taught him English in exchange for work. “He achieved many things including a great career in Alberta’s energy sector, raised a good family, and was a good member of his community,” Bosman says.

Bosman’s leadership style is one that strives to build confidence in his staff. “Trust and respect need to be earned, you cannot demand it, and the best way to earn it is to lead by example. A trusted and respected leader is a good two-way communicator: listen, learn and incorporate these learnings to develop strategies. Then you need to set clear goals and expectations and communicate them effectively making all stakeholders owners of the goals and expectations,” he says.

Bosman recommends focusing on the big picture, longer-term goals and expectations—if these are clearly communicated then the team can take care of the execution of the plan and shorter-term goals. “Be consistent, be fair, be predictable, and focus on the things that are in our control,” he says. “People do want to follow and accomplish great things. I believe all else being equal a trusted leader will get more from his people and have a stronger following. Be someone your people can trust. It is important to remember that it takes a long time to earn trust; it builds over time. The flipside is that you can lose it quickly,” Bosman says.

Ranked 68th on Alberta Oil’s list of “The 200” largest Canadian energy companies of 2015, Birchcliff reported annual revenues in excess of $300 million and profits of more than $12 million.

Bosman says his greatest satisfaction is knowing that he was a founding member of the team that started with very little and built a very successful company from the ground up that now employs 160 people, produces 61,000 boe/d, has a market capitalization of $2.5 billion and a great future ahead of it.

“We have an excellent team that has a high level of trust and respect that works very well together, including the field staff, our office staff, our managers, and our executive, I am proud to be a part of it,” he says.

The company’s recently released five-year plan lays the groundwork for controlled growth, the maintenance of a positive balance sheet and the introduction of a shareholder dividend. Birchcliff is planning to produce in excess of 100,000 boed/d by 2018, almost doubling its output over two years—and 130,000 boe/d by 2021.
The success of the plan will depend as much on the vagaries of the recuperating oil and gas markets as on the reliable leadership of executives like Bosman.

Getting Personal With Myles Bosman

COO of Birchcliff Energy

What is the most important quality that a senior executive can have?
To be a trusted and respected leader. Trust and respect need to be earned, you cannot demand it and the best way to earn it is to lead by example.

What is the least important quality that a senior executive can have?
Ego. Being overconfident builds walls and is divisive and distracts from open communication. Arrogance often leads to isolation, and then people do not have the same motivation or patience to be sharing ideas and being collaborative on solving problems and establishing strategies.

What is your greatest fear?
A poor economic situation for my daughter, my nieces, my nephews, all of their generation and the generation after that. I believe Canada, Alberta and Calgary have a significant competitive advantage over our peers, through our natural resource and its entrepreneurship.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Building a successful business while building a successful family and having good health to enjoy life while I am doing it.

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