Kindersley– This oil downturn has had many casualties, but few have survived being been through the wringer in the manner Norm Neigum and Darla Dorsett have endured over the last three years.
The husband and wife team were the owners of Good To Go Trucking and its associated companies, and are the owners again, having snatched the company from bankruptcy. They did all this during one of the worst times of their lives, as Norm had been paralyzed, three years ago, from the chest down in a racing accident in Georgia.
Good To Go Trucking handles general oilfield hauling. Good To Go Rentals offers commercial and oilfield equipment rentals. GPE Fluids Management offers KCL (potash) and fluids hauling for fracking.
Pipeline News caught up to them in their Kindersley office on Sept. 16.
The companies involved include Good To Go Trucking, Good To Go Rentals and GPE Fluids Management. Their yard on the west side of Kindersley covers an entire city block, plus two other yards north of town and a shop east of town.
“We had two companies we sold to GPE. I owned Good To Go Trucking, and Norm and Dean Dorsett owned Good To Go Rentals,” Darla said (Dean is Darla’s brother). “We owned these companies for 22 years before the sale. GPE had possession for two years and down we went. But we are still here and going to celebrate 25 years in business Jan. 9, 2017.”
Great Prairie Energy Services Inc. bought the companies on Oct. 31, 2013. GPE was a new publicly traded company formerly called DevCorp. Great Prairie purchased and amalgamated Good To Go Rentals and Good To Go Trucking with an eye to rapid growth.
Our story in January 2014, noted, “Good To Go Rentals expects to open new outlets in the future to serve the Swift Current-Shaunavon, Estevan-Weyburn, Kindersley-Kerrobert and Lloydminster areas.” The downturn in oil later that year put a stop to that.
The deal to initially sell their companies to GPE was just being finalized when Norm had his accident on Oct. 13, 2013.
Downturn hits hard
“We fell victim to the declining oil prices,” Norm said.
“In November of 2014 Alberta got hit fast and hard. It was another 10 months before we felt it in Kindersley,” Darla said. Late November 2014 saw OPEC decide to open their taps and expand production, resulting in a tremendous slide in oil prices in the coming months.
“The receivers walked in Jan. 22, 2016, and their response was we’re no longer in business. At that point, Darla and I had to think very fast and make a five-minute decision,” Norm said.
“The reason we had to think fast was that Norm and I thought, to the very end, they were going to restructure,” Darla said. “We had faith in that to the very end. We really believed that until midnight the night before.”
“We knew we could turn the Kindersley operation around, our own companies. We decided, within five minutes, we would purchase our companies back,” Norm said.
These events took place just as oil was hitting its lowest point in this downturn to that point, with WTI trading at US$26.55 on Jan. 20, 2016, the lowest it had been since November, 2001.
“We worked too hard to watch it all slide away,” Norm said. “And we knew we could turn this operation around, and be successful.”
Kindersley was stable, Darla noted, but they couldn’t carry the Alberta side of the company through the tough times. Great Prairie Oilfield Services had locations in Drumheller, Valleyview and Rocky Mountain House, in addition to Kindersley.
Kindersley’s operations had never changed the company name.
The receiver’s coming
The couple’s losses were substantial in the entire affair, including not being fully paid out for the initial sale of the company to GPE in 2013. They had to finance the re-purchase of the company they used to own. Darla explained, “They phoned us on Friday. The receiver was here at 4:55 p.m. on Friday. Head office had called us at 2 p.m. to tell us negotiations didn’t go well. I hung up the phone, went outside, and thought, ‘What just happened here?’
She had been anticipating a call that was the total opposite of what actually happened. “I was just in shock,” she said.
In their 22 years of running the company, the two of them had only taken three holidays. She said, “Our life was this place. We worked way, way too hard.”
“I talked to Norm. We said, ‘Nobody’s getting it. We worked our lifetime, and nobody’s coming in and buying these companies.’
“The receiver came in at 5 o’clock that day, and by midnight, we had a deal where Norm and I would personally take on all responsibility for operations. We were working at the time, and we didn’t want interruptions.”
As Norm was a board member, Darla dealt with the receiver and bought the company back. The message to the receiver was, “You shut us down for 24 hours, even five minutes, we’re walking. We’ll restart on our own. Do not stop operations in mid-flight, because of the volatility of the work situation.”
The receiver was respectful, the couple said.
Darla was the largest unsecured creditor. She had written cheques to keep the company operational during this time. Of the equipment that had been sent to Alberta stations, including dozens of brand new tanks straight from the factory, none of it came back.
millions over the
The couple would take over operations until they could make a formal offer to buy back the Kindersley divisions. Darla took on 100 per cent responsibility that day for all expenses until that sale agreement was formalized.
While there wasn’t a lot of activity at the time, they did have some work, and they didn’t want to jeopardize that. “We needed the work that we had,” she said.
She had until Monday, three days later, to make an offer. “This is Friday. Got no lawyer, no banker, but through the weekend I brought all my family in. We worked hard. We got all our personal information together. The bankers at the Luseland Credit Union worked through the night, because I had to make an offer by Sunday.”
She had never dealt with a credit union before, but her daughter’s banker at the Luseland Credit Union went to bat for them. A syndicate of credit unions supported the deal.
“I was totally amazed at the efforts of the Luseland Credit Union, that they would take our file over the weekend and work through the night,” she said.
“Norm and I had been through two declines in prices before, when we were in control, and we survived them. This one, nobody knew how long it was going to be. But at that point, the point where you’re about to lose everything you’ve worked for, you have to come to the decision. Is it worth the risk? Of course it is,” Darla said.
The next six weeks were very stressful. It took several weeks to hash out the deal, then to get it into court to get approval.
Operations for the rest of 2016 were hampered by record rainfalls. They had work, but often couldn’t get to it. “Right now, we’re working at moderately lower margins, but we’re grateful for the work we have. Our goal right now is to keep all our families and employees’ families fed, and to pay for our equipment the second time around,” Darla said. “We’re grateful there are oil companies that continue to drill at the current oil prices. We’re just trying to work with the oil companies by absorbing lower margins,” Darla said.
“In the end, Norm and I are grateful. We get up every day. We come in. We do the best we can do. We’re grateful to be able to provide the service we do to the oil companies that are here, and we’re very grateful to our employees who stuck by us,” Darla concluded.
This October marks three years since Norm Neigum ’s accident. “I came back from dying six times. I came from cardiac arrest six times to ‘healthy as a horse,’” he said.
The accident came about when he was test driving a new race car in Georgia (he has his own race track just east of Kindersley). The accident resulted in Norm becoming a T-2 paraplegic (second thoracic vertebrae). He spent four-and-a-half months in the hospital in Georgia, then the better part of half a year in hospitals between Saskatoon and Kindersley when they got back. The American health-care costs came out of their own pocket, and those bills were considerable, to say the least.
In the middle of all this, the initial purchase of the companies by GPE had been taking place.
“We love our community and surrounding area. There’s so many valuable people that have helped us through all this, especially our employees, our long-time employees who rode this out with us,” Norm said.
Norm is in a motorized wheelchair. He goes to the gym every day, building his strength. “I don’t know anyone whose physically or mentally tougher than Norm,” his wife, Darla Dorsett, said.
Norm continues to mentor several racers, including Darla and Norm’s son, Shayne Neigum. The cars are like dragsters, but on sand, and without a parachute.