Award-winning entrepreneur shares some key lessons

Craig Hall, Publisher
Craig Hall, Publisher

The way Jack Hays explains it, it sounds so simple managing the companies he’s launched in Western Colorado. It’s just a matter of identifying and exploiting opportunities for growth. Hays puts it this way: “We find a need and fill it. We provide solutions.”

Any good entrepreneur like Hays will attribute success in large part to that most basic of business tenets. Find out what customers want and then, by God, deliver it to them. Of course, there’s a catch. And that’s the ability to recognize that opportunities exist in the first place and then marshal the resources and expertise needed to take advantage of those opportunities. That’s not to mention another requirement: doing the job faster and better than the competition.

In reality, finding and developing opportunities isn’t simple at all. It takes a thorough understanding of an industry that’s invariably acquired by years of hard work and experience. And that’s another important lesson Hays offers entrepreneurs who would follow his example.

Hays sets quite an example in starting and growing several energy services companies in Western Colorado. He launched Western Pump & Dredge in 1992 and sold the firm to Rockwater Energy Solutions in 2012. The venture Hays launched with a $30,000 loan from his grandmother is expected to generate $100 million this year. Hays also founded Resource West in 2006 to sell water evaporators, industrial heating pads and other equipment.

In recognition of his track record, Hays recently was selected as one of the regional winners of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award and is now in contention for national awards. The 26-year-old business awards program has become one of the most prestigious in the country. Past national winners have included such entrepreneurial luminaries as the founders of, Dell, Federal Express and Google.

Hays oversaw rapid growth for Western Pump & Dredge when he realized there was a need for a new type of business to manage water for natural gas and oil exploration and production activities. The demand for the services he subsequently developed was, as Hays describes it, “extreme.” He identified and filled another need in developing machines to more quickly evaporate water from wastewater ponds.

Hays’ experiences offer other lessons, too. He’s long cultivated an entrepreneurial culture within his companies in hiring smart employees and then encouraging them to come up with good ideas. Hays also has managed flexible operations that can quickly adapt to the changing conditions of the energy industry. When exploration and production of natural gas slowed in the Piceance Basin of Western Colorado, Hays expanded his companies geographically into gas and oil plays in other areas of Colorado and the United States.

Hays shares yet another lesson in entrepreneurism in the importance of perseverance. His businesses haven’t always been successful and he’s faced cyclical downturns in the energy industry and economy. Nonetheless, he’s taken the steps needed to survive so his ventures can thrive when conditions improve.

Running a successful business is anything but simple, of course. Thankfully, there are entrepreneurs like Jack Hays who offer an example of how it’s done.