December 2020—DENVER, CO
In the wild and unpredictable year 2020 has been, we’re excited to share great news: Great Western’s CEO Rich Frommer was chosen as one of Denver Business Journal’s (DBJ) 2020 Most Admired CEOs!
Hard work, innovation and stewardship are keys for success in this industry; it’s no surprise Rich’s character, experience and thought leadership led him to the admirable CEO he is today. The 2020 Most Admired CEO program honors top-ranking executives who are guiding their companies through the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and whose past success is evident in the enduring strength of the companies they lead. In an interview with DBJ, Rich shares his industry expertise and advice while exhibiting strength, innovation, charitability and leadership.
In the last eight years under Rich’s leadership, Great Western has produced some of the cleanest natural gas and oil with the smallest footprint in Colorado. His leadership has led employees to view their position as a fulfilling career with a culture of positivity and commitment. At the height of pandemic, Rich ensured transparency and resilience for the Great Western staff through emails and virtual town halls to connect with others.
His accomplishments over the last year helped set the course for DBJ’s recognition; Rich led the charge to deter Senate Bill 181, which would’ve banned natural gas and oil operations in Colorado. He spearheaded a continuous air emissions monitoring pilot program, enabling clean and safe operations and supporting Great Western’s stewardship and sustainability efforts. And Rich doesn’t give up; his work in developing Great Western’s core values and adding the latest value – resilience – helped guide the executive team and staff through operational and financial challenges presented by COVID-19.
DBJ predicates its Most Admired CEO class on the ability to think swiftly and move efficiently with tangible results, and innovations for the future. Rich has surpassed those expectations.
DBJ posed the question of how Rich and Great Western has had to pivot operations during the pandemic. He answered:
“While global oil and gas demand has been reduced during the pandemic, we’ve continued operations to provide domestic energy to ensure that Coloradans can rely on resources such as home networks to telecommute and continue about their daily lives, even if in new and different ways.
“Ultimately, safety is integral to our business — everything starts with safety — and we’ve adapted to make personal safety in the workplace just another element of what we do every day to keep our communities, our workplace, our worksites and our employees and their families safe.”
Rich – or should we say Flash – focuses on integrity, inspiration and positivity at Great Western, and this inherent trait is just one of the many things that makes him an excellent CEO. As Rich ensured Great Western’s operations be conducted with integrity, we’re proud that his visionary values and intentions have been suitably recognized. Thank you for being a great role model for everyone at Great Western and to those who support us, Rich.
Denver Business Journal, Most Admired CEO Rich Frommer’s decades of experience lead to industry advocacy (Video)
By: Jonathan Rose
Great Western Petroleum CEO Rich Frommer is a professional geologist with more than 35 years as a leader in the natural gas and oil industry. He joined Great Western in 2013 after growing Samson Oil and Gas from a five-person company to a $7 billion enterprise. He has since been named chairman of Colorado Oil & Gas Association and grown Great Western to a top-five oil producer.
His nonprofit partner for this program is Make-A-Wish Colorado.
This Q&A has been edited for style.
You’re leading within an industry that’s been hit with a triple-whammy: the oil price wars and resulting stock market ramifications, new oil and gas regulations in Colorado and now Covid. How are those challenges informing the work that you do at Great Western Petroleum, and how have you adjusted? Having spent 35 years in the natural gas and oil industry, I’ve learned to be agile and to navigate the peaks and troughs of the industry. However, the challenges presented in 2020 have forced everyone to make compromises. I’ve worked extensively with my executive team to find solutions to maintain as many positions we could, and we continue to work on this each day as we face more challenges.
Our team remains positive, hopeful and looks forward to continuing to produce the cleanest barrel of oil in Colorado and setting the standard for how natural gas and oil operations should be done throughout the United States.
As a private company, you likely have more agility and room to maneuver than companies that answer to stockholders. Has that been a help or hindrance for you? You are correct that Great Western is a private company and thus has more agility to maneuver; however, we are still a company dependent upon investors and I do have an advisory board, executive leadership team and 150 employees I am committed to. Having an advisory board and executive leadership team has been an asset to me in brainstorming how to navigate the challenges Great Western has faced this year.
How else have you had to pivot due to the pandemic? The reality is, as an essential business, not a lot has changed in our day-to-day. While global oil and gas demand has been reduced during the pandemic, we’ve continued operations to provide domestic energy to ensure that Coloradans can rely on resources such as home networks to telecommute and continue about their daily lives, even if in new and different ways.
Ultimately, safety is integral to our business — everything starts with safety — and we’ve adapted to make personal safety in the workplace just another element of what we do every day to keep our communities, our workplace, our worksites and our employees and their families safe.
You helped lead the charge against Senate Bill 181, which many saw as potentially detrimental to your sector. What are the top lessons you walked away with from that experience? The version of the bill that passed ensured a cleaner and safer production of natural gas and oil in Colorado. My first takeaway is that as natural gas and oil production moves forward, people outside of the industry want to know that oil and gas is produced in a clean, safe and responsible manner, which is exactly how we operate at Great Western, and has been my mission since beginning work in the industry.
The second lesson is education. It is ever more critical that people, including our legislators and regulators, understand the science behind our business. The way we produce natural resources at Great Western to protect the air, water and environment, and manage our operations, is innovative, and it’s critical that those making policies to regulate understand what is available today and what we’re innovating toward in the future.
Great Western takes great pride in our commitment to producing the cleanest barrel of natural gas and oil in the U.S., and we look forward to shifting the conversation from politics to science-based dialogue.
Your nominator told us about your focus on integrity, inspiration and positivity. Tell us about their importance. As a leader, it’s my responsibility to instill these values into our business and our industry. When our team hires for these traits, we are able to be better innovators and we’re able to focus on positive change for the industry as a whole. I enjoy working with the team we have assembled at Great Western as every team member has these values ingrained in who they are and the work they produce.
Why did you choose Make-A-Wish Colorado as your philanthropy partner in this awards program, and how do their values align with the work you do? Part of Great Western’s mission has been to focus on giving back to the communities where we live and operate in ways that reflect our core values as a company. Currently, Great Western partners with more than 50 nonprofits in Colorado. In 2019, Great Western employees spent more than 500 hours volunteering and served more than 100 households in Colorado.
Make-A-Wish Colorado has been a partner of Great Western’s for several years. Its dedication to making miracles happen for Colorado families is important to our team. Their program supports an entire family in crisis when one member is facing a medical challenge.
For our employees, our relationship with Make-A-Wish is very personal. We are a family-owned business, and our employees frequently describe our culture as a family. We work together like family, and take care of each other like family. Having a partner in the community that supports Colorado families in times of crisis, and does so in such meaningful, creative ways, is something we are all exceptionally proud of.
What’s next for Great Western Petroleum? Like everyone, we are looking to recover from 2020, but most importantly we are looking ahead and preparing our business and industry to being a part of the much-needed economic recovery for our state and nation. There is not a member of the community that has not been impacted in some significant way by this pandemic.
And as we look forward to a post-pandemic world, we are prepared to have our team and operations back at 100% to support our communities and fellow Coloradans.
Our royalty and mineral owners are counting on that production to support their families. The municipalities, schools and fire districts where we operate will be reliant on these revenues as they look to return to the new definition of “normal.” We have all proven what resilience looks like as we have weathered these challenges — let’s take that resilience and leap forward into the next phase.
Real-life superhero: Robert Iger, CEO of Disney — a pivotal changemaker
If you could be any superhero: The Flash: able to respond and move on a dime.
Super-achievement of past year: Retaining an excellent team of people who are dedicated to moving the natural gas and oil industry forward
Advice for young execs: A leader’s beliefs are reflected by those who follow them.