As the Houston business sector comes to terms with compressed market conditions, opportunities are on the rise for SMEs, according to industry experts.
Gus Bourgeois and Travis Middleton are both members of the Texas Global Business Network (TGBN).
TGBN helps firms establish offices in the US, particularly Texas, assists in acquiring businesses in the US, thereby establishing an existing customer base, and assists in operating in the US once established.
The pair spoke to Energy Voice as hundreds of thousands of people descended on the energy capital for the annual Offshore Technology Conference (OTC).
Bourgeois said: “We are in the second year of the oil and gas downturn and I think the sentiment is more positive than it was this time last year, because there’s been a coming to terms with what’s going on.
“There’s a general feeling that the worst is over, or that we’re not far off the bottom. People are looking cautiously but still optimistically for a modest upturn that can stabilise the market and stabilise employment.
“There has been some gloom certainly around the job market, but I don’t think that the resilient Texas spirit has ever left the area. It’s just been refocused from expanding to protecting things like profitability.”
Depressed balance sheets has made some of the large Texas players hungry for the innovation coming from the SME network, according to the pair.
Bourgeois said: “There’s a lot of innovation coming out of companies in Aberdeen and innovation is still in very high demand here, in fact there is probably more demand than ever. I do have clients who are doing better in the downturn than they ever were before, because their product delivers efficiency.
“Previously they were lucky if they could get a meeting, because there was so much noise. It’s much easier to get a meeting with a decision maker and really have them dive into the technology and recognise the efficiency savings. In some ways the market is helping these SMEs.”
Middleton added: “When the balance sheets were high and the profits up, clients would maybe get in the door but there would be no follow through. Now they’re getting called back in.
“There’s an opportunity to have a significantly more meaningful dialogue with the end user when you previously wouldn’t have been able to get an appointment with the appropriate person.
“The things that people need like office space and the additional pieces to set-up in this market are here for the taking.”
Companies previously blocked by the soaring prices of property and people should take advantage of well placed opening in the market, TGBN said.
“In terms of human capital, there are a lot of very smart, very experienced people out of work, who might not necessarily want to go back in to the corporate machine,” Bourgeois said.
“Instead they see the last 10 years of their career with a start-up they can grow with and help build. In terms of getting set-up rapidly in Houston I don’t think there’s been a better time. Office space and people are the two most expensive pieces of capital and both are at a discount rate right now.
“Because it’s so inexpensive right now, companies who would be looking to set-up a two man shop could come here in a bigger way and open up with 10 people. Firms could establish a distribution or manufacturing site that they couldn’t have considered before.
“If you have the people and capital you can make more than an entrance. You can make a splash and be a real success.”
Bourgeois is a shareholder with Houston-based law firm BoyarMiller. As a business attorney, his practice includes representation of U.S. subsidiaries of international companies in employment matters, mergers & acquisitions, negotiation of sales and services contracts, technology licensing and general corporate matters.
Middleton is the founder of Trademark Insurance Agency and has more than 30 years’ experience in designing domestic and international health insurance and employee benefit programs.