Photo Courtesy of Kate and Wyatt Black
Kate and Wyatt Black are the ultimate hustle-and-bustle power couple in the Bismarck-Mandan area. Kate is the Vice President of Inland Oil & Gas Corporation and Managing Partner of Riverwood Partners, while Wyatt is the Co-Founder and President (Northern Division) and COO of Creedence Energy Services. Today, they’re balancing work, in similar gas and oil industries, with life and family.
Balancing work and life can be a challenge for anyone, but it’s an especially daunting task for the Black family. With three daughters, ages five, seven, and nine, the Black family has plenty of experience with juggling schedules. Read here to learn more about their companies, what a “typical” day looks like for them, their business ambitions for 2023, and more!
Tell me a bit about yourselves.
Co-Founder/President (N. Div) & COO at Creedence Energy Services
Wyatt: I’m originally from Williston, ND, born and raised. I attended college at Montana State University in Bozeman, MT. After school, I came back to Williston and entered the oil and gas industry in early 2006. The industry was really starting to pick back up following a 20-year downturn that began in the mid-80s. I had initially learned about the oil and gas industry from my family, from which I am fourth-generation [working in the oil and gas industry). My first employer was Halliburton, and after nine years in the industry and a couple of job transitions, I had the opportunity to start my own business. In 2014, with a business plan in hand and a couple of cousins circled around a kitchen table, we launched Creedence Energy Services, an oil and gas specialty chemical sales and service company. We started off with just two of the three founders on payroll because we couldn’t afford all three. Fast-forward to 2023, we now have over 250 full-time employees operating in seven states across the US, with half of the staff based out of western North Dakota.
Vice President, Inland Oil & Gas Corporation; Managing Partner, Riverwood Partners
Kate: I was born and raised in Bismarck and attended college at NDSU. My introduction to the oil industry came through my family’s involvement. My grandad began his career in the oil and gas industry in 1957 as a ‘scout for a Califomia Ol Company, now known as Chevron. As a scout, he was the eyes and ears” and sought out drilling information, such as the locations of new wells, leasing activity, and securing geological information. He later went on to work in the land department where he was exposed to negotiating leases and perfecting titles. In 1967, he went off on his own and founded Inland Oil & Gas Corporation, a full-service land brokerage company to develop prospects, manage the leasing and title curative. My mom took over in the early 90s and by the early 2000s, they had seen significant success in the early leasing play of the Bakken/Sanish fields in Mountrail County. We still look for opportunities to lease today, but as the development of the Bakken has progressed, we’ve shifted our approach to purchasing minerals or leases already held by production.
Above all, for me, this work is about being able to contribute. I want a seat at the table and to have meaningful influence to help move whatever entity, association or project it is forward.”– Kate Black
What Does “Title Curative” Mean?
The phrase title curative describes the process of correcting any defects on a title that would prevent a closing from happening on time Inland is here to help!
What advice would you give to hopeful business owners or entrepreneurs that you’ve learned over the years?
Kate: There’s a lot of high-fiving at the door. We have three daughters and they keep us very busy! Our girls are now old enough to play sports and we’re loving supporting them. Wyatt and I have a shared calendar on our phones that we use to try to work around each other’s and the kids’ schedules. We attend many industry events together, which can be fun but also challenging when planning around the girls’ events and arranging childcare. When we spend time together as a family, we try to put all of our work aside and just be together
Wyatt: From the beginning, it’s helped that we both understand the nature of each other’s business and that there are really busy times and that there can be challenging times. There has always been a mutual understanding of the importance of our careers. There are some work-life balances and sacrifices in certain situations where I’m coming home from a trip and grabbing the kids as Kate is shooting off for a trip herself. When we’re together, we really try to make sure that the times with each other are intentional.
Kate: When you both love what you do, it’s easy to understand when he puts in long hours or is gone because I also appreciate having that time to focus on my business and professional endeavors. There are a few times when it’s rock-paper-scissors to see who gets to go and we work together to find an alternative plan.
What does a “typical” day look like in both of your lives when it comes to balancing family and business?
Kate: I try to be in the office Monday through Wednesday. Thursdays and Fridays are my flex days, where I try to line up meetings or work on other projects. Though I’m not committed to being in the office on those days, I often find myself there. Our youngest daughter is five and will be going to kindergarten next year. So Fridays have become “our day” and together we run errands and knock out anything else on our to-do list all while prepping for what usually becomes a busy weekend of sports. I’m fortunate to have a lot of flexibility to set my own schedule; that’s a luxury that I know a lot of people don’t get, so I’m really thankful to have some flexibility that helps us balance family and our careers.
Wyatt: Time is our biggest obstacle right now. One quick fix to save some time was instead of getting a gym membership, we built a gym in our basement. That saves us 20-plus minutes or so daily in just commuting. After a morning workout, we both help get the kids ready and take turns getting them to school. I’ve had the opportunity to work from home for over 10 years now but am frequently traveling.
What are your businesses looking forward to in 2023?
Kate: Inland Oil and Gas is always on the lookout for opportunities to acquire additional mineral assets, while being careful not to force a deal just for the sake of making a deal. We keep busy with consulting and appraisal work by assisting mineral owners, attorneys, estate planners, and tax professionals manage or evaluate the value of their client’s minerals.
Wyatt: Creedence Energy is on a pretty rapid growth trajectory right now. Our Williston Basin operation is now the largest employer in the production chemical space, which is a fun milestone. In our Southern Division, we are continuing to expand our footprint across Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. As if that doesn’t keep us busy enough, Kate and I continue to expand our holdings company focused on real estate and business venture investments.
Kate and Wyatt Black’s Influential Books
Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh
“About the Author: Tony Hsieh became involved with Zappos as an advisor and investor in 1999, about two months after the company was founded. He eventually joined Zappos full-time in 2000. Under his leadership, Zappos has grown gross merchandise sales from $1.6M in 2000 to over $1 billion in 2008 by focusing relentlessly on customer service.” – ‘Delivering Happiness’ Amazon Author Bio
Winners Never Cheat by Jon M. Huntsman
Jon M. Huntsman is the chairman and founder of Huntsman Corporation. Author royalties from this book go to the Huntsman Cancer Foundation.
Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky
“As the founder and CEO of Behance, a company on a mission to empower and organize the creative world, Belsky has studied the habits of especially productive individuals and teams across industries. Now he has compiled the principles and techniques they share, and presents a systematic approach to creative organization and productivity.” – Excerpt of ‘Making Ideas Happen’ Book Description
Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey
“Discover the life-changing memoir that has inspired millions of readers through the Academy Award®–winning actor’s unflinching honesty, unconventional wisdom, and lessons learned the hard way about living with greater satisfaction.” – Excerpt of ‘Greenlights’ Book Description
The Power of Moments by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Chip and his brother Dan have written four New York Times bestsellers: “Made to Stick,” “Switch,” “Decisive,” and “The Power of Moments.”
How do you aim to balance your home and work lives?
#1 Don’t let your fear of the unknown squash your dream. You can do it. If you’re a hard worker and are willing to work hard for someone else, you can work hard for yourself too. I think that a lot of people are fearful of “taking the leap” into entrepreneurship because they don’t know everything from A to Z about their business and what they want it to be. If you can see the next step in front of you, take it. Starting and running any business is a constant learning experience—the more things you figure out, the less daunting the unknowns are. When my grandad started buying minerals and leases on his own, he didn’t know what Inland would grow to be three generations later. When Wyatt and his cousins started Creedence, they didn’t imagine it would balloon into the business it is today. Both businesses’ successes are examples of just taking the business one step at a time and seizing opportunities as they present themselves.
#2 Get plugged into the industry you’re in. Engage with others in your industry. Join a group or an association and be diligent about attending their events and absorbing their content. Be curious and ask good questions. You’ll be surprised how quickly your network will expand and those connections will prove to be valuable when you’re looking for input, solutions, or ideas for your own venture.
#3 Attend industry events to connect with other business owners and entrepreneurs. I recall attending events in the early years of my career where I only knew a person or two in the room. It was uncomfortable. I felt out of place and wasn’t sure if that would ever change. Event by event, I grew my circle by a connection or two and now those connections have morphed into friendships that foster support, business opportunities, and professional development, further enhancing my career.
#4 Don’t be afraid to ask questions to those that have made the attempt, whether it was successful or not. Figure out what worked and what didn’t. It’s definitely going to be a roller coaster of emotion, so just expect that you’re going to work harder than you ever had before, but the reward is definitely there. People have asked me what to do when starting a business. My response initially is “pray.” If you don’t know how to pray, find a good church and learn how to pray (laughing but serious). You need to understand that there are going to be many things that are outside of your control. You just have to accept the fact that when they are, control what you can. Make your best decisions based on the information you have and then you have to just let what’s going to happen, happen.
#5 Take a strong initiative and make sure that you’re active in the communities where you’re doing business. Across Dickinson, Minot, and Williston, we have team members on Chamber of Commerce boards and some of the Economic Development committees. This allows us to stay engaged with current affairs and participate in many of the community events that help promote business or community fellowship. It gives us the opportunity to give back to the people that helped support us from the beginning.
What other business ventures, do you have brewing?
Kate: Business is really a hobby for both of us as well. We’re always interested in investment opportunities and new business concepts. We’re trying our hand in the vacation rental space by building a vacation home in Medora, just north of the beautiful Bully Pulpit Golf Course. We’re hopeful Medora will be seen as more than just a day trip—that families will stay longer and revel in the beauty of the badlands!
What are some goals that you want to hit moving into 2023 for your business?
Wyatt: With Creedence, I want our company to be the preferred energy partner across the US. Kate and I want to continue to expand our network in the business community which will, in turn, allow us to diversify our knowledge and investments.
Kate: Consistency. For us, it’s about being ready when the right opportunities come along and not forcing them. In terms of personal goals, being involved in the community is important to me. I spend a lot of time volunteer-coaching my daughters’ sports teams and love seeing the progression throughout a season. Sports are an excellent opportunity for our youth to learn to work as a team and grow through both successes and failures. One of my favorite things about Bismarck is the vast array of opportunities for kids whether it be sports, music, 4-H, or STEM programs.
How do you think that being located in North Dakota has impacted the businesses?
Wyatt: We live in such a business-friendly, innovative state. If you want to start a business, this is the place to do it. The leadership from the governor’s office is terrific in supporting the business community. North Dakota has made available many tax and grant benefits. It’s evident that they’re here to help and make sure that you have every tool and resource available as you get started and set up. We truly couldn’t live in a better place than North Dakota.
Kate: North Dakotans are the best. It’s my theory that we’re just a few generations removed from some of the toughest, hardest-working, most determined people known to earth—the ones who braved the challenging conditions and homesteaded in North Dakota. Sure, we love to get out and travel, but ultimately couldn’t see ourselves living anywhere other than here, amongst genuine, honest and hardworking North Dakotans.
“This was my favorite part of the interview! There are endless reasons to both live in and launch a business in North Dakota.” – Brady
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