Brady Neal: Pursuing Passion
In Episode 5 of the Oil and Gas Elevate Podcast, hosts Sean McCoy and Eric Johnson interviewed Brady Neal, President and CEO of CORROSOURCE, on the company’s innovative WellSiteSentry solution, which addresses the need for greater safety at the wellsite. In this article, OGGN contributing writer Stephen Forrester got a chance to talk with Brady about his career and life. In Part I, Brady talks about his early career revitalizing two failing franchises, how a servant mentality drove him to pursue a lengthy career in law enforcement, and how an itch to do more inspired him to co-found an oilfield service company focusing on corrosion control.
From a young age, CEO of CORROSOURCE, Brady Neal, had a mind for what he jokingly called “tinkering,” an entrepreneurial spirit that drove him to want to create. He liked building things as a child, working with electronics in his spare time. Brady always had a feeling that his career trajectory wouldn’t end up with him at a desk job, as he found that his passions always shifted when he was bored, an itch to do more. After graduating college with a finance degree, Brady thought that he’d take the normal path of working in the banking system and moving his way up into an investment banker position with a large company. Wanting to help others invest their money responsibly so that they could build a future and provide for their families, Brady started as a teller and quickly made his way into corporate banking. About 2 years in, Brady realized that he needed more.
“I didn’t want to be the guy,” he recalls, “sitting on the other side of the desk, listening to peoples’ dreams, and letting them live out that opportunity without going after my own dreams.”
He’d gotten married in 2006, and his wife’s mother and sister had franchises in the area that sold window coverings called Budget Blinds. When his mother-in-law recognized that two of the stores were failing, Brady was presented with a unique opportunity to take equity in the franchise to turn those faltering stores around. In a twist that any married person can likely chuckle at, Brady’s first venture with his wife, a year into their marriage, was to start a business with her, her mother, and her sister. Fortunately, the innate drive of both Brady and his wife—“She could sell anything,” he laughs—and their entrepreneurial spirits helped them transform the failing franchises into some of the top performing franchises in the nation, learning all the while about what it took to run and grow a business. It was near the end of 2007, however, and the writing was on the wall for the looming financial crisis. “We were getting worried about the crisis,” he admits, “so we put the franchises on the market, and we were blessed enough to sell them and get out from underneath them.”
The sale injected fresh capital into the family’s bank account, but it came with its own problem: Brady was back to square one. What to do with his passion now that he was effectively unemployed? Drawing on a servant mentality that he recognized manifested in his teenage years—“I wasn’t a party kid,” he declares, “I was a storm spotter, for crying out loud!”—Brady took a step no one saw coming: he decided to join law enforcement.
“I always had that desire to serve,” he says, “to serve my community, to give back.”
With the job market relatively slow, Brady confided in his wife his desire, and she was admittedly a bit taken aback by the sudden change. Applying for the role with the promise of getting back into banking should his application be rejected, Brady ultimately succeeded in joining the police force. After 3 years working standard duty on the streets, he transferred into the financial crime unit, building a reputation locally. A lot of incredible opportunities followed: chances to work with the United States Secret Service, FBI, and IRS in Oklahoma City on large cases, as well as a special protective detail for George W. Bush when he was in Norman, Oklahoma. The years as a detective in financial crime informed Brady’s next path.
“It was in those years,” he remembers, “where I noticed that companies’ approach to risk, their lack of due diligence, had them taking on an incredible amount of risk. While I enjoyed the investigative part of the job, what I really loved was understanding how they could prevent these things from happening in the first place.”
In the end, Brady felt that itch again, unsure if he would be happy doing what he was doing for 20 or more years, getting a pension, and retiring. It was 2014, and an interest in oil and gas, formed from long exposure to the sector in the state, had Brady trying to find a way into the industry. He and a friend went into business together to start a company with a single corrosion-control product line for pipelines in the midstream and downstream industries—coupon holders, low-, mid-, and high-pressure atomizers, and so forth. It wasn’t easy; Brady put a lot of his savings into the venture to get it off the ground and help it succeed.
“I didn’t even know what this tool really did,” he admits, “so I started doing all this research, and I found a machine shop in Oklahoma City that would machine the tools for us. And luckily, the owner of the shop agreed to spot us the money to use the shop, giving us 90 days. He took a chance on me.”
Brady was still in full-time law enforcement, working on this project as a side gig—late hours on the weekends and Mondays, which he had off. Working out of his garage, he fondly remembers listening to Mark LaCour’s earliest OGGN podcast while he planned out the company’s strategy. At this stage, all revenue flowed right back into the company, necessitating Brady’s continued double life as detective and entrepreneur.
In 2017, Brady wanted to expand into other parts of the industry, buying two swab rigs for well servicing. Swabbing, which is broadly considered part of well control, involves taking the rig and equipment and removing the pressurized fluids necessary to fracture the well from the production zone. As business improved, Brady started to think about his exit plan. “I needed something else,” he says, “but the business couldn’t quite support me fully at that point. So, I wondered what was next.” His partner came to him after visiting a completions site where he’d seen a company providing fire suppression response on the wellsite, asking Brady if he thought they should get into that business as an expanded service offering.
“As soon as he said that, a light went off,” Brady notes, “because I had that passion for risk mitigation, and being a first responder, and I wanted to bring that experience to the industry, to the wellsite. But I didn’t want to do it the same way—I wanted to take it to the next level.”
Be sure to check out Part II of the article, where Brady discusses how his passion for people and protecting human life led him to creating WellSiteSentry, a fundamental reimagining of wellsite safety, as well as his thoughts on founding a commercial insurance agency and piloting a full risk intelligence program.