Bob Palmer: The Making of a CEORIGZONE - Bob Palmer: The Making of a CEO
...Bob Palmer: The Making of a CEO
...Former Rowan Chairman and CEO Bob Palmer was no stranger to the rig floor.Former Rowan Chairman and CEO Bob Palmer was no stranger to the rig floor.Bob Palmer, former CEO and Chairman of Rowan Companies, worked his way up the ranks just like every other Rowan employee. Palmer joined Rowan in 1953 as a roughneck.
Back then, engineering students at Southern Methodist University
(SMU) were required to complete two years of work experience as part of the school's five-year cooperative engineering program.Switching off with a partner, Palmer
worked eight weeks, then went to school for eight weeks.After graduation, Palmer
found a permanent position with Rowan
...On his way up the ladder, Palmer held positions in engineering and purchasing, and worked as a drilling engineer and a project engineer building drilling rigs.In 1969 he was named president of Rowan International, and in 1972, at only 37 years old, he was named chairman and CEO.He remained CEO until his retirement in May 2003 and continued on the board until May 2006. While it seems that Palmer always worked for Rowan, there were a few years of absence.In 1958, when the industry took its first of several downturns, he worked as a design engineer for Gardner Denver Company.
Twenty months later, Palmer
was back where he
belonged at Rowan
.In 1965, he
left again.This time Palmer took an educational leave of absence and went back to SMU to earn his master's degree in engineering administration.He
returned to Rowan
Things ChangeIn this undated photo, Bob Palmer takes a break at his desk.
In this undated photo, Bob Palmer
takes a break at his
first ventured offshore in 1956 out of Grand Isle, LA.He
took a boat three hours to the rig, and then rode a rope basket to get on it.Offshore roughnecks worked 10 days on, 5 days off, which was significantly better than those on barge or land rigs.They worked 8-hr days, 7 days a week. 'They fed us and provided us with a place to sleep, and we worked 12-hour shifts,' Palmer said. 'We thought it was a great deal.'
Since Palmer's first offshore job, conditions have improved in his
opinion.Now rig workers get one day off for every day on the job.Automated equipment, too, has improved the physical labor involved, and the HSE accident rate has declined significantly. 'I worked on drilling rigs for about 5 years and I only had one lost time incident, and that was a smashed finger,' Palmer
...Palmer worked for Rowan for over 50 years.
Over that time, he
has witnessed a trend in the company. 'It is a tradition.Once you've been with Rowan
for a period of time, you just don't leave.'
However, in 1981-1982 during the oil and gas industry boom, Rowan
did see a number of drillers leave to join service companies like Baker Hughes, Halliburton
.But when the downturn came in 1985 and 1986, Rowan
hired back many of those drillers.We hired them back initially at lesser jobs than they had when they left the company.I think those people have been some of our greatest boosters,' Palmer
Rowan's turnover rate for new hires is around 50-60% a year, but Palmer attributes that to a dislike of rig work.He
said that Rowan
has an 80% retention rate for 5-year employees.
According to Palmer
, over the last 30 years, Rowan
has not hired a single rig supervisor.The company has promoted from within. 'If loyalty is going to be a two-way street,' Palmer
said, 'management has to give loyalty back to the employees.