After working together for 23 years, Ben Guill and Joseph “Joe Bob” Edwards know how to use their passions and healthy relationships to build a successful private equity firm. Although neither graduated from Texas A&M University, they both feel they share a unique bond with the school that has led them to speak on behalf of the Mays Transformational Leader Speaker Series, which recognizes business leaders in today’s society and gives them the opportunity to share their professional advice and expertise with the Mays community.
Guill holds an MBA in finance from Wharton School of Business and a bachelor’s degree in English from Princeton University. After receiving a bachelor’s degree with a focus in finance from the University of Texas at Austin, Edwards moved to Houston to start working for Simmons & Company International, where he met Guill. Three years later they both moved on to work for First Reserve Corporation, where they opened the firm’s Houston office and led First Reserve’s investment efforts in the oilfield services sector. The pair eventually left to start White Deer Energy, where Guill serves as managing partner.
Guill started out the session at Mays by giving one key piece of advice before jumping into discussions of White Deer Energy and opening up the floor for students to ask questions. “If you are lucky enough to get a job before business graduate school, do not think you have to go back,” he said. “Business school is not for everyone, so do not go to grad school just because you don’t know what to do.”
Edwards added that a student’s passion should be a driving force in what he/she decides to do after graduation. “My biggest passion is my family, so moving to Houston with my significant other and finding a job in the city rather than going to grad school was what I knew was right for me at the time,” Edwards said.
Guill and Edwards shared three more pieces of advice with the students:
- Try hard and be nice. Contrary to popular belief, nice guys actually finish first in the business world.
- Build relationships, inside and outside your firm or business. “If those with whom you work care about you and your career, often it leads to good opportunities,” Guill said.
- If you are not sure what to do after graduation, Edwards suggests getting a job that will allow you to keep considering what you truly want to do. “The broader the better,” he said. “Go with the company you feel will offer you the most opportunities for growth.”
“Mr. Guill’s concise advice of ‘try hard and be nice’ struck a chord with me,” said James Holland ’18, a business honors and finance major. Many other business honors students, including Jacob Kalinke ’19, agreed that this was the most valuable piece of advice they received during the session.
To close out the discussion, Guill told the students his favorite business story about a professor who gave a final exam where the only thing students were asked to do was write down the name of the janitor who cleans the classroom every day. Only three or four students knew the answer. “In business, there are a lot of people running things that you may not talk to every day. It does not hurt to get to know them,” Guill said.
Ryan Storch ’21, business honors major, said he enjoyed the talk. “I didn’t really know how much I would relate to the speakers because I’m not pursuing finance, but it was a great learning experience,” he said. “It was great to hear wisdom from someone who had gone down a business path, whatever that path was.”