Not everyone is championing your success. The business world can be cruel and, sometimes, people have their own personal agendas. You have to be aware that dishonest people exist and tread carefully. You know what is best for your business and your success.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Niel Rootare.
Niel Rootare is the Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Silver Wolf Midstream, LLC, an energy and renewable infrastructure company focused on the acquisitions and operation of projects throughout the U.S. Rootare brings more than 30 years of energy industry leadership experience across multiple sectors from natural gas marketing and producer services to senior leadership of midstream pipelines, gathering, and infrastructure development.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My first job was on Wall Street working for an investment bank, which served as my introduction to big business and the inner workings of capital finance. I was captivated by how that all worked and began researching how I could build something up from very little to critical mass. It was a concept that, as a self-proclaimed critical mass achiever, felt innate to me and has guided my career for the last 30 years in the energy industry.
Most recently, I’ve founded Silver Wolf Midstream, an energy and renewable infrastructure company focused on the acquisition and operation of projects throughout the U.S. My interest in infrastructure was piqued in 2007 and 2008 with the rise in oil prices. At the time, it wasn’t so much a commodity game, but rather how to move that commodity around. To solve that problem, I built small connecting lines to oil and gas companies and then marketed their supply.
This is what Silver Wolf Midstream will do with our first project, the Michigan Express Pipeline. Michigan is the number one state in the country for propane and there is currently no pipeline for it. We purchased an idle 225-mile natural gas pipeline and are repurposing it to transport propane gas throughout Michigan and the Great Lakes region in a safer and more cost-effective way.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
It is inevitable that you will face hard times. It is a natural part of life and business, but the key is to not dwell on it. From my experience, you look back on hard times and realize that, in hindsight, it wasn’t an insurmountable hurdle. In the face of any challenge, I am committed to maintaining my tenacity, perseverance and confidence in my ability to succeed no matter what anyone else thinks. The challenges never define your journey. It is how you respond to the challenges that will pave the way for your success.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
I have always been a high energy individual, so I guess you could say my drive to continue is just part of my DNA. From a young boy shoveling my neighbors’ driveways to now being the founder and CEO of Silver Wolf Midstream, I’ve given 100 percent of myself to everything I’ve ever done because I need to be the best. A large reason why I am able to maintain this mentality is because I refuse to surround myself by negativity. The negative energy of others can influence you, and I learned early on to remove myself form those situations so I can remain in the zone.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
The outlook for Silver Wolf Midstream is very bright. We are responsible for a major project that will greatly benefit not only the residents of Michigan and surrounding areas for many years to come, but it will also benefit our shareholders as well.
The fact that we started this company in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic speaks volumes. These are uncertain times, and the world will undoubtedly face more challenges and uncertainty in the future, but that does not mean we need to all come to a halt. There are opportunities out there if you are willing to look for them.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I was in my early 30s, I was overly confident and servicing six or seven plants with a Fortune 100 company. I managed to secure a meeting with the corporate purchasing group at this company for their annual meeting. I was given the stage to talk about natural gas and the cost benefits my services would provide to this group of managers from all its manufacturing plants. During my presentation, one of the managers asked a question. I confidently responded with, ‘No, no. You don’t know what you are talking about. It works like…’ and thought nothing of it at the time. Some 20 years later, I had another meeting with that same company and one of the guys says to me: ‘I remember you. You are the guy who told me I didn’t know what I was talking about.’ Nearly two decades later and this man remembered me for all the wrong reasons.
The moral of this story is to never tell someone they don’t know what they are talking about. Think carefully about your response before speaking because you want people to remember you for your passion and drive above all else.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Silver Wolf Midstream identifies smaller projects that we can bundle together and are commercially viable to create a bigger footprint. With every energy infrastructure project and asset we pursue, each must meet the three fundamental criteria of safety, simplicity and impact.
This means that while we focus on acquiring, developing, managing, and operating critical infrastructure energy assets throughout the U.S., we are also ensuring every asset in our portfolio provides lasting benefits to the environment and to our shareholders.
Silver Wolf Midstream believes that many clean-energy challenges can be solved by reimagining and repurposing elements of the existing energy infrastructure. We strive to find new ways to deliver clean energy and renewable resources in ways that reduce our environmental footprint while introducing new commercially sound solutions to the marketplace.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Establishing a daily routine — and upholding that schedule on weekends — is critical. I’ve found that starting each day at the same time has made me more productive. I’d also encourage finding an exercise regimen that fits your lifestyle and limiting your alcohol consumption to special occasions. I’ve voluntarily implemented both these practices into my life and have found it has led to increased energy levels that allow me to wake up focused and ready to take on the day ahead.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
While many people have helped me throughout my career, Larry Smith tops my list of mentors. I first met Larry when I was an 18-year-old student at Eastern Michigan University (EMU). Larry was the Senior Vice President of Student Affairs at EMU. I attended EMU on a scholarship, but I was unaware I needed to re-enroll to maintain my scholarship status. When I inquired about who was in charge that could help rectify the situation, I was directed toward Larry’s office. He not only helped me navigate that situation and get my scholarship reinstated for the following semester, he also took me under his wings from that point forward and has been by my side for the last 30 years. He saw that I had a high energy personality and intelligence, and he invested his own time into ensuring my continued success.
In fact, the Michigan Express Pipeline project came about because of the introductions Larry made on my behalf to other former students he mentored. Larry has an affinity toward leadership-oriented students and identifying the movers and shakers of the world. Every student that Larry mentored has gone on to achieve extraordinary levels of success, from CEOs to elected officials and everything in between.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
My wife and I both are regular supporters of nonprofits in our community that focus on education, arts and music. My wife is an educator, and music has been an outlet and passion of mine since I was a kid. We regularly contribute to The Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW), which we are looking to offer further support in the future with a partnership with Silver Wolf Midstream. We have also sponsored individuals pursuing their dreams of becoming musicians, as we know first-hand how expensive and competitive that field is for aspiring entertainers. Additionally, we are longtime supporters of the Mercy Education Project, an organization with a mission of opening doors of opportunity to girls and women in Detroit.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Not everyone is championing your success. The business world can be cruel and, sometimes, people have their own personal agendas. You have to be aware that dishonest people exist and tread carefully. You know what is best for your business and your success.
- Trust your instincts. Intuition is in our DNA. When your gut instinct tells you something, remember to follow it. You will be better off in the long run because of it.
- When negotiating contracts (and relationships), do not forget to negotiate “exits” from those contracts. While you want every deal to be a success, the reality is there will be some failures along the way. Aim to walk away from those deals as professionally as you entered into them. A lot of time, money and emotion can be saved by proactively discussion all options on the front-end.
- Take care of your mental and physical health daily. When you prioritize your own mental and physical health, it allows you to be more effective at your job. It is important to have an outlet to relive stress and ensure you get a proper amount of sleep. When you are in a sound space mentally and physically, you’ll have more confidence when making the big decisions for your business.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help from others. Asking for help doesn’t mean you lose your status as a leader. In fact, great leaders know when to ask for help. Don’t forget to be genuine in your request. There are people who want to help and taking the time to build those relationships will come back in multiple ways as you build your team and business.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
The most meaningful moments in my life happened outside of the classroom while doing the activities that interested me. From sports and art to music and more, these are important programs that teach kids and young adults in our public school system how to develop life-long skills about leadership and accountability. Today, many of these extracurricular activities lack the proper funding needed to continue in meaningful ways. I’d like to create a “market” to generate income for activities, such as sports, music and art. Essentially, it would be a commercial way of creating funding through meaningful collaborations while empowering students to take control of their own destinies.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn, where I will be sharing the relevant news and the latest information and updates from Silver Wolf Midstream.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!