A Passion for Business: Talon/LPE’s David Prescott Shares Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
There are few local businesses that are as well known in the Texas panhandle as Talon/LPE. A local environmental consulting company, many panhandle residents have seen the company’s logo at worksites throughout the area, but they may not be aware of the level of economic impact the company has had on our community.
David Prescott, president and CEO of Talon/LPE, has led the company for well over a decade. Prescott has also helped guide entrepreneurs through his work with the WT Enterprise Center (WTEC). We spoke with Prescott about his company, his work with the WTEC, and what advice he would give to up-and-coming entrepreneurs in today’s changing economy.
What can you tell me about Talon/LPE and the kind of services you offer?
Talon/LPE is a full-service environmental consulting, field services, drilling, and construction company, and we do work throughout Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado. Our primary focus is soil and groundwater remediation for a multitude of clients, from oil and gas to pipelines to Fortune 500 firms. Just every possible type of industry or facility that would produce hydrocarbons or any type of chemical that could potentially get into soil or groundwater and have to have a corrective action such as remediation to clean up that property.
What kind of impact would you say Talon/LPE has had on the economy in Amarillo?
We typically have anywhere from 40 to 60 full-time employees. We are a science and engineering firm, so we hire a select group of individuals. We have been headquartered in Amarillo for 23, going on 24, years. We have a very strong payroll presence. We’re large donors of time and money to all sorts of causes in Amarillo—too many to list in this interview. I believe in philanthropy; I believe in donating time.
I believe we provide a service that is unique, innovative, and necessary. When we start talking about groundwater in this part of the world, and especially for Amarillo, we’re very, very proud of the groundwater remediation that we have been successful in keeping certain areas of the panhandle’s groundwater usable for irrigation and/or drinking water. We’re very proud of that! Billions and billions of gallons of groundwater have been remediated through our efforts in the state of Texas.
I know you have been involved with the WT Enterprise Center. What can you tell me about your involvement with the WTEC?
I’ve been involved with the WT Enterprise Center as an EnterPrize Challenge judge. I was also on the advisory board many years ago. Currently, I serve as an advisor and a mentor to the WTEC. As a “serial entrepreneur,” I realize the challenges that startup businesses face because I’ve been there, and I’ve seen those challenges firsthand. I believe the WTEC is an invaluable resource to provide individuals—those who are just starting their businesses, as well as entrepreneurs who are thinking about starting their business. The WTEC gives them the basic and complex set of tools to help them be successful. It’s a wonderful sounding board! The coaching, the programs, and interaction with the business community are second to none. It’s a wonderful resource that we have here in Amarillo and in the top 26 counties of the Texas panhandle.
Do you have a specific success story for Talon/LPE of which you are proudest?
We’ve had a lot of success and, likewise, a lot of failure. Over the course of 23 years, it’s a constant battle of “how do you get better?” Most of our clients’ projects are confidential, as you could imagine. We’ve done due diligence work. An oil firm was selling their assets and we were working for the folks that were buying the assets; we identified about $6 million in potential liability through contaminated sites. We managed to save our clients that much money that they would have had to have cleaned up had we not caught or discovered it through our due diligence stage.
We’ve also been able to help large construction projects and large groups of people building in downtown Amarillo. Even in Amarillo, we’ve been able to satisfy buyers’ requirements on pieces of property. We’ve reacted to several large train derailments, which are always an interesting situation. There are a lot of success stories, but some of them I can’t tell you—just things that go on behind the scenes that help folks.
You’ve had a lot of success and a rich career. What tips can you provide to aspiring business-people in our community related to success and perseverance, especially amid the strange economic conditions posed by the COVID-19 pandemic?
If you have an idea, an original idea, and you believe in it wholeheartedly and you want to start a business doing it, I would recommend not doing it for the money; do it because it’s your passion. When you really, really do a good job because it’s your passion and the services you provide are needed, then the money will take care of itself. It will come. I’m not saying you don’t need to know your costs and be a good business-person, but you have to have that passion and you have to know what you are doing. For every nine days you get kicked in the shin, you have the one day that you hit a home-run, and that’s what makes it worth it!
When you talk about the hard economic times, a lot of our work comes from oil and gas. Last year, the price of oil was like negative $20 per barrel. It just decimated our industry, and it was incredibly tough. We were doing everything right as a company; we had the right people in the right seats; the right pricing and services. There was just nothing we could do when the entire country shut down. If we didn’t love what we did, it would have been very easy to close the doors, but we believe in what we are doing. That would be my advice: you’ve got to love what you do and be passionate about it. If you’re going into it to make a ton of money, maybe you should evaluate a different path. There’s a lot of ways to make money, but there’s a lot of freedom in being the owner and being in control of your destiny and the direction that you want to go as a business owner.
With that said, there are a lot of tradeoffs. You don’t just work 40 hours and go home. People think you make a ton of money, but you work all the time, and you constantly worry about it and stress about it; however, at the end of the day, it’s very rewarding when things work out well. So, I would say you need perseverance, innovation, and have a lot of mentors that have gone before you that will help you get a lot of coaching at the WT Enterprise Center. Reach out to people who have been in the fight. Amarillo is a wonderful community for help. We help startup businesses and new businesses in this community. It’s an excellent place to do business!