Ragen Borel is CEO of New Iberia-based manufacturer Map Oil Tools. She got started with the company when her father bought the company while serving as president of Texas-based Serva Group and moved it to south Louisiana.
I grew up in Cherokee County, Oklahoma, with my parents and older sister. I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful place to spend my childhood, surrounded by vast woods, lakes, rivers and wildlife. I spent a lot of time on my own exploring those woods, which provided an inexhaustible source of opportunities for discovery and gave me a sense of independence. My parents did a lot of things when I was growing up to support us. They ran a general store and electronics manufacturing company. My mom was a fishing guide and hot shot driver. Eventually my dad was recruited by an oilfield manufacturing company, Serva, and started the career that would ultimately lead to our current ownership of Map Oil Tools. My parents taught me to work hard, treat people fairly and to value connection and experience over materialism.
My family moved to Wichita Falls in 1994 after my dad had started with Serva. I was 14 and eager to start saving for my first car. I would take on any job they would let me do, so I stayed busy after school and during the summer mowing, organizing the shop and inventory, filing schematics, putting together technical manuals and working in the warehouse supporting production for the Map Oil Tools product line. I became familiar with the products, order processing and logistics and really loved the work.
The purchase agreement for Map included a two-year non-compete clause, so yes, we did start from zero. Dad spent that time building relationships and inventory, and then in 2007 I joined him in Louisiana as the business was starting to take off. It’s been a fascinating journey for me to be a part of that growth.
I learned so much about measured growth and supply chain management during that time. The most important thing that a small company can do is make a plan and work according to that plan. There have been plenty of times when over-exuberance for new revenue compelled me to pursue opportunities without proper planning, and that can kill cash flow if you don’t accurately assess the changes needed to support it.
Our customer base at the time of the 2015 downturn in the oil industry made us extremely vulnerable to market fluctuations. I think we felt the effects of the downturn almost a year before some of our competitors. We retained our employees for as long as possible, but ultimately downsizing had to happen. We’ve brought back several employees since the market rebounded. Our business has stabilized, and the growth we are experiencing will be managed carefully.
We have a solid team, many of whom I have worked with us for several years. Our company culture encourages engaged discussion in the decision-making process, and I don’t believe anyone on our team feels marginalized or threatened by my position in the organization. Outside of Map, I encounter some skepticism because of my age and gender, but it has not hindered my ability to negotiate with reasonable professionals.
Women are certainly filling more leadership roles. The door cracked open decades ago, and I think the people who gained experience from that are now seeing improved opportunities for advancement. Antiquated notions that a person is predispositioned for this or that based solely on gender or race are not just detrimental to society but economically as well. The case for diversity has been well established. Paradigms of the past have no place in the future, but there is still a long way to go. Mindful inclusion, equal opportunity and equal compensation must be a priority for any organization that seeks to make an impact and thrive.
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Ragen Borel is CEO of New Iberia-based manufacturer Map Oil Tools. She got started with the company when her father bought the company while s…