25 January, 2023

Keeping hope alive


Keeping hope alive

There is a famous quote by American author Robert Jordan that goes something like this: “The oak fought the wind and was broken, the willow bent when it must and survived.” Indeed, the reality of being human implies several difficult truths that we should all reconcile sooner or later. There are not many sure things in this world, but what is irrefutable is that storms do not bypass anyone, and what matters is how we withstand them and what kind of wisdom they leave behind. In this game of life (and business), there is no doubt that a little resilience, patience and hope go a long way.

This is a truth we know well at Baseload Capital, which is precisely why resilience and innovation are at the very throne of our values. This is also a truth that Larry Bandt has successfully embraced in the last few years while putting Baseload Power U.S. on its feet. As a Baseload Power U.S. Project Manager, Larry spent four years at the front line, taking the heat and working relentlessly through the impediments. Being a pioneer is not easy, and it isn’t for everyone, but Larry demonstrated that giving up is not a choice for him.

Focus on the things you can control

Larry describes his recent challenges: “It would be easier to say what obstacles we didn't encounter at Wendel! 

The most impactful obstacle, in my opinion, was the extremely lengthy permitting process. This impacted the timing and cost of the project dramatically, and without the appropriate permits, you don't have a project. It moves at the pace determined by the regulatory agencies (usually glacially), and you have very little control over the process. It ends up devouring a lot of time that could be spent on other aspects of the project. And you have to keep your frustrations with the regulators in check so that you don’t say or do anything that causes more problems. Supply chain issues were (and continue to be) another serious problem both from a cost and delivery standpoint. Items that were essentially in stock prior to the disruptions caused by COVID-19 suddenly became long lead items with 18–24-week delivery times if you could even order them. And the price for these materials skyrocketed, with cost increases of 25-50% virtually overnight. Finding available contractors capable and interested in doing the specialized work needed by the project added yet another hurdle to the project. I ended up becoming a contractor to do the tasks that we couldn't find others to do”.

Despite all the problems, his determination to prove the naysayers wrong motivated Larry not to give up. “These types of projects are a marathon, not a sprint, so you can't fixate on things that go wrong or that you can't change; you have to focus on the things you can control. It's like eating an elephant; if you think too much about how much you have right in front of you, you won't even take the first bite. But if you pick a place to start, start chewing, and tell yourself that each bite you take gets you closer to the end, even if you don't feel like you are getting anywhere, you'll eventually end up with a pile of bones in front of you. Relish the small victories when you have them and don't dwell on the defeats too long”, Larry tells us.

Lessons from the front line

No matter how astonishing it sounds, being on the front line, and trying to get everything up and running is not for everyone. In Larry’s opinion, being in that position, you need to try not to be discouraged or angry when things aren't going as planned. Find workarounds to whatever problems block your way, no matter how insurmountable those problems seem at the time. Have a short memory in terms of letting go of the bad stuff once you're past it. Get an intimate understanding of how the project you are working on is supposed to work. Ultimately, you wear a lot of hats and get your hands dirty to get things done. What will get you through unfavorable circumstances is undoubtedly innovation, as well as creativity. As Larry elucidates, find solutions that aren't available out of the box and come up with something that does what you need it to do.

Keep swimming

As far as lessons learned, Larry deems that patience was (and is) crucial. “Knowing when to say I've done all I can, I can't do it all by myself, I need help. And setting aside problems that you can't get your hands around and coming back to them later with a fresh mind. I'm not a huge fan of the phrase 'it is what it is', but it kind of sums up the mindset you need. There are times when I've had to accept that I can't force things to go the way I want them to, I have to let them take me down another path. It might end up not being the right path and I'll backtrack or go down another, but you need to think like a shark, keep swimming or die”, he adds.

What Larry demonstrated these past few years were values that are indubitably the ones we built Baseload Capital on - resilience, innovation and visionary pioneering. These are the values we rely on when there is an obstacle on our path and the ones that kept Larry’s hope for four years. Larry bent when it was a must and survived, just like the willow, and he is indeed an inspiration to us all at Baseload Capital.