Raised on a farm in Savage, Mitchell’s Oil Field Service founder Everett Mitchell says his family might have been the poorest in all of Richland County, but his hard work and unwavering faith in God led him to tremendous success in the business world.
“I’ve had people ask me ‘why have you been successful?’” Mitchell said. “I say it’s not me. It’s the Lord that has brought us where we’re at. I’ve maintained that from day one.”
Mitchell, now 73, quit school when he was 15 years old because he needed to work to help put food on his family’s table. Looking back, he thinks that experience is what helped him build one of the largest oilfield service companies Montana. “We were poor, but it was probably the best thing that ever happened to us,” he said. “We knew how to work.”
When he was in school, Mitchell’s teachers told him he would never amount to anything, but thanks to the support of his family and the Mastvelten family, Mitchell never let that negativity get to him. “A lot of times that negative crap will rub off on you, but it never did with me,” he said. “I really appreciate the Mastvelten family. Elmer and Ruth were just wonderful people, and Don has been a great friend.”
As a child, Mitchell says he never really thought about what he wanted to do when he got older. He just knew he was going to have to work. At 17, he began working as a truck driver for an oilfield service company in Glendive. When he turned 18, he joined Daniel’s Oilfield Service as a roustabout. Several years later he left to work for Shell Oil Company. The work was hard and the hours were long, but Mitchell soaked up the experience and learned how the business worked.
Mitchell never intended to start his own business. He says it was something he was more or less forced into. Mitchell and his brother Calvin bought out Daniel’s Oilfield Service in 1972 and merged with a Utah-based company called M&M Oilfield Service, giving the brothers 10 percent of the ownership of M&M. Four years later, M&M bid on a job in Baker, which M&M majority owner Ray Molinski offered to Mitchell, his nephew, Duane Mitchell, and Eddie Mansheim.
“(Molinski) said if you make it go in Montana, I’ll sell it to you,” Everett said.
As a result, Mitchell’s Oil Field Service was born in 1977 when Mitchell purchased the Montana arm of M&M for approximately $200,000. It began with three trucks and a backhoe, and quickly grew to include 125 employees by 1981.
The oil business busted in the 80s, forcing Mitchell’s Oil Field Service to scale back its operation to 35-40 employees. Despite seeing its growth stunted, Mitchell’s company survived when others failed. “It wasn’t because we were smart,” Duane said. “It’s just one of those things. I could give you three businesses that I know that the operators were good operators, but they didn’t recognize the Lord, and they did unscrupulous things, and we bought them.”
From 1977 to 2007, Mitchell’s Oil Field Service bought out 17 other companies, with most of those purchases coming during the bust. “Every year we’d be in the red until October, and by the end of the year, we were in the black,” Everett said. “Everybody said how in the world did you make it. Well, we made it because God almighty was looking down on us.”
Everett’s parents forced him to go to church when he was a child. While he grew up in a religious household, he says religion wasn’t something that was real important to him until he met his wife, Viola. “I wasn’t really a believer until after I was married for five or six years,” he said.
Everett and Viola married in 1958, and one of the first things Viola did was tithe their income, with 10 percent of the money they earned being donated to charity. Everett believes that’s what got him through the bust, because he knew God would look out for him.
Around 1990, business began to pick up for Mitchell’s Oil Field Service, which had expanded to include around 70 employees. Seven years later, the company purchased property in Sidney.
By 2007, the company employed 135 people. Everett and Duane owned 51 percent of the company and the rest was owned by the employees, who received company shares as part of their bonuses. At that time, Everett and Duane decided it was time to sell, so they sold the company to the Stone Arch Capital investment group in a deal that was profitable for Everett and Duane, as well as the employees who had earned a stake in the company over the years.
Everett retains a 10 percent stake in the company and hasn’t officially retired, though he has far more free time than he did when he was running the company. “I’m kind of a consultant,” he said. “They don’t consult me too much, but I like that.”
Under the Stone Arch Capital group and CEO Todd Appel, Mitchell’s Oil Field Service has grown to more than 400 employees with facilities in Sidney, Baker, Glendive and Watford City, N.D.