No doubt we’ll hear the words 'cautious optimism' on stands, in the conference hall and in the aisles at Offshore Europe. And, by and large, it seems warranted.
For one, Oil and Gas UK’s Business Outlook 2019 says total production was up 20% since 2014, and more new projects were approved in 2018 than in the previous three years combined.
And what does such an improving landscape mean for businesses’ aspirations?
Many oil and gas companies will be looking for investment for expansion; others will want to attract suitors to facilitate an exit for the current owners; and others will be on the acquisition trail.
Whatever your end game, it’s at events like Offshore Europe where the importance of having your business in its best shape is thrown into sharp relief: ensuring you can protect your interests, stand apart from the competition and tap into the considerable opportunities out there.
Business MOT advisories
Whether you’re buying, selling, recruiting or looking to attract investment — ensuring you have a consistent approach in these areas in place could prove decisive.
Have you protected your intellectual property? for example, have you secured trademarks for names and logos? Could you apply for patents for new technology and/or seek to formalise protection of design rights? It’s worth ensuring too you don’t inadvertently license IP or give it away unintentionally in the midst of contract negotiations, particularly where the customer insists on its own standard form contract being used.
Make sure these contracts are thoroughly reviewed and consider using non-disclosure agreements in the early stages of negotiation, particularly before granting customers access to confidential information, or any underlying IP.
Exploring innovative ways to incentivise employees above and beyond salary or bonuses can be a powerful way to attract, motivate and retain the best talent. For example, many companies have found that enabling employees to participate in share options can be beneficial.
On the other side of the coin, it’s worth taking legal advice to minimise the prospect of non-compete restrictions for valuable team members being found to be unenforceable.
Businesses should consider putting in place their own standard contracting terms.
Even where they’re not able to be imposed on a customer or supplier, they’re a useful tool for identifying how much additional risk the business might be exposing itself to.
It is also worth considering contracting overseas other than through a UK parent company, generally this can be achieved by setting up a local branch or subsidiary. This may be a requirement in some places, in others it can provide an additional layer of protection for UK based assets in the event of a dispute.
While many businesses will be incorporated, further consideration should be given to protecting personal assets as it is not uncommon for business owners to be asked to provide personal guarantees for a company’s obligations.
And finally, when it comes to general business responsibilities, there are immediate steps Directors can take to ensure compliance with evolving legal obligations such as GDPR, bribery and corruption, HSE and employment law.
As with most things in life, preparation is key.
Having the right approach, structures and procedures in place before you even pick up — or print off — your Offshore Europe badge will help ensure you’re in your best shape to make the most of the opportunities the event affords, with minimal risk, whatever your aspirations.
Written by Rod Hutchison, Partner, Ledingham Chalmers.