Dave Robson - 1991

CSEG Medal Recipient Dave Robson
Citation by Dorothy-Ann Reimer, P.Geoph.

Dave Robson

The small high school in Bawlf, Alberta matriculated only 6 people one spring day in the late '50's. One of them was an aspiring engineer whom the CSEG honoured last February with the 1991 CSEG Medal. Dave Robson, the entrepreneur who acquired an ailing geophysical company in 1974 and turned it into today's thriving Veritas Seismic Ltd., was chosen for his integrity and his extensive contribution to Exploration Geophysics.

The mid-sixties were hectic times in the oil industry for geophysicists with the discovery of oil at Rainbow-Zama and the advent of multi-fold recording techniques. Dave's introduction to this world coincided with these wildly active days when he joined a Calgary firm with its own electronics lab, building and operating analogue playback machines.

Working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, they converted thousands of kilometres of seismic traces, billing as much as $100,000 per month. So much seismic was being recorded in the same area that it was not unusual to handle the same line shot by different contractors within days of each other.

Dave Robson
Dave Robson receiving his award from Past President, Ralph Lundberg at the C.S.E.G. Annual Dinner, February, 1991.

It was a challenging time for Dave as he soon became Operations Manager. He retained that responsibility when the company was merged with Electronic Data Processors to become Computer Data Processors (CDP). Another merger in 1972 brought CDP and Digitech together. Robson had acquired an interest in Digitech and became Vice President of Operations and Finance.

But in 1973, the urge towards new challenges pulled strongly and, in today's vernacular, he decided to"do his own thing". Borrowing money from the Industrial Development Bank, he invested in an oil-drum reconditioning operation in SE Calgary.

Six months later, an opportunity arose that captured his interest and enthusiasm and which has continued to challenge him for the last 17 years. He was approached to lake over an ailing geophysical company. Raphael B. Cruz and Associates had a Raytheon based computer system in which seismic traces were brought into memory and the various processes were passed by it instead of the older method of passing traces through the programs. The concept was good and Dave agreed to join.

Today, he recalls that his first month's sales were $8,000 but the payroll was also $8,000, As well, the debt was around $200,000. Drastic measures were needed. The creditors had to be satisfied and sales had to be improved. The software had bugs: these had to be corrected.

From the very beginning, the customer was highly valued. There were mistakes but the determination to provide top service to the client was paramount, even to offering to re-shoot a data set they had inadvertently destroyed.

Through the succeeding years, Robson has branched out from seismic processing to serve other geophysical needs. With several other shareholders, he operates Decus Enterprises Ltd. as the parent or a founder of several companies including Veritas Seismic Ltd. (processing), Veritas Geophysical Ltd, (acquisition), FTA Systems Ltd. (software enhancement/ programming) and Vector Seismic Data Processing, Inc. in Denver.

Dave claims that he learned some very important facts of life at tile start of his career. About his university instructors he says they got your attention with '1lil1f of you aren't going to make it". "My first mid-terms, I got something like 32%". His room-mate had won the Wheat Pool scholarship with the highest marks in the province; "very humbling" to be around him and a good example. So Dave, who had never failed anything before, learned the role of hard work in achieving success

In his first job in Edmonton, he also discovered the "power of the secretary". He'd come out of the university feeling pretty important. He was preparing quotes for an electrical contractor when he quickly found that the secretary had far more control than he over whether those quotes got done or not. She knew the job; he only thought he knew it.

Probably the most difficult task he had to learn was the art of delegating. During Veritas Seismic's early years, it was necessary to be personally involved in every pan of the operation. But even with this energy, Robson could not do everything. So he did the next best thing. He looked for good people and today he is justifiably proud of the talent he has brought together.

In choosing these people he says he looks for technical skills but, more important, he searches for their value - "are they honest, straightforward; do they communicate well; can I trust them'!'. These are the questions he asks himself of every potential co-worker. Since "people-costs"are about 3 times equipment costs, it makes sense to be concerned.

Over the years, Dave realized that he "likes to associate with winners because it's so motivating". He is amazed at what some of these winners do - "things that make your head spin".

There is another side to this dedicated business man - an abiding interest that he pursues with almost as much intensity. On his acreage in Airdrie, he rides and trains cutting horses. He has in indoor arena to facilitate year-round training. He knows that good cutting horses must have iJ1leUigence, suppleness and flexibility and not many have all these qualities. Even with all these things present, training is still a long and exacting experience for both rider and horse.

He has ridden horses much of his life, buying his first quarter horse soon after graduation. Now his holidays revolve around horse-related events. A year or so ago, he toyed with the idea of retirement and decided to try it out by spending 2 weeks of every month in Oklahoma riding horses. The weather was great but there just was not enough challenge. So, for the moment, retiring is not seriously contemplated.

Instead, Robson will continue the challenge in keeping an oil industry related business viable in the current unpredictable economy.

His family have been highly supportive of his work. One son has been in California on a rodeo program and has won a letter in calf roping; the other son is looking at attending Olds College. He describes his wife as his 'best cheerleader" and seems proud to be able to comment that she "marches to a totally different drummer" from himself.

For the future, Dave Robson will continue to insist on integrity, honesty and truth in the business that he enjoys so much. Customers will remain his number one priority. With such commitment, he is certainly a worthy recipient of the 1991 CSEG Medal.

Dave Robson
Dave Robson, long-time supporter of cutting, shares his enthusiasm with everyone.