- Associated Press - Sunday, November 22, 2015

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) - Getting laid off is rarely anyone’s dream come true. But for one oilfield company manager, it’s been exactly that.

John Bruch was health and safety officer for one of the top four oil services companies in the Bakken, managing 800-some employees.

Bruch was laid off in January, but knew it was going to happen before it actually did. That’s because he’d had a dream about it the Thursday before. In the dream, he was walking down a hallway, shaking hands and saying goodbye to everyone. But rather than being sad or angry, he was happy. There was a big smile on his face. In the dream, he knew he was going on to a better opportunity.

“I told my wife that morning that I felt like I was going to get fired and told her about the dream,” Bruch told the Williston Herald (https://bit.ly/1LksUyN ).

A half-hour later, his wife sent him an email. His company had announced it was laying off several thousand people.

He started laughing. “Well, I’m one of them,” he recalled.

The following Monday, a division manager he hadn’t met before flew in from Denver and called Bruch into his office to tell him the bad news. He was being released.

But Bruch just started smiling and laughing. The division manager asked if he was OK.

Bruch told him he was, but kept right on laughing and grinning from ear to ear.

“Seriously, are you OK?” He wanted to let him know about programs the company had that might help him through the experience.

“Look, it’s all right,” Bruch said. “God showed me this in a dream, and I have learned to trust the dreams that God has given me the past three decades. So I’m excited about it.”

The division manager couldn’t help but shake his head. This was certainly not the usual response to being laid off.

“Normally, people are angry and cussing me or taking a swing at me,” he said.

“Well I’m going to do neither,” Bruch said. He shook the man’s hand and thanked him. Then he called his wife to tell her he was coming home and sleeping in.

At first, Bruch didn’t do much of anything. He needed a break from his way-more-than-9-to-5 job.

“Being safety manager with the responsibility for 830 employees - to say that is pretty constant is an understatement,” he said. “So for the first month, I didn’t look at all. I was not interested in a job.”

After a month, however, Bruch was getting a little restless. He still had faith, of course, that God was going to show him the dream opportunity he’d been so happy about while asleep in January. However, prudence demanded activity. He applied for a couple jobs, even though they weren’t what he really wanted.

By month three, it still wasn’t clear what his next step should be. But he knew, dream or no, it was time to do something.

Things finally unfolded unexpectedly at a car repair shop. The owner happened to ask about his occupation. Bruch told him he’d been safety manager for one of the larger oil service companies in Williston, but was among those laid off in January.

The man immediately wanted to know if Bruch could come do some work for him. He had some side dumpers and some pipeline inspection services - and a client audit looming on the horizon.

“I don’t know what we need,” he said. “Do you?”

Bruch did. He was headed out of town, so he couldn’t do much to help the fellow right then, but the whole experience started him thinking.

“Bigger companies have their safety teams, but these smaller guys don’t,” Bruch said. “What I realized is, there are a lot of good guys, hard-working guys, trying to keep things together and keep rolling here. They need help, but they cannot afford someone at $80,000, $100,000 a year to understand the rules and how to comply with them.”

Bruch started a business to help smaller companies with all the safety and protocol larger oil companies demand of their subcontractors. It’s called Crown Compliance Advisors, and already has six clients, three brand new to the Bakken.

Bruch is not worried at all about starting up in a slowdown. It’s actually a good thing from his perspective.

“Companies have some time to put into doing things right as opposed to going all out to just get things done,” he said.

Oil prices may be low, but rules are not going to go away for any of the companies trying to survive in the Bakken. In fact, they just continue to get more and more abundant.

“There may be some companies that might say the fine is cheaper than paying someone,” Bruch said. “But the companies that have hired me are very interested in doing the right thing.”

Some online companies do offer boilerplate safety and protocol manuals, but these are often fairly expensive cut-and-paste jobs, some containing items that aren’t pertinent to a particular business and perhaps missing a few things that are.

Eliminating irrelevant material makes an employee handbook a little less daunting, Bruch said, and writing it in a more everyday language makes knowledge more readily transferrable.

Bruch also recalls a conversation he had a couple years ago with several other managers about employee retention in the Bakken.

“It’s a great place to fail,” one of the managers pointed out. “If something doesn’t work out, you can just go across the street and get another job, right?”

“So if a business fails, so what?” Bruch said. “You can go across the street and start another one.”

Bruch is not worried about failure, however. He feels he’s been shown the door that was supposed to open when the old one closed. He may be one of the few who can say he’s happy he was laid off - it has helped lead him to his own dream come true.

“I’m 100 percent debt-free,” Bruch said. “I don’t have a set schedule anymore, my blood pressure is down, my wife and I love it here, and we are very happy.”

___

Information from: Williston Herald, https://www.willistonherald.com

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