"Is there anybody who wants to be average?" John Mork, CEO of Energy Corporation of America, asked a crowd of several hundred at the WVU Mountainlair.
This question, though rhetorical, made each attendee pause and think.
"Demand excellence of yourself. People who work very hard often get very lucky," he said.
That statement held true for Mork and his wife and business partner, Julie.
After graduating with his BS in Petroleum Engineering from the University of Southern California (USC), Mork took the lowest paying job offer he had.
"It was the most experience in the least amount of time. That turned out to be a very good decision," he said. "I had an education, a dream and nothing else."
He went to Alaska to work on an offshore drilling program with a company called Unocal. When his father, a West Virginia resident, asked him to come help him dig a gas well, Mork obliged, thinking the project would be a quick and easy one. He thought he'd be back to Alaska in no time. He couldn't have been more wrong.
"I messed it up so bad," he said, that he had to quit Unocal and move to the Mountain State. In 1972, Mork and his wife Julie founded the Union Oil Company. From its inception until 1976, the company made zero dollars each year.
"I owed everybody money," Mork said.
But he never quit. He didn't always know when he could pay off his debts, but he always kept his word in the end. In the late 1970s, the company got its big break when Mork found a huge oil field and subsequently built hundreds of successful wells.
Later, Mork founded Eastern American Energy Corporation, where he was president and a director of that corporation until 1993 with the formation of Energy Corporation of America. He has served as President, CEO and a director ever since. Today, the company is a top 50 energy company in the nation. Mork attributes the success of his company to its top-notch people.
Treating your people well, he said, provides an incentive for them to perform at their best. The company has an award-winning wellness program and a deep commitment to its employees and families. ECA provides numerous scholarship opportunities for children of employees, and any employee can further his or her education on the company's dime.
"Encouraging people is one of the most important tools you have," he said. "Treat others as you would like to be treated. It's very practical. We all seek out win-win situations."