Philip W. Stalker president of Shell Guam Inc. Shell Marianas and Shell Co. (Pacific Islands) Ltd. is hanging up the gas pump to return to Australia.
Stalker began his career in the Marianas as finance manager with Shell in 1988. Two years later he left the company for other opportunities in the Northern Mariana Islands. After spending 10 years away from Shell he returned to the company in 2000. He started as an accountant and in two years moved up and back into the finance manager position. In October 2003 Stalker then accepted the new role of president for Shell in the region — the top position previously carrying the title of manager.
Stalker reflected on his return in 2000. “I came back with an attitude of relearning the business rather than thinking I remembered things or things were as they were.” He was charged with getting group accounts and other accounts in line on a monthly and quarterly basis and working with the management information systems.
In 2003 when Stalker moved up the corporate ladder and settled into the role of president he kept a firm hold on the corporation’s financials. “When we first came in 1988 it was an extremely expensive thing to do — to set up an oil company particularly if you have to start up with the standards of a major which is what the brand insists and what people expect.” He said Shell came a long way from a startup on a learning curve to a well-oiled and well-maintained organization. “Compared to where we were when I left 15 years ago and where we are today … we are in much more of a maintained position here. We’re much better established we’re still building and we’re always trying to take volume off of our competitors but we just don’t make those [early] expensive mistakes anymore.”
Stalker doesn’t take any of the credit for helping the company get to its current position in the market. “The company’s general business principles I believe are good ones and if you live up to those then eventually the right things happen. You can be unlucky sometimes or lucky other times but the fundamental philosophies are good ones and they stand you in good stead and I didn’t invent those.”
Stalker said Shell Guam has high staff retention. “The other thing that I inherited when I came back was an extraordinarily good staff. A lot of the folks have been here more than 10 years and that makes the job a lot easier.”
While he won’t miss the natural disasters that plague the area from time to time Stalker said he admired the tenacity and will of the people to work together and get beyond the situation “I don’t think it is limited to typhoons. When disasters strike families there is always help there. When I first got here somebody told me that no matter what happens out here you’re never going to starve and your family won’t starve and it’s not because you are able to pick bananas off trees.” Stalker said “People will always help. It really is a community.”
Stalker said as he was saying his goodbyes to an employee he was told the guidance he gave was appreciated and helped this person move on to learn other things “To have somebody say that out of their on volition and without being prompted — I was very touched by that because learning is a gift that you rarely give to other people.”
He said while at home he reflected on the work he completed on his Guam house and became melancholy “Not because of the money I put into it but because of the amount of work and effort I put into it.” That same feeling also applied to his leaving Shell.“I don’t want to focus on what I am leaving behind because I just don’t want to mope.”
Stalker said he was leaving behind a team that was as good as the one he had inherited. I feel pretty confident that the Shell company locally will continue to go from strength to strength because we have good people and we have good principles.”
The hallmark of Stalker’s tenure is Shell’s willingness to share information with the business community and the general population through the media. “This communication process with the press is probably the thing I am least comfortable with but I think it is an important part of Shell’s commitment to transparency. It is a point of personal pride that I managed to maintain that and did it reasonably effectively.”
Stalker will work in the coal industry in New South Wales in Australia “My mother is there. We’re not getting any younger and the kids are growing older. We wanted to move close to family. My wife is from New Jersey. It was either North America or Australia and it just so happens that the job opportunity in Australia came up first.” MBJ