Jennifer Lester

Profiles in GRIT: Elijio Serrano on balancing family with work, helping others succeed and being raised by a single mom

Blog Post created by Jennifer Lester Advocate on Jul 2, 2018

Elijio SerranoThis week on Profiles in GRIT, we’re talking with Elijio Serrano, the senior vice president and chief financial officer of TETRA Technologies, Inc. (NYSE:  TTI) and CSI Compressco, LP (NASDAQ:  CCLP). 


TETRA and CSI Compressco are global oilfield and gas compression services companies focused on the onshore and offshore markets for completion fluids, production well testing, water management and compression services. 


TETRA Technologies is the general partner and largest shareholder of CSI Compressco. TETRA is listed on the NYSE and CSI Compressco is listed on NASDAQ.


We spoke with Elijio, who received a GRIT Award at our ceremony back in March, about the challenges of balancing work and family, lessons from his mother and the problem with wanting everyone to overachieve. Read on for more from Elijio.


PINK PETRO: What’s the biggest challenge you have faced, and how did you overcome it?


ELIJIO SERRANO: My biggest challenge has been balancing my responsibilities and time commitments as an executive in a very demanding and volatile industry like the energy sector with the responsibilities and commitment to my wife and daughters.  


I addressed this challenge by building a strong relationship with a very understanding and supportive wife who understood the demands of my profession (married 42 years in February). I also built a tight relationship with our two daughters by finding ways to constantly be involved in their lives (coaching their softball and basketball teams, having common interests, running races throughout the world as a family, taking family vacations and guiding them as they evolved through their lives and professions).  


I’ve also blended my professional life with my family life by keeping both constantly aligned (i.e. finding opportunities to bring my family on business trips, turning business colleagues into family friends, using business lessons to teach my daughters about the world, etc.).  I believe that an executive in a well-grounded family environment will be a successful executive if he can find the right balance between both. If one allows work to stress the family or allows the family to feel second to the job, the individual will struggle to balance both to be successful.  One must be able to pay appropriate attention to both.


My circle of business associates all know my family, and my family knows my business associates.


Elijio Serrano ringing the bell at the NYSEPP: What’s one mistake you made, and what did you learn from it?

ES: I tend to build long-lasting relationships with all my employees and co-workers.  I give them a lot of room to develop and evolve and to learn from their mistakes. But sometimes not everyone is a good fit for the demands of a particular job. 


I have tended to give employees one or two opportunities more than was probably appropriate. Early in my career, I gave one individual room to evolve and kept coaching them, but ultimately that individual was not a good fit for the requirements of the job.  This person was ultimately relieved when I let them go from the stresses of the job. And I was relieved of seeing that individual no longer struggle with it. Many times, the hard decisions to make are the ones where you need to have an individual confront and acknowledge that they are not a right fit for a very demanding job.


In retrospect, I should have moved sooner to move this person out of their role.  Realizing that someone simply can’t succeed is a difficult thing to do as I don’t like to give up on anyone. I want everyone to over achieve.


PP: What’s been the most rewarding part of your career?


ES: The most rewarding part of my job is helping individuals evolve their careers, become self-confident and become successful. I have had the pleasure of working with, coaching and mentoring many individuals who have gone on to become senior executives in the industry and that have evolved beyond what they thought they could achieve.  I have had the pleasure of working with very many impressive ladies that felt the industry was a man’s world, but persisted and became very respected and successful. However, this is only the first part. I want them to help others evolve, become self-confident and successful.  


If, in your career, you can make a big impact on 50 individuals, then each of them can make an impact on 50 others each, and so on.  You then see how this multiplier effect can impact a profession, generations of families and groups of people. That’s how one can make an impact in the world. 


I have been the catalyst to many individuals being the first in their family to go to a university, to be the first successful business person. Then they do the same to others. I want to make an impact by helping individuals evolve to be self-confident, successful business people who balance family and work. And that creates another wave of such individuals.  It is so rewarding to see individuals become self-confident, learn how to deal with adversity and do better than what they thought they could achieve.


I was the first in my family to be a university graduate and to become a successful business person.  Two of my brothers have now done the same.  Both of our daughters are now doing the same. 


PP: Who’s been a “gritty” role model for you and why?


ES: My mother was born in Mexico and immigrated to the United States at a very young age. And she raised five boys, mostly as a single mom, working paycheck to paycheck. 


She placed priority on her boys.  Without finishing high school, she was able to become a successful and impactful manager in the fast food services industry.  Her work ethic and commitment to a successful business made her a sought-out individual in that chain of restaurants.  She taught me that the focus on family along with dedication to her job and profession can be achieved with perseverance, commitment and treating everyone like a unique individual.  She taught him to outwork everyone and remain focused on the family.


I got married while in high school (and am still married after 42 years), and I constantly worked harder than everyone else to get ahead. This was all heavily influenced by what my mom did.