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Last Update: Thursday July 29, 2021

Key Idea: Tell Your Story With Passion

This sculpture, "I'll Be Back" is the image the founders wanted to project at the launch.

Key Question:


The reason Bob and Steve launched XTO / Cross Timbers was because they were forced out of the company they had helped to build. It makes perfect sense that even when they didn't have any money, Bob and Steve bought the sculpture titled, "I'll Be Back."

Q:  Can a piece of artwork really affect the results of a business?

A: Yes. When you are working on a near-impossible goal, it is easy to become discouraged. When Bob and Steve look at this art, they are reminded that their goal is to build back to where they were when Southland Royalty was taken away from them.

 What is at work here is the technique of visualization. Athletes are taught to visualize where they want the ball to go. A golfer "sees" the ball go into the hole before he or she hits it. When you surround yourself with the pictures that remind you of what you want to achieve, these pictures work on your brain even when you aren't conscious this is going on.

Audra McDonald, the Tony Award-winning singer recalls that when she was four years old, she pretended that she won this award. By holding this image in her mind throughout her development, she was able to stay focused on voice lessons and getting herself in a position to win the Tony. When offered a scholarship to UCLA, she turned it down to go to the Julliard School of Music in New York City. This put her in the place she needed to be to win the award. The experience she had as a four-year-old guided her life because she was able to hold that picture in her mind. Einstein said, "The imagination is more powerful than knowledge." This is why the artwork works.

Think about it

How can you use metaphors and art to inspire and motivate you and your team?

Clip from: XTO Energy (aka Cross Timbers)

"I'll be back."

Fort Worth:  Remember when oil was $9 per barrel?  Bob Simpson and Steve Palko do.  They founded Cross Timbers Oil & Gas in Fort Worth at the same time others were getting out of the business. These two visionaries with a long range plan  teach us all what it means to take calculated risks.

Palko was the  VP of Engineering for Southland when there was a hostile take over of the company.  As a reminder to everyone in their newly-formed venture, one of the first things he did was to buy the "I'll be back" bronze (above).   And, surely, they did come back with a vengeance!

Today, know as XTO Energy, the business has quickly grown out of the ranks of a small business, but we believe the spirit of small business will permeate this business forever.  These people dream the impossible dreams then turn them into multi-faceted realities with deep-seated values.

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XTO Energy, Inc.

Gary Simpson, Senior Vice President

810 Houston St.
Fort Worth, TX 76102-6298

Visit our web site:

Business Classification:
energy, oil and gas

Year Founded: 1986

Tell Your Story With Passion

STEVE PALKO: We've always been achievers. As Bob puts it, `It wasn't so much that I wanted to make A's. It was that I didn't want to make a B.'

I guess the era that I grew up in was the era of the big corporation, and there were a lot of opportunities in the industry. New companies were starting. Small companies were aggressively expanding and growing.

And then there was an opportunity to get out of the big company and the big-company routine and get to a smaller enterprise with more of an entrepreneurial attitude -- an opening was created for vice president of engineering or I guess at that time, it was manager of engineering. So I interviewed for the job and went to work at Southland, which was a major independent at that time.

HATTIE: You were young.

STEVE: I guess about 30.

HATTIE: Wow. OK. But then something happened. You're sitting there at your desk, just doing your business, trying to make the company grow, and you get an announcement from some law firm that you're going to be taken over or bought out. How did that work?

STEVE: Really, you get a call from the company that has a strategic number of your shares, and they announce their intentions, `Well, we need to talk because we have 9 1/2 percent of your shares.' The SEC requires that you be under 10 percent, or announce your intentions. So at that point, they had to talk to us. And they said, `Our intention is to purchase your company.'

HATTIE: Were you angry?

STEVE: Oh, yes. It's your life. It's something that you've put a lot of emotion and hard work into. You look forward to a future of continued growth and prosperity. All of a sudden, someone says, `It's over. We are going to buy your company. We have our own vice presidents and presidents, thank you very much.'

HATTIE: `We don't need you.'

STEVE: Right.

HATTIE: Is it like someone stealing your child?

STEVE: No, but it's more like someone breaking into your house and stealing all your furniture . . . maybe stealing your house probably is a more apt analogy. You feel violated. You feel disoriented. I mean, you're knocked off balance.

You've heard the sculpture story? That statue is a cowboy torn up, gun missing, riding off into the sunset with a fist raised.

HATTIE: When you saw it, you didn't have any money to buy it, but you still bought it.

STEVE:  Absolutely. That was the spirit. `I'll Be Back!' is the name of the statue, and that's how we felt. First two years, maybe even three, we didn't have salaries. We used our own furniture for office furniture. You know, we brought things from the house to basically get things started. And so the early years were lean years.


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