Presented by Grant Thornton, Preng & Associates and Nasdaq. Photography by Evin Thayer Studios.

Matthew Vining, 33

Co-founder, CEO, Navigator Energy Services LLC, Dallas

He led Navigator’s transformation from a napkin sketch concept into a substantial West Texas crude oil gathering and transportation company that was ultimately acquired by NuStar Energy LLC for about $1.5 billion. Now, Navigator eyes Midcontinent, West Texas and possible Rockies crude oil gathering, transportation and storage

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“The creation and management of Navigator from nothing into a world-class asset is, by far and away, the best example of my leadership.”

Career path: He began as vice president of Tenaska Capital Management in Omaha, Neb., from Aug. 2006-June 2013, before becoming vice president of business development for TPF Gas Services LLC in Dallas. Prior to the sale to NuStar, he was the chief commercial officer of Navigator Energy Services LLC.

Perseverance: “When you start from nothing, most days are not easy and some days you question why continue. But we persevered and created something very special and everyone remained safe while it happened.”

Long work days during such professional uncertainty come with great personal sacrifice. Through meaningful family health challenges, work continued. After time for self-reflection, “personal and psychological health are equally if not more important than what’s on my desk.” Despite being a lot of fun, having such immense responsibility for the guidance of the business and its employees so early in one’s career cuts both ways on most days.

Corner office: “Having an opportunity to lead a company at 33 is mind-blowing compared with what my original goals were. It is a function of strong and diverse mentorship paired with the confidence to take a risk on yourself. All that said, my wife’s support made this possible.”

“I believe it was a consistent vision that drew people to the company, and that was ultimately the most important attribute to its success.” What also helped was a corporate culture steeped in open communication and achievement of common goals, without being uptight and rigid. Vining is “very casual, but competitive.”

Audio Interview

Photography by
Evin Thayer Studios