Years in the propane industry: 5
Please describe your role and responsibility, as well as your vision, in growing your company and connecting with propane customers of today: I oversee all of the fuel sales. I am involved in everything from scoping out tank sets to delivering the propane to the customers. I am in charge of pulling tickets to be delivered and making sure customers don’t run out. I see propane as our greatest chance to grow our customer base for both deliveries and service because of its versatility as a fuel. We see a lot of people converting from oil to propane when they upgrade their heating systems.
Propane industry opportunities and threats: Autogas is becoming big in our area with school buses and fleet vehicles converting. We have a 100 percent propane-powered service van also. Not only is it year-round usage, but it’s a great option for companies looking to lower fuel and maintenance costs on their vehicles. Another opportunity is real estate. Having a relationship with real estate companies as well as homebuilders/remodelers is a great way to get a foot in the door. It also gives you a better chance of gaining the new customer who moves into the house if your tank is there already. … No one can argue that natural gas is a large threat to the industry, probably the largest. You don’t get a customer back that goes to natural gas and you can’t pick one up as a new customer for fuel. We as an industry have the upper hand, though, with a lower initial investment cost for the customer and still competitive pricing compared to natural gas.
How then can the propane industry prosper in the coming years? The only way is to keep pushing forward in order to do better as a whole. As long as all propane companies remain safe and always do things the right way, we will prosper. As long as we have great resources like PERC giving us the materials needed to promote ourselves and be safe and the National Propane Gas Association keeps us top of mind to the consumer, we will all prosper.
What does your generation offer to the propane industry that previous generations did not? Efficiency and technology. With radios and lap pads in every truck, we can communicate and dispatch or recall tickets in real time. We know where the truck is at that exact moment, and that takes the guessing out of it. When companies embrace technology and use it to the fullest, we can be more accurate with delivering better amounts. We can also see how much fuel is on the truck and how many deliveries the driver has gotten done. It’s great.
What technologies are you using (or plan to use) to support business operations? We have increased our online presence tenfold over the past two years. We’ve found that many more customers are going to our website to look at our appliances. Ace-Robbins has branched out in the past few years to offer whole home comfort. We sell and service Whirlpool brand appliances, so promoting online is a must. In keeping up with today’s consumer needs, we utilize social media and online marketing to boost traffic to the site. We made the switch to Cargas Energy for our back-office software in 2012, and we keep seeing improvements there. We have mobile Toughpads for our drivers and technicians, so any change in information or new deliveries gets sent to them immediately and we can see if they receive it or not. Cellular tank monitors are out in the field being used on high-usage accounts, as well as some rural locations and generators. In today’s world, we can’t be one minute behind, let alone one hour, so accuracy and immediate information are key.