A Propane Profile: Dan Binning

July 7, 2017 By    

Binning performs work for the Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico propane associations out of his home office in Colorado. Max, his golden retriever, keeps Binning company at his office. Photo courtesy of Dan Binning

The Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico propane associations selected Dan Binning to serve as their executive director in November.

Binning came to the position with years of experience on both the retail and wholesale sides of the propane industry, offering the state associations with a well-rounded perspective. He also has some unique college experiences that helped to shape his character before he entered the propane industry.

LP Gas Associate Editor Megan Smalley met with Binning during this year’s NPGA Southeastern Convention & International Propane Expo to find out more about his new role, plans for the future and lessons he’s learned in the industry.

LP Gas: What made you interested in the state association executive director position? How has the transition been for you?

Binning: When the Baron [Glassgow situation] hit (the National Propane Gas Association terminated Glassgow’s employment last year), I was somewhat intrigued. I expressed some interest last June. But I certainly didn’t want to take on the [12] states [Glassgow] had. There’s no way that could have been efficiently managed. So I just threw my hat in the ring for Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico, and that seemed to me a reasonable workload. By the time I got done with the whole interview process, I got started [with the position] Nov. 1, 2016.

It’s been educational. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. There are a lot of things that I could have been doing over the winter to get ready for the busy spring training season, but I didn’t know some of the things that I needed to be doing. So now, I’m putting in very long hours trying to stay on top of things. Next year should be a little smoother.

LP Gas: What are some of your goals for the state associations in Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico?

Binning: I’m trying to increase non-dues revenues through sponsorships of meetings and seminars, as well as increase dues revenues. I think there are a lot of people out there who think they’re a part of the association but haven’t been paying dues, so I’ll try to explain to them the value proposition of [membership].

I would like to try to help things happen to make an atmosphere more conducive to growth for the propane marketer. So far from what I’ve been able to see at the state level, we’re reacting more than we’re being proactive. I’d like to get more proactive. We had a very good event in March at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix called Propane Day at the Capitol. We didn’t lobby, but we provided lunch for all of the legislators and their staffs. We had all kinds of propane equipment there, and I thought it was a great event. I’d like to see it recreated in Colorado and New Mexico.

LP Gas: What has your new position taught you so far?

Binning: It’s very early in the game, but I’ve learned to listen and be willing to adapt. I would say not only did I not know what I didn’t know, but I also didn’t know how to do some things. For example, sending out e-newsletters and the Constant Contact program were foreign to me. I took an online tutorial and webinars to learn. I’m getting better, and it’s not taking me four hours to send an e-newsletter anymore. Also, this may sound simple, but accounting and bookkeeping are new to me. Fortunately my wife was a bookkeeper in a previous career, so she’s helped a lot.

LP Gas: Before taking on this new position, you were a territory manager at Kiva Energy for five years. Were you ready to leave Kiva Energy?

Binning: I liked what I did, but it wasn’t as challenging as I would have liked to see it. I really loved being on the retail propane side of things for 32 years. The wholesale thing was a good learning experience. It rounded out a lot of empty spots that I had in my background, and now I’m learning a whole new phase of the industry. The only thing I won’t know is how to make propane.

LP Gas: How did you get your start in the retail propane side of the industry? What made you want to stay in the industry?

Binning: I went to [the University of Southern California] for graduate school to get my MBA. Part of the program was to get a summer internship somewhere, and I got a summer internship at Petrolane. It was an internship that never ended. They liked me, and I liked them. I stayed with them until it was sold to Suburban Propane.

I thought the propane industry was a good opportunity for me. I really enjoyed the people I was working with. Propane people are salt-of-the-earth type people. Their word is their bond, for the most part, and a lot of handshake deals are done.

LP Gas: I also saw on your résumé that you attended Harvard for your undergraduate degree and that you were on its varsity football team. Could you share a little bit about those experiences?

Binning: I grew up in Southern California, and [my family] didn’t have any money for me to do college visits. My mom worked as a cocktail waitress to provide for the family. I was fortunate to grow up poor. Harvard based all of its admissions blindly. They didn’t know how much money my family had. Once I got in, they looked at my financial situation, and because I grew up poor, I ended up with a full scholarship to go there.

My liberal arts education at Harvard taught me to think critically. And the football experience taught me discipline. You got no credit for playing football. If you had to take a test at 2 o’clock on a Friday and you were on a bus to a game, then that’s still when you took that test. I took tests on buses and airplanes, and the coach would proctor the tests. You still had to go to school full time, so it took discipline.

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