Open house markets products, safety

September 1, 2004 By    

Since 1973 Ray Murray Inc. has celebrated its success by hosting an open house for their customers. This formula for success combines marketing of products, customer education, employee/customer interaction, great food and safety.

 Jay Johnston LP/Gas Magazine Columnist
Jay Johnston LP/Gas Magazine Columnist

I had the opportunity to know Ray, Sr., who was chairman of the NPGA Safety Committee when I joined in 1983. Ever the colorful character, he wore bright colors usually reserved for watermelons and peacocks. His passion for family, employees and his customers made him a great guy to be around. It was a sad day for the industry when we lost him to cancer in 2001.

Ray would traditionally address the crowd after the noon and evening meals with this toast: “Come early, stay late, enjoy the experience and just make sure that you buy enough so when you leave your bumper is dragging.” A genteel bootstrappers creed, if I ever heard one.

Today, sons Ray, Jim and John Murray, supported by “the best employees in the world” continue the open house tradition of marketing through this unique hospitality experience. This year, a dynamic safety program was added to the mix with a presentation by Charlie Morecraft, a former Exxon employee who was severely burned in a preventable work related accident.

According to Jim Murray, “We were approached by the Propane Council to host a pilot program, which was generously supported by PERC, as well as PERC participation from New England Propane Foundation, New York Propane Gas Association, New Jersey Propane Gas Association and the Pennsylvania Propane Foundation. This was an extension of our educational goals for the open house, but was a dramatic deviation from the programs of the past.”

The program was powerful, compelling and raw to the point of prevention.

When Charlie told us he knew better and did it unsafely anyway, most of us winced. As he told us about the pain, suffering and the cost of not being safe, we shifted in our seats. And when he showed us his scars and shouted in despair, some of us fainted.

Working with NPGA, PERC plans to extend Charlie’s experiences and message of personal responsibility for one’s own safety throughout the propane industry via video availability and hopefully future personal presentations.

The day also included other industry seminars and workshops, training on equipment and vendor demonstrations. But “Remember Charlie” was a real show stopper.

Another major component of the Ray Murray Open House is founded in the concept that familiarity makes good business partners.

“We view this as an important time for our employees to interact with our customers, place faces with names,” says Ray Murray Jr.; “Our goal is for this event to be a day of good friends and fun, a day of information and learning and a day of bargains and buying.”

Safety has always been a priority, and the company prides itself on providing comprehensive technical support to their valued customers.

“Our technical support staff is very balanced and everyone takes ownership of the assistance process,” says Jim Murray, “Our techs support each other. If one doesn’t have a specific answer, odds are the person next to them will have the answer to provide the necessary support.”

After a full day of information, learning, bargains and buying, Ray Jr. made his way to the microphone. He began by thanking customers and vendors for the great day. He thanked presenters, sponsors and employees alike. A friend elbowed me in the side and said “Here comes the bumper dragging speech.”

So went another successful Ray Murray Open House, proving that you can sell more products and have fun to boot while selling safety.

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