2017 LP Gas Rising Leader: Ryan Harris

February 13, 2017 By    

ryan-harris-harris-propane-headshotVitals: Age 26; general manager at Harris Propane & Services in Salem, New Jersey

Years in the propane industry: 4

Please describe your role and responsibility, as well as your vision, in growing your company and connecting with propane customers of today: I manage the day-to-day operations of the entire propane business. I make the daily delivery routes, manage the bulk delivery transports, schedule the tank sets, line up all the truck maintenance and make propane deliveries during the winter peak season.

When I came into the business, we were doing roughly 350,000 to 400,000 gallons per year and showing very little profit. My main vision or goal was to increase our gallons to 750,000 while being profitable. At our year-end last year, we did 850,000 gallons, and we are on pace to break 1 million gallons by the end of this year-end, showing double-digit profit. The business is finally able to support my entire family with a decent income.

In 2016, we moved business operations to include Maryland and Delaware. My vision is to grow this area bigger than our New Jersey location and eventually install a satellite location or buy out another company in the area.

I connect with my customers by going out in the truck and delivering propane during the peak season. It is nice to get out and talk to some of our loyal customers and develop feedback on our operations. Other than that, our customers connect to us through our live call takers. At any given time, my sister or mom is there to answer the phone and take any questions, comments or concerns any of our customers have at that time.

Propane industry opportunities and threats: Within the last two years, I have seen an increase of customers switching their oil or electric heaters and water heaters to propane. The switch has been slow, but I am finally seeing an increase of conversions. … [As a threat], natural gas.

How then can the propane industry prosper in the coming years? The propane industry can prosper if we encourage more people to switch to a cleaner, more efficient-burning fuel. The oil industry throughout the United States is still large, especially in my area. If the propane industry can encourage a fraction of these customers to convert to propane every year, our industry would continue to prosper.

What does your generation offer to the propane industry that previous generations did not? The younger generation is more in touch with improved technology the industry has to offer. I have seen so many older-generation companies continue to utilize paper tickets with no tablets in the truck. After seeing the improvement the newer technology has done for my company, it amazes me to see some large, successful propane companies still not making the switch to the newer, improved technology. It’s tougher to encourage the older generation to change their habits, even if it means more money to the bottom line.

What technologies are you using (or plan to use) to support business operations? Our company went from paper tickets with an inefficient Julian system and little reporting to an updated system called FuelPak/Vertrax. This system utilizes tablets in the truck that are linked to our office that show real-time deliveries with turn-by-turn directions and improved mobile logistics. The switch to this system has increased our overall efficiency by a large margin, which has reduced our delivery costs and miles drastically. This improved technology is a big reason our bottom line has increased within the last three years.

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