Conquering the elements with a new partnership

May 3, 2024 By     0 Comments
Arlen Fernandez

Fernandez

Arlen Fernandez and TJ Gerich were relative newcomers to the propane industry when they attended their first LP Gas Growth Summit last September in Orlando. It wasn’t long ago that Fernandez was a full-time firefighter and Gerich an airplane mechanic.

However, the problem they faced at their company, deBoer Propane in Key West, Florida, could have stumped longtime industry veterans. They found their answer at the summit.

DeBoer, which Fernandez helped launch in 2017, supplies propane and installs tanks throughout the Florida Keys, one of the most corrosive environments in the United States. The sun’s ultraviolet rays beat down on aboveground tanks, and saltwater can deteriorate underground tanks.

“After five years, it was so-so whether the tanks were safe to leave in the ground,” says Fernandez, managing partner and executive vice president of deBoer. “If not, we had to replace them.”

TJ Gerich

Gerich

Fernandez and Gerich already knew the solution. Two 30,000-gallon tanks at deBoer’s bulk plant were coated with a special Sherwin-Williams paint that protected the steel from UV rays and saltwater. The tanks, installed when deBoer first opened seven years ago, had remained pristine.

The problem was that deBoer was unable to find a tank manufacturer willing to apply the special coating in the factory. If deBoer wanted the coating on tanks it provided customers, the company had to do the job with its own workers.

“That cost us time and money,” says Gerich, deBoer’s director of service and operations.

At the LP Gas Growth Summit, Fernandez and Gerich met Robert Kenney and Daniel Quiroga, CEO and sales manager, respectively, of Metsa, a propane tank manufacturer in Monterrey, Mexico. Metsa, established more than 40 years ago, focuses on the U.S. and Canadian markets.

After hearing of deBoer’s dilemma, Kenney and Quiroga promised to provide an aboveground/underground tank with the Sherwin-Williams coating.

Robert Kenney

Kenney

Fernandez was skeptical at first, but all doubts left him when Metsa trucks arrived with the tanks.

“They didn’t see this as just another problem or hurdle to close the sale,” Fernandez says of Metsa. “They wanted to close the sale, but they also saw an opportunity to optimize their product.

“I come from outside sales, so I respect someone who takes on a challenge like that, not only to close a deal but to form a partnership.”

Quiroga and Kenney at Metsa, meanwhile, were impressed by Fernandez and Gerich.

“They are young and very smart and knowledgeable, and they are looking to make changes in the industry,” Quiroga says.

Daniel Quiroga

Quiroga

So far, Metsa has sold 38 propane tanks with the special coating to deBoer. Kenney says such service is an integral part of their business.

“We are a small company, and we value the relationships that we have built with marketers, especially small- to medium-sized marketers who sometimes cannot grab the attention of larger manufacturers,” Kenney says. “This has resulted in us developing some very interesting solutions for customers who would have had to get cookie-cutter products elsewhere.”

Fernandez and Gerich praised the summit for bringing deBoer and Metsa together.

“It was great, especially for two guys without 30 years of experience in propane,” Fernandez says. “The point of the summit was to buy, which we did, but what I got from the summit was relationships and contacts, people you can lean on who know a little bit more about something specific that you might not.”

Metsa representatives have been attending the summit since 2021.

“What I love most about the LP Gas Growth Summit is the casual atmosphere that they foster, which not only allows for business to get done but also provides the basis to generate friendships and true relationships,” Kenney says.


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Sept. 17-19, 2024

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