Consult these resources for independent marketers

August 13, 2020 By    

Owners and managers of retail propane businesses have difficult jobs.

First, the propane business requires special expertise – bobtail operations, propane supply, finding and training quality employees, equipment procurement and maintenance, computer systems, finance, safety and marketing.

This list of required expertise grows if the marketer is engaged in selling, installing and servicing gas appliances. Today’s complex business environment also requires seasoned business leadership to set strategies, manage performance and solve the daily problems.

All propane marketers face these challenges. The only difference between the large, multi-state marketer and the small, independent marketer is scale. The large company can hire that expertise – executive experience, finance, propane supply, safety, etc. The independent marketer generally does not have this option.

Is it any wonder owners and managers of small companies “feel alone” when solving their complex issues? The good news is help is available.

Owners of small, independent propane businesses can overcome these challenges in several ways:

1. Join the NPGA Benchmarking Council. Established in 1995, the NPGA Benchmarking Council is composed of small groups of independent (non-competitive) marketers who meet three times a year to search for new ideas by comparing practices with others who share similar challenges. Discussion topics are decided upon by each group and range from any aspect of the business – personnel matters to bulk truck configuration – and anything in between. Council discussions are facilitated and confidential. These relationships become consultative friendships – a great source of feedback and advice.

2. Develop your staff through delegation. As the business owner, you cannot possibly do it all. When you find a person with an affinity for great customer service, consider getting them additional training. If someone has a knack with computers, invest a little in that skill set. One of your technicians is very safety conscious – help them develop that talent. Be ready to compensate them for taking on more responsibility.

3. Have a strong administrative assistant. Every business has its myriad mundane-yet-important tasks that can be overwhelming, such as keeping up with emails, scheduling appointments, and ordering supplies and parts. When you discover someone who is organized, capitalize on that talent.

4. Engage the right professional services. Ensure your professional services providers – accountant, attorney, banker, computer support and insurance agent – understand the propane business. Don’t simply give the business to a family member or friend. Knowing the nuances of the propane business goes a long way toward having these important needs of your business satisfied. Having a part-time propane consultant to help manage these professionals may be in order.

5. Stay close to PERC, NPGA and your state association. These organizations were created to help the propane marketer. They have propane expertise, tools and resources. PERC resources and tools that are designed for the propane marketer include marketing, safety and training. NPGA provides propane-specific legislative information; business councils such as Benchmarking, Cylinder Exchange and Women in Propane; assistance with regulations, codes and standards; and safety documentation for both the business and consumers. NPGA’s affinity programs provide access to services in insurance, accounts receivable, and discounts for such items as tires. State associations are the most direct source of help available to the propane marketer.

The best solution to being overwhelmed with managing the daily challenges of your propane business is to step back and take a fresh, big-picture look at how you spend your time each day.

Identify what needs to be delegated and where help is needed. Trust others to share the burden. Take the time to learn what is available to you through PERC, the NPGA and your state association. Be willing to invest in the right expertise. Build consultative relationships with others in the propane industry. Your business, family and personal health depend on you doing this.

Randy Doyle is a 30-year propane industry veteran who serves on the PERC council and the NPGA board of directors.

Comments are currently closed.