Energy company grows with addition of propane

February 9, 2018 By    

Zac Cromie is general manager-propane at Smith Propane & Oil. Photo by Brian Richesson

At Smith Propane & Oil, Zac Cromie is leading a team effort to integrate propane into the southwestern Pennsylvania energy provider’s offerings.

Cromie, who stumbled into the propane industry almost by chance, has headed the propane side of Smith Propane & Oil for just under five years. After stepping away from a master’s degree program, Cromie approached his father and company owner, Dell Cromie, about working for the company. Zac Cromie said he wasn’t looking to immediately assume a leadership position, so he delivered fuel while evaluating his future.

During that time, Dell Cromie and Dave Talmage, Smith Propane & Oil general manager, visited with independent propane marketers to determine how to best introduce the fuel into their business. Finding the approach to make it successful was the next challenge.

“We really had no experience with propane at all,” Zac Cromie says. “So, [Dell Cromie] did his due diligence and in doing so he came to the conclusion that it could not just be the office staff and a technician.”

Smith Propane & Oil had planned for a technician to drive the bobtail and do all technical work, which would have been a tall order. Through his trips, Dell Cromie realized a salesman was needed to manage a successful propane operation.

After the propane infrastructure was established at the operation, Zac Cromie agreed to commit three full-time years as the salesman to get the propane side off the ground. After starting with just a handful of customers, one bobtail, a half-trailer load of cylinders, a few aboveground tanks and a bulk tank, Smith Propane & Oil has flourished and developed a presence in the local market. It currently boasts over 800 propane customers.

Crop drying, along with commercial and residential sales, have been the mainstays for Smith Propane & Oil.

“I believe our service is second to none. I try hard to make it that way and so does everyone else here,” Zac Cromie says. “I am not surprised by our growth because of that fact.”

Zac Cromie emphasizes the importance of understanding that retailers are in the service business. Smith Propane & Oil has a constant awareness that almost all of its new business comes from earlier business.

It was actually the company’s first commercial customer that referred Smith Propane & Oil to its largest crop drying customer. Zac Cromie says it’s the customer service that continues to bring in new business.

“Word of mouth has done more for us than any marketing I can dream up,” he says.

Zac Cromie is now outside of the three-year commitment he made with his father, yet he has no intention of leaving anytime soon.

“I never made a conscious decision on staying,” Zac Cromie says. “It just became, ‘I am staying and this is where I want to be.’ I am very proud of the business we built and I am floored by the support we get.”

Through his time with the company, Zac Cromie has done everything from outside sales to delivery to installations, which is something he particularly learned to like about the industry. He has also developed a love for the technical side.

“If I am in this business for 40 years, I hope that when I am 70 I can still turn a wrench and go out to install a cylinder,” says Cromie.

Founded: 1941 (parent company Glassmere Fuel)
Founder: Charles E. Cromie
Owner: Dell M. Cromie
Headquarters: Loyalhanna, Pennsylvania
Employees: 10
Bobtails: 2

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About the Author:

Joe McCarthy was an associate editor at LP Gas Magazine.

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