Honor the leaders making major contributions to the industry

January 28, 2015 By and    

The propane industry has many models and authentic heroes worth following.

These are people of integrity, whose visions and leadership in the propane business should be emulated. Our industry is grateful to LP Gas magazine for establishing the propane hall of fame as a way to reaffirm the attributes of our industry’s leaders who have been hero-like. Its recipients have been the business executives who invented new products, developed markets or advanced safety for the industry. Their legacies deserve our gratitude.

Aaron Armstrong

Aaron Armstrong was Thermogas’ district manager in Indianapolis. Today he is COO for Propane Plus in Mt. Washington, Ky.

There are many examples in our industry of front-line district and branch managers who make excellent role models. They are people who lead the drivers, service techs and customer service representatives who serve the customer and execute a company’s strategy.

The story of one particular district manager hero dates back to the early 1980s. It involves Thermogas’ district in Indianapolis.

The Thermogas facility was on the brink of closing because of chronic operational challenges and financial losses. Aaron Armstrong, the hero of this story, convinced the Thermogas president to give him the opportunity to change the Indianapolis facility. Armstrong was not daunted by the operational challenges before him. He demonstrated the following three leadership qualities:

Lead by example – Armstrong consistently led according to the same values and dedication he expected of his employees. None of the tasks at Thermogas was beneath him. He worked harder than some of the hardest-working employees in the district. As a result, he earned trust and respect from his employees. They trusted his leadership and would do anything for him.

Put people first Armstrong understood that his vision was achieved partly by having good employees. He built a strong team by getting rid of employees who were grumblers, complacent or disengaged. He made sure his employees were mentored, including himself. This approach allowed Armstrong to build a team with the skill, confidence and enthusiasm to be successful.

Persistently pursue goals Armstrong knew that growth in customers and gallons were imperative to seeing the company change. He did not accept “no” as the final answer from a customer. He never gave up trying to win a customer. For example, he obtained a Pepsi Cola account after nearly four years of effort.

After five years under Armstrong’s leadership, Thermogas’ Indianapolis district produced noticeable results. Financially, the annual losses turned into profits of nearly $1 million, making it the most profitable among Thermogas’ 225 districts. Employees went from feeling defeated to being confident in themselves and the company, and the facility became Thermogas’ model for its district manager trainee program.

Ferrellgas acquired Thermogas in 1999. Today, Armstrong is COO for Propane Plus in Mt. Washington, Ky. The impact of his example 35 years ago remains because of how he led his team. That is even more memorable than profits generated under his leadership.

While our industry is right to pay tribute to the propane hall of fame recipients, each of us should pay unique tribute to those people who mentored us, gave us our first opportunity or set an example worth following. By recognizing unsung heroes, we preserve the people-oriented legacy in the propane industry.

Randy Doyle is CFO for Blossman Gas in Ocean Springs, Miss. He can be reached at rdoyle@blossmangas.com.

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