In the Know: Keeping staff productive in the summer

September 5, 2019 By    

Q: How should retailers use their workforces in the summer?


Fun fact: Typically, employee-related expenses make up 40 percent to 60 percent of retail marketers’ operating expenses. Another fun fact: For a typical retail propane company, the majority of the money is made between November and February.

Building a seasonal or part-time workforce is ideal, but it isn’t always realistic. Finding a way to use the staff during the summer months is critical to the success of your business.

Summer is definitely the time to allow staff to take their vacations. Many retailers do not allow staff to take vacation during the winter months. Summer is also a great time to work on all of the projects you and your staff do not have time to focus on during the winter months.

Below are areas staff can focus on during summer months. They are in no particular order. Simply pick the ones that need the most attention in your organization.

  • Tank leases – Have your staff work on getting all tank leases signed by the customer on file.
  • Annual leak test – Focus your drivers and service technicians on performing a leak test on 20 percent of your customer base. Make sure employees are completing the leak test forms and filing them. Ideally, they would document all of the appliances in the home, indicating the age of the appliance, the fuel used to run the appliance and the manufacturer and serial number.
  • Target marketing – Have your staff record and use the information gathered on customers’ appliances to target market to your customers. It’s about adding propane burner tips. Use this knowledge to make marketing decisions about water heater customers compared to other appliances. Focus and maximize your marketing dollars.
  • Paint tanks – Use the summer to implement a tank-painting program. Tanks are marketing tools. Make sure your tanks feature your logo and they reflect your desired image.
  • Bulk plant repairs – Finish any repairs to your bulk plants when business is slower.
  • Inventory of tanks on yards, bulk plants, etc. – Know how many tanks you have on the yard, how many are ready to set and if some are in need of repairs.
  • Visual inspections of all tanks in the field – If tanks need repairs, summer is the time. Recondition tanks as necessary.
  • Thorough inspection and repair of all rolling stock, including service/crane trucks – Fix any problems now to help you avoid breakdowns during peak demand times.
  • Maintenance and necessary repairs on all buildings, including fresh paint, roof repairs, gutter repairs, etc.
  • Tank pickups – With the cost of steel increasing, identify the number of company-owned tanks that have sat idle, with no gas flowing through them, in the last 18 months. Find out why, and if the tank is no longer being used, pick it up and set it at an active customer location. If a 300/330-gallon tank is worth about $1,000 and a 500-gallon tank is $1,500, that’s a lot of unused capital just sitting at a customer’s house.
  • Door-to-door canvassing – Use the summer months to leave door hangers or promote the value of propane compared to other energy sources. Propane is a great value right now. Capitalize on it.
  • Continuing education classes – Now is the time to offer your staff additional training or continued training.

Summer is about planning for the upcoming winter. Take advantage of this slower time to work on projects that can build value in your business but you don’t have the time for during the cold months.

Tamera Kovacs is a financial consultant and industry expert in business valuations and sales at Propane Resources

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