Life lessons learned in Nashville

May 13, 2016 By    


Life lessons can be learned from every experience if we keep our eyes, ears and hearts open to understanding change, innovation and wisdom shared.

Last month, I had the opportunity to attend the Southeastern Convention & International Propane Expo in Nashville, Tenn., where many lessons were learned.

Just prior to the LP Gas Hall of Fame induction ceremony, I strolled down to Broadway Avenue and Nashville’s historic Honky Tonk district. At the Legends Corner bar, I found some hopeful musicians playing old, beat-up guitars while reading country lyrics from an iPad.

Lesson learned: Even in Dogpatch, they embrace innovative technology.

I attended the LP Gas Hall of Fame induction ceremony for a fifth time to see industry icons recognized for their longstanding contributions. It always warms my heart to see these industry pioneers recognized for laying the foundation for future generations.

This year’s class of inductees included the following men: Bill Byrne of Warren Petroleum Co., Robert Y. Love Sr. of Lampton-Love Inc., Daryl McClendon of DFM Enterprises and Thomas Nunan Jr. of Suburban Propane. As always, these stories of entrepreneurship, historic struggles and tremendous accomplishments underscored the importance of leadership.

Lesson learned: The harder you work, the luckier you get.

The Propane Expo’s educational sessions included the Propane Education & Research Council’s (PERC) new construction and residential consumer data session on market expansion and the propane safety update on product development. It made me think of recent industry accidents related to temporary heat, contractors and their employees who use marketer-owned or non-owned construction heaters and tanks. If we are to grow these markets, we should be committed to clear safety communication and education from suppliers who are downhill from liability exposures.

Lesson learned: It would be well advised to communicate with contractor customers regarding their obligation to train employees and comply with code when using propane products or equipment, especially when used as temp heat.

At the annual PERC Update, Roy Willis, the council’s president and CEO, shared insight, vision and goals accomplished, including a new consumer education marketing campaign using Blue as its “spokesdog.” The campaign has a country feel designed to warm the hearts of current and future propane customers.

Lesson learned: We all complicate things with overly lengthy messages, when sometimes all we have to say is “Woof!”

The keynote speaker was country musician and actor Charles Esten from the television drama “Nashville.” Esten told stories, sang old favorites and performed an improvised song based on a good-natured attendee.

As an amateur musician, I watched with interest as Esten sang his first song with his guitar out of tune to the point of briefly forgetting a lyric. He didn’t miss a beat, though. He tuned the guitar and nailed every other song with professional charm.

Lesson learned: We all make mistakes, but true professionals address the problem and keep on pickin’.

I also attended the National Propane Gas Association’s (NPGA) State Leadership Forum, designed to address integrated industry growth, legislative and regulatory challenges and opportunities. The forum discussed issues faced by state executives, marketer members and NPGA and PERC leadership. Those who had the courage to speak out regarding concerns and challenges pulled no punches in their quest to understand the industry’s direction.

All concerns were welcomed and encouraged, thanks to current NPGA Chairman Charlie Ory, NPGA Chairman-Elect Stuart Weidie, NPGA President Rick Roldan and Willis. I found the courage to remind this esteemed congregation of attendees about how far we have come with regard to safety, encouraging them to continue to promote and utilize PERC safety and training products as we meet growth and legislative challenges.

Lesson learned: Successful leadership stays open to input from the field.

I highly encourage everyone to get involved with association activities and become a part of solutions aimed at achieving safe growth and profitable results.

Maybe next year I will see you in Nashville. Lessons learned can be priceless.


Jay Johnston is an insurance executive, business management consultant and inspirational safety speaker in the propane industry. He can be reached at or 612-802-0663.

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