Nichols’ LP Gas Service

December 1, 2007 By    

Tom Nichols had little choice. Working in the electronics industry, he had to embrace technology and adapt to change, or the world and his competitors would pass him by.

 Team: During celebration using hot-air balloon to commemorate new location, from left: Chris Sproles, Lucas Tebo, Scott King, Stan Dreyer, unnamed balloon crew member, Eddie Ray, balloon crew chief Ron Jackson, balloon pilot Brian Critelli and Jeff Nichols. Not pictured are Ginny Dileo, Monica Hullender Tebo, Bryan Kinser and Tom Nichols.
Team: During celebration using hot-air balloon to commemorate new location, from left: Chris Sproles, Lucas Tebo, Scott King, Stan Dreyer, unnamed balloon crew member, Eddie Ray, balloon crew chief Ron Jackson, balloon pilot Brian Critelli and Jeff Nichols. Not pictured are Ginny Dileo, Monica Hullender Tebo, Bryan Kinser and Tom Nichols.

Now president of Texas-based Nichols’ LP Gas Service Inc., Nichols approaches the propane industry with the same mindset.

“It’s something we needed to do – stay innovative to have a little edge on everybody else,” he says of the company, which his father, H.T., started in 1981.

Nichols’ LP Gas Service, which labels itself an “innovative propane company,” has registered several industry firsts in Texas.

It was the first to install polyethylene piping and corrugated stainless steel piping; the first independent company to provide training for local volunteer fire departments; and the first to create a company web site, which Tom did himself after assuming control from his father in 1994. Nichols also launched a blog earlier this year.

On the upswing

According to the numbers, Nichols’ philosophy has worked. He’s grown the company from 900 customers and 500 leased tanks to 2,100 customers and 1,100 tanks.

Nichols’ customers, 90 percent of whom buy propane for residential home heating, are serviced through its headquarters in Clifton and its new location in China Spring, which opened in January. Clifton is 35 miles northwest of Waco and 100 miles southwest of Dallas. The area the company serves is popular with residents of Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin who build second homes, Nichols says.



Clearing the way

After the Railroad Commission of Texas, which regulates the propane industry in the state, approved the usage of poly piping and corrugated stainless steel piping, Nichols’ LP Gas Service was the first to use them, Nichols says.

The poly piping is used under ground as a replacement for copper tubing; Nichols says the plastic piping is less expensive and easier to install. Corrugated stainless steel, on the other hand, is used indoors in place of black piping, and its flexibility makes it faster to install, he notes.

“Some people won’t embrace technology,” says Nichols, a member of NPGA’s Marketers’ Management Forum, “but we always embraced technology to save us money and make it more beneficial to the customer.”

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