Summer’s most important priority

July 1, 2007 By    

Every business — regardless of size — needs to stop from its busy daily schedule in order to reflect on its performance and to plan for the future. It’s simply good business to periodically ask yourself, “How are we doing? What can we do better? What are our goals?”

Only the business owner/senior manager can lead this effort. In today’s dynamic business climate, it’s more critical than ever to set aside the time and tools to do this. For the propane marketer, summertime is natural for answering these questions. The dust has settled from the heating season and you are starting to think about the next heating season.

Randall R. Doyle Randy Doyle Consulting
Randall R. Doyle Randy Doyle Consulting

Why it’s important

There are many reasons to evaluate and plan your business. Here are the five most important:

  • The business plan creates focus and enthusiasm. One of the basic needs of employees is to know where the company is headed. People want to be a part of an organization that is growing and getting better. A well-thought plan gives you, the business leader, a fresh message about the company’s future that creates focus and enthusiasm for your people.
  • Seize opportunities. The old adage “opportunities don’t find us; we find them” applies. Often, new growth opportunities that are right under our nose — from economic growth, changes in the consumer energy market and your competitors’ misguided strategies — can only be realized by taking the big-picture look at your market.
  • Employees want personal growth. People want to know where they stand, how they can improve their performance and realize development opportunities. People are motivated when the owner/manager shows interest in their development and role in the company’s success. Plus, laggards must be dealt with. Otherwise, good employees are discouraged when mediocrity and poor performance is tolerated.
  • Rid inefficiencies. Most propane businesses attract unprofitable customers, have idle tank installations and slowly erode bobtail efficiency. Therefore, it’s critical that you and your employees evaluate your customer base, tank installations and bobtail practices to identify the inefficiencies that have crept into your business.
  • Create financial discipline. Sound financial discipline is integral to effective business performance. A budget creates spending discipline. Project spending such as adding propane storage or computer technology is first justified by a cost/benefit analysis. Also, a financial plan helps ensure that there will be sufficient cash to operate and grow your business.

Tools of the trade

The tools that evaluate and plan your business do not need to be complex. They can be Microsoft Excel and Word software adapted to the propane industry. These tools, which will be distributed and demonstrated at the West Virginia PGA 2007 Spring Conference WHEN, include:

  • Employee performance evaluation form
  • Bobtail operating cost and performance worksheet
  • Financial budget
  • Customer profitability template
  • New storage tank financial justification

Plan now to set aside about two weeks in June, July or August to evaluate your business performance and plan for the next year.

You and your employees will learn something insightful that will improve your business and will gain a fresh confidence about achieving a higher level of performance next year.

Randy Doyle, CPA, MBA, is a propane industry consultant based in Houston. He can be reached at or through his Web site at

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