The best of Drucker on propane

November 1, 2006 By    

This is the ninth (and final) in a series on business topics inspired by the 20th century business management icon Peter Drucker.

To close this series, I have selected 10 of my favorite Drucker topics. I present these in no particular order, as all are relevant to our propane businesses today.

 Carl Hughes
Carl Hughes

Look for the future that has already happened

Identify a trend, technology or concept that is present but not yet fully developed in your market. This can be difficult given the gradual change in our industry. However, an average company can become a leader by doing just that.

The practice of abandonment

Many hang on to practices, market segments and projects that yield little to no results. Continuing of these projects can drain limited, valuable resources. Instill a practice of abandonment. Ask yourself: “If we were not already doing this, is it something we should start doing now?”

Leadership is responsibility

A leader is someone with followers. Popularity is not leadership. Results set leaders apart. Leaders are highly visible, they set examples, and they’re focused on responsibility, not rank, title, privilege or money. Good leaders delegate, but they don’t delegate their responsibilities.

Unexpected success and unexpected failures

Success and failure are more similar in characteristics than they appear to be. Don’t ignore unexpected successes and failures, understand their causes. Don’t just analyze; investigate. Identify an unexpected success or failure, understand why it happened and adapt that knowledge.

Purpose of management

The purpose of management is to make people capable of joint performance, and to make strengths effective and weaknesses irrelevant. Enable all to grow and develop, and focus on producing results.

Charisma is overrated

Four of the most charismatic men of the 20th century were Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler and Mao. The two most significant men during World War II and the rebuilding of Europe – Dwight Eisenhower and George Marshall – were competent, disciplined and, frankly, dull. Don’t hire charisma, hire competence.

Change leaders

One cannot manage change. One can only be ahead of it. The task of management is to lead change. Successful leaders look for changes inside their organizations and see them as opportunities. How does your leadership view change?

Managing for the future

Predicting the future is futile, like trying to plan for future propane purchases. In product supply, the best operators manage volatility, but do not attempt to predict future price levels. Identify and exploit a trend in your local economy faster than your competitors. Manage what is there, and create what could and should be.

Innovation and risk takers

Successful entrepreneurs are not risk takers, they’re opportunity seekers who try to reduce risk. They look for opportunities in cash flow projections and financial models, not to increase risk, but to reduce risk and increase the odds of success. Do you gamble on key decisions or are you calculated and prepared?

Turbulence – threat or opportunity

How do we prepare for danger, opportunity or change? One, make sure your organization is lean and can move fast. Also, work on the most expensive resource – time – and set goals for productivity and improvement. Manage growth – if productivity goes up with growth, it is healthy growth – and develop your people.

Organize for constant change

Put knowledge to work. The less spectacular a technological change is, the greater the danger is that the whole organization will ossify. It’s more important to emphasize innovation. Do you systematically innovate?

Carl Hughes is vice president of business development for Inergy LP. He can be reached at
or 816-842-8181.

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