Propane Personality: EDP’s Tom Knauff

April 30, 2019 By    
Headshot: Tom Knauff, EDP

Knauff

Tom Knauff
CEO, Energy Distribution Partners

Education

University of Kansas
Bachelor of Arts in Literature
Class of 1974

Work Experience

1983-87
Ferrell Petroleum/Ferrellgas
Senior leadership position

1991-2001
Propane Continental
Co-founder

2001-12
Jordan Knauff
Co-founder

Liberty Propane
Co-sponsor
Board Member

2012-Present
Energy Distribution Partners
Founder
CEO


What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?

“Instead of focusing on how great you can make things for yourself, focus on attracting the best people you can and making things great for them.”

What are you looking forward to seeing at the 2019 Propane Expo?

“Because our industry’s competitors – mainly electric utilities – are trying to co-opt the ‘green’ movement to use against our industry, our trade association gatherings of every kind (board meetings, trade shows and regional gatherings) need to focus on developing strategies to be a greater part of the solution to environmental challenges in the United States, just as the industry is doing in other parts of the world.”

Have you noticed changes in the way a propane operation is run over
the years?

“Greater level of professionalism in financial administration is required.”

“Labor, steel and the amount of capital required is all more expensive – again, requiring more professionalism.”

“From the early 1980s to the early 1990s, there was a marked level of increased sophistication in the industry; that has continued because of the level of complexity.”

HOBBIES

Photo: iStockphoto.com/bns124

Photo: iStockphoto.com/bns124

Playing classical guitar, world travel, jogging and weightlifting

What are some industry changes you’ve noticed during your time
in the industry?

“Per capita usage [of propane] has fallen; per capita earnings have gone up to compensate for lower per capita volumes; regulation has dramatically intensified; and companies have become much more sophisticated.”

What are some good qualities of a propane operation?

“The quality of a propane operation is almost always measured by the percentage of tank ownership.”

“Understanding the meaning of customer service and how it relates to operational soundness is critical and rare.”

“The businesses today that EDP has acquired are three times larger, earn more money and deliver more gallons than businesses acquired by Propane Continental in the 1990s.”

A world market

“This industry has taken me to 49 of the 50 states and several foreign countries, and allowed me to meet diverse and interesting individuals, making great, long-lasting friendships. I know people who run propane companies in Chile, France and other countries. The industry is open for diplomatic visits all over the world by fellow LPG industry participants.”


Knauff is also a finalist for Ernst & Young’s 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year award for the Midwest. Read more about this recognition.

Joe McCarthy

About the Author:

Joe McCarthy is an Associate Editor of LP Gas Magazine. You can contact him at jmccarthy@northcoastmedia.net and at 216-363-7930.

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