Seek decision-making support from industry colleagues

March 23, 2023 By    

I always look forward to LP Gas’ Buyers Guide. Like the annual LP Gas Growth Summit, it’s a great way to stay on top of vendor options and learn about innovations and market trends.

The hard part for me is understanding the trade-offs among the choices to make decisions that work best for our business, especially when there are no wrong or bad choices.

We fortunately have access to a great advisory board: our National Propane Gas Association Benchmarking Council. We have participated since 2016 and have tapped the expertise of our group to improve our business operations and make more informed decisions, including, but certainly not limited to, technology decisions. Here are a few examples:

⦁ Propane customer management software: We changed customer management software providers in 1998, 2014 and 2018. The 2018 change was made with the benefit of input from our benchmarking group. They shared what they liked about their software but, more importantly, shared their thoughts on what the software did not do or could do better. We used the dialogue to identify the software features that were important to our business and the software options that offered those features. We would have made a different decision in 2014 if we had been in benchmarking at that time.

⦁ Tank monitors: Our benchmarking group conducted a deep dive into about two dozen brands of tank monitors. Our group’s experience and depth were extraordinarily helpful from the very beginning because we were able to put together a comprehensive list of features and questions to identify a smaller group of monitor vendors to invite to a detailed dog-and-pony show that we held at one of our in-person benchmarking meetings. Even more valuable was the follow-up diligence that our benchmarking colleagues conducted on the monitors of interest. This project was transformational for our business because access to tank levels on our smartphone app and website portal is an important part of our differentiated offering for customers.

⦁ Website reviews: Our benchmarking group periodically evaluates and reviews each of the member websites. We believe our website has a long way to go, but it would be nowhere near where it is today without the insights and comments from our benchmarking colleagues.

⦁ Technical and customer support: One of our vendors is struggling with customer support. We have compared notes with benchmarking colleagues who use the same software, and also benefited from the technical and support experiences of our benchmarking colleagues who use competing software. It has helped us maintain a balanced perspective and identify strategies, including changing providers, to address the issue.

⦁ Routing software: Our group periodically discusses and evaluates routing software options. In fact, it’s on the agenda for our March in-person meeting in New Orleans (yes, we have frequent email and videoconference communications between meetings). Routing software options recently have undergone significant changes and developments, including pricing. Our business simply does not have the time to stay on top of developments like this and would be unable to keep up without our benchmarking colleagues.

I could go on and on about the benefits of benchmarking. What I can say without reservation is that our business has a competitive edge and is much better today than it was yesterday because of the advice and council of our benchmarking colleagues.

More importantly, I am certain we will be better tomorrow than we are today because of the talent and experience of our benchmarking group.

If you want a competitive edge and want to make faster, better, more informed decisions, consider joining the National Propane Gas Association Benchmarking Council.

Christopher Caywood is a co-owner of Caywood Propane Gas Inc. Contact him at

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