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Use technology to make yourself dispensable

January 23, 2023 By     0 Comments

If you go on vacation, will things stop working until you get back?

Dispensable leadership should be near the top of every propane marketer’s leadership goal list. Dispensable leaders coach empowered teams, and propane marketers with empowered teams have better retention rates. Dispensable leaders also create more valuable organizations because the organization can outlive them. If you own the organization, the value creation is obvious because a buyer will adjust your EBITDA, and hence your purchase price, upward because it doesn’t need your salary or distributions to pay somebody else to perform your dispensable duties.

While less obvious, dispensable leaders who don’t own the organization where they work also create value – and ironically make themselves indispensable. Propane marketers now, more than ever, need talent agents and change catalysts to create efficiencies, growth and value.

Technology is an indispensable part of being dispensable. Here are just a few examples:

Photo: everythingpossible/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Technological tools allow leaders to oversee operations without having to be on-site. (Photo: everythingpossible/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

⦁ Accountability tools: GPS-enabled time clocks and vehicles let you know where your team and your assets are. Audio and video surveillance tools at plants, offices and in vehicles give you the ability to know what’s going on without being there, and recorded calls and other call-center software tools allow you to monitor and review customer interactions. Monitors on bulk tanks, bobtails and customer tanks help you track liquid inventory.

The basic, common thread in all of these tools is accountability. They reduce the risk of time theft, inventory theft and misuse of company fleet vehicles. They also allow you to do it anywhere.

⦁ Management and compliance tools: Reporting features available on your software tools enable you to monitor your operations to ensure that they are running safely and efficiently. They also help you ensure compliance. For example, we use photographs of tanks, data plates and appliances taken by service tablets integrated into our customer software at customer sites to make sure we comply with any one of a number of regulatory requirements.

⦁ Process tools: Technology supports processes and reduces the need for or importance of human judgment or execution. Reducing the need for human judgment and execution, in turn, reduces the need for your team to seek your guidance on almost any routine transaction. Well-developed process documentation, complete with screenshots and illustrations also may reduce the need for guidance on a lot of non-routine transactions, customer complaints and escalations.

⦁ Coaching tools: We scour reports and information for teachable moments. For example, we recently shifted our process improvement focus to the service side of our business and use the reporting and work order tracking features to reduce the number of service callbacks and the amount of time spent on-site. Transcripts of chat discussions and recordings of phone calls similarly are opportunities to improve customer communication.

Making yourself dispensable frees up time to focus on strategy, strategic operations and product or service development. Time spent on these activities ultimately makes your business more profitable. They also represent redundant activities that do not need to be replaced by buyers, resulting in the EBITDA “add-back” that increases the value of your business.

And to answer the question at the beginning of this column, putting these activities aside when you go on vacation will not keep the business from running while you are away. So go ahead, make yourself dispensable.


Christopher Caywood is a co-owner of Caywood Propane Gas Inc. Contact him at chris@caywoodpropane.com.

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