Why propane marketers must change for the better

July 21, 2015 By and    

It has been said that in a contest between a river and a rock the river always wins. Why? Because the river is willing to follow the natural call of gravity – going over, under, around or, eventually, through the rock – to its destiny, which is to ultimately merge with the ocean.

The rock is stuck, relentlessly pushing against the river, resisting the natural flow of water until, over a long period of time, it’s worn down to a pebble. If you’ve visited the Grand Canyon, you’ve seen firsthand evidence this is true.

In any marketplace, there are five groups of individuals or organizations as they relate to technology: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards. Our industry is no different, and I believe most marketers view themselves as pragmatists, likely placing themselves somewhere in the middle of the five groups.

Rene Descartes once said, “Common sense is the most widely shared commodity in the world, for every man is convinced that he is well supplied with it.”

Wherever you fall on this spectrum, when it’s time to make a change in your operation, regardless of how quickly you’ve arrived at this decision, it’s a big deal.

As with personal decisions to perhaps lose weight or quit smoking, marketers need to be brutally honest with themselves about where they are and where they’d like to be. These can be painful conversations, but that pain will serve you later when things get hard and faith in the chosen pathway potentially waivers. There’s a huge difference between a “must” and a “should.” Author Tony Robbins often says people “should” all over themselves until they’ve had enough and the situation turns into a “must.”

Creating and committing to a unified vision of what the future will look like helps anyone or any entity cross the “chasm.” More communication is better than less and your vendor needs to be in lockstep with your goals. Your success or failure should be their success or failure. Identify up front what could go wrong and the cost to your business if failure or delay does result. Review and negotiate remedies and damages with this exposure in mind.

This combination of resolve and a collaborative process is what all successful IT projects are based on. The decision is monumental, but what happens after that decision is of way greater importance than the decision itself. Positive and dramatic change is attainable. It takes the right team pulling together, an understanding of your operation’s strengths and weaknesses and a deep desire to see it through to the end.

I read an article in which John Chambers, the outgoing CEO of Cisco, feels that 40 percent of companies will be dead in the next 10 years.

“It will become a digital world that will change our life, our health, our education, our business models at the pace of a technology company change,” Chambers says.

He warned companies that they could not “miss a market transition or a business model” or “underestimate your competitor of the future – not your competitor of the past.” He says, “Either we disrupt or we get disrupted.”

Being as cynical as the next guy, my first thought is that it’s a convenient premise by which to sell more Cisco gear into companies and enterprises. However, over the past three years, Cisco has made major changes. Chambers notes that to make a statement of that magnitude it is essential to tie together “silos,” change culture and lead by example.

The question I leave you to ponder is: Are you the river or the rock? And if you find you are a rock today, what are you clinging to? Where in your operation might you resist change or try to force it to happen before it’s time?

Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, teaches that a “willingness to change is a strength, even if it means plunging part of the company into total confusion for a while.”

Change might not actually come as gracefully or eloquently as the picture of the flowing river in our heads, but we need to be open to it.

John Rosen is the vice president of sales for Vertrax Inc. Contact him at jrosen@vertrax.com or 203-401-6071.

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