How do you or your company add value in uncertain times? What will you continue to do differently based on what you’ve learned?
To be uncertain is to be uncomfortable. This month’s question was asked of our participants at the end of March when “shelter-in-place” and other restrictions were being implemented in multiple states around the nation. Can we accept the notion that the only thing certain is the uncertain? What do we learn during unprecedented times? How do we find optimism and be prepared to face changing conditions?
In its third edition, BPN’s VERBATIM column continues to ask provocative questions of our colleagues. Taken from a familiar “Heard on the Street” format, we offer our responders a chance to reply via e-mail allowing them to be thoughtful and direct. What you are reading here are their personal opinions.
NORTHEAST AND SOUTHEAST
Add value by communicating every day. Reassuring your employees that you will navigate through this with their help. Saying ‘yes I am scared but will take this one step at a time.’
What will we do differently? Having a cash disaster plan for 9 months.
Buffalo, New York
Beyond assets, I believe the true measurement of a company’s value is customer loyalty. They are, after all, the true foundation of our business. Attempting to instill in all employees the importance of being an ambassador for your company comes even before good service. It starts with that first phone call. Whether it is a first time caller or a long time customer…Every phone call, every service call, every delivery is important.
AmeriGas adds value by being available to our customers 24-7 and our company is committed to continue providing quality service to our customers during this difficult time. As a key component of the supply chain for the propane industry, our trucks remain on the road. What would I do differently? Review crisis/epidemic experts’ opinions and share that with my sales team to decrease anxiety and panic.
I believe we provide valuable services no matter what the situation. We share information as it becomes available to us, whether it be our lobbyist, NPGA or other state execs. This has definitely been a challenging time, but our industry is prepared and calm. Unfortunately in the south our winter has been mediocre at best and is now over so we are not experiencing any supply or distribution problems.
Georgia Propane Gas Association
MIDWEST TO THE WEST COAST
We continue to add value to our customers by being available to help solve whatever obstacles they are facing. We add value for our employees by doing what we can to keep them working and as safe as possible. In uncertain times we will continue to keep ourselves informed and flexible to adjust to the constantly changing restrictions in the different areas we serve in the U.S. and globally.
Our company has always tried to maintain our stability and operations so we can service our customers with minimal interruption during uncertain times. We believe our commitment is reassuring to them because we keep consistent hours and prices in times of high demand. We feel that while strategic planning for difficult times is important, it must include a supply plan of buying propane from reliable suppliers rather than only looking at the lowest price. We then evaluate each situation that arises and tweak our response based on what is needed.
McMahan’s Bottle Gas
During these unprecedented times of COVID-19, how very proud I am to be part of the NPGA staff. Our group of professionals continues to gather and disseminate critical information to NPGA members, providing them what they need to not only address the health and safety issues that employees in the propane industry face, but also to navigate the legal and regulatory pitfalls that companies encounter while continuing to operate in the face of this enormous challenge.
NPGA (National Propane Gas Association)
Tinley Park, Illinois
These are uncertain times and they do test our abilities. In conversations with customers and suppliers, I think the key is still, ‘Stick to who you are and what your values are’…that doesn’t change. We are shifting production to refurb trailers and used equipment, giving customers options while keeping our work force engaged. I don’t know that we are doing anything radically different–we need to produce value in some way–the product just changes from season to season.
During uncertain times, everyone, from our employees, customers, and suppliers, experiences more anxiety and concern on how it will affect them. The best way our company adds value is to exercise more compassion, be available to answer concerns, and never lose our values. The COVID-19 pandemic in some ways reminds me of Y2K, and the winter of 2013-14, what we learned then applies today–have a plan that follows best practices, treat everyone with respect and be honest.
France Propane Service
Our company and our employees do our best to make accommodations for our customers by offering extra services not normally a part of our typical service work, such as pick-up and delivery options as well as field service calls that normally would fall outside our area of service. We currently are working to absorb the additional costs involved to help mitigate any down time and increased cost to the customer during this crisis.
Much of this change to our policy may be helpful to continue if the customer sees enough value in it and our increased costs may be a good investment in keeping those customers happy in the future.
Our Leadership team is working hard to ensure our employees are safe and supported in every way so that we can get through this unprecedented situation. As an essential critical infrastructure business, all our field teams are doing their best to take care of our customer needs every day while following all CDC, DOT, State and Federal guidelines.
We will continue to serve our customers and communities through this pandemic and be stronger and more prepared in the future. Keeping personal hygiene and cleanliness in the workplace has been a priority in our offices, vehicles and equipment and will continue beyond this pandemic as a way of life.
We could not be prouder of our people who are all heroes in this time of National uncertainty and need. As a country, we will always be grateful for the personal commitment and selfless service all our essential critical infrastructure professionals demonstrated during this National crisis.
Boyd H. McGathey
Energy Distribution Partners
While we are mindful of the uncertainty, we are fanatical about maintaining our focus and discipline which enables us to continue to provide the same great value and exemplary service that we provide in “normal” times.
The best way for trade associations to add value during these times is to provide accurate and relevant information to members. There is so much COVID info available, much of which is irrelevant, marketers may get overwhelmed. I try to filter information for relevance before sending it to marketers.
Colorado and New Mexico Propane Gas Associations
It is pretty simply in abiding by the local and CDC guide lines to keep our customers in gas. Nothing to change but wait for economy to get moving again.
My takeaway from this sampling of fourteen colleagues is that, in large part, “business as usual” for their organizations sets a high bar and by staying the course, they are therefore prepared for the uncertainties of life and business. There’s a steady, calm theme which weaves through their responses helping us to know that the standards and policies they have put in place are sturdy. They stand them in good stead even when a pandemic threatens havoc. As an essential fuel in every state of the union, propane has been integral in providing citizens the reliable product they count on throughout the year. With good reason, these responders reflect a sense of pride in being a part of the LPG industry.
Nancy Coop, Cetane Associates
This column was first published in the May 2020 issue of Butane-Propane News.