What are the gaps in your knowledge and experience?
Some of us went to school to train for our jobs. Some of us were born into the family business. And some of us landed in propane without much of a clue. I’m not one who took business courses until I needed to learn to read an income statement. The gap was wide in my knowledge and little in my work experience prepared me to take the reins of a venerable bobtail-building company 2,000 miles from home. I’m familiar with the gaps and have enjoyed the challenges of learning as have our responders to this month’s query.
The VERBATIM column poses open-ended questions to industry colleagues. Taken from a familiar “Heard on the Street” format, we offer our responders a chance to reply via e-mail. What is presented below are their personal thoughts in response to the question above.
RESPONSES FROM OUR COLLEAGUES
While I am comfortable using spreadsheets and project management software, I am deficient in being able to set them up. I also do not have any international experience in the propane industry.
Colorado and New Mexico Propane Gas Associations
Our company has done our own training for over 25 years. I have taken all training courses, even those that do not pertain to my job (i.e. bobtail delivery driver, tank installation, etc.) We feel that you can never have too much training! I do not drive a truck or make installations so I sometimes struggle when asked technical questions about regulators, valves, or piping. I pass those questions off to someone who can better assist the customer. However, I am as knowledgeable as anyone here about sales of gas grills and grill parts! I think it is important to have an awareness of all aspects of your business.
McMahan’s Bottle Gas
What are the gaps in my knowledge and experience? They are too many to respond to. First off we had no knowledge of the propane industry. We started the business with my knowledge and experience of setting tanks and running the gas lines as a plumber. That is the easy part. The learning process is ongoing, and we still have a long way to go. I probably should have gone to work for another propane company first so that I could learn from them. We seem to do pretty well with our supply and demand. We have some great suppliers. Growth has been an area that we could use more knowledge and experience in. Training is an area that we seem to do well in. Overall, for our lack of knowledge and experience we have done pretty well.
Allaround Propane, Inc.
Fruitland, New Mexico
The gaps in my knowledge and experience in the business world is that I have spent all my life in the family business and now my own. Even though I have a business degree and am involved on several Board of Director positions, working in a large corporation would probably have provided an insight in a more formal method of decision making. A small business does not have the luxury of forming a committee to study an issue and present options, we have to confront the problem and solve it quickly because there is another ready to present itself. With my son Patrick involved in the business and his banking experience, problem solving and planning with a younger generation’s perspective really narrows the gaps in knowledge.
France Propane Service
Too many gaps in my knowledge to list. My experience through the years helps me to know where to go and look for the knowledge I need.
Buffalo, New York
Great question and one that’s not easy to answer. Luckily for me I have a great manager at AmeriGas who has challenged me and asked this very question to help me develop and determine the skills I need for the future. I have identified and committed to work on the following skills to close the gap in my experience/knowledge:
Public Speaking – specifically how to become a more articulate speaker.
Improve Coaching skills – particularly designing an executive sales coaching program to support and motivate my sales team.
Better Understanding of Operations and Distribution as we continue on the cutting edge of technology improvement.
Because of my lack of background in bookkeeping and accounting, I find myself wishing I had a better handle on the financial reports that are necessary to run a successful business.
It’s one thing to have money in the bank, it’s a totally different thing to understand how it got there and how to get a higher percentage of the gross income to be there at the year end.
Efficiencies in our business are the difference between being successful and struggling.
As we go into this upcoming winter, we need to be acutely aware of the number of our customers that are unemployed and struggling financially. Yes, we need to help where we can but we also need to remember to take care of our business so we will be in business.
Shasta Gas Propane
Palo Cedro, California
Although there are so many survival shows out there these days, I haven’t learned enough to make it “in the wild” should things get out of hand here in Illinois. But even if that catastrophe never comes about, I still haven’t learned how to juggle more than two balls at a time.
National Propane Gas Association (NPGA)
Tinley Park, Illinois
Good Lord! Can you say Grand Canyon sized lack of knowledge!!
My favorite saying is, ten years ago I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Today I’m aware of what I don’t know and it’s a MUCH scarier placeJ.
All joking aside. I have learned so much in the past ten years thanks to an amazing support group (friends of Jimmy T.). I attended my first Southeast show in Atlanta in the spring of 2011. Bruce Montroy from Bergquist, a good friend of Jimmy’s, set up a meet and greet at the Embassy suites hotel one night. I left there with sooo many business cards and well wishes my head was spinning. But here is the amazing part, they really all meant it!! Ten years later the names on those cards have been there for me and continue to be a phone call away. I am so grateful to this industry. Today I would have to say, I have learned so much from day one but you still don’t want me in the field running gas linesJ. I still lack much when it comes to tech talk but I will keep pressing on to the higher mark!!
A big thank you to all who have guided me along the way!
The older I get the more I realize how much I don’t know, which drives my personal goal to learn something new every day!
Relating to our industry I have learned a lot over my career from many mentors and simply getting my hands dirty but from my primary perspective as a manufacturer, I would like to continue to fill in gaps relating to the marketer perspective and daily operations and concerns that would continue to spark creative ideas and innovation.
Marshall Excelsior Company
MIND THE GAP
When Londoners take their subway, AKA the Tube, they hear these words of wisdom over the loudspeaker, “Mind the gap.” This warning to watch your step and not fall into the space between the platform and the train applies to British travel and as a metaphor for life. The gaps are likely to appear often yet we have the wherewithal to step forward and make our way to the next station. And the next. Keep alert and keep learning.
Nancy Coop, Cetane Associates
This column was first published in the September 2020 issue of Butane-Propane News.