Written on: September 29, 2015 by Greg Dool
As part of our ongoing series of articles featuring discussions with influential figures in the liquid fuels and HVAC industries, ICM sat down with Nancy Coop, Business Development Executive with Ferrellgas and Founding Chair of the National Propane Gas Association’s (NPGA) Women in Propane Council.
Greg Dool: Can you tell us about your background and how you came to be involved with the NPGA?
Nancy Coop: When people ask me about how I got into the propane industry, they are surprised to learn that I owned a truck company. As president of JARCO Propane Trucks, a company my dad founded in 1959, I knew that our organization’s expansion relied heavily on the connections I was able to make with large and small propane retailers around the country. I could also see that participating in the NPGA would be an excellent way to continue my dad’s legacy, contribute to the industry at large and serve the needs of our business by keeping up to date.
GD: What is the Women in Propane Council’s mission? When was it founded and by whom?
NC: The Women in Propane (WIP) Council was established to provide positive opportunities for all members of our industry to support the advancement and success of women in every scope of business operation and professional development. After three years of discussing and garnering support for the concept of a women-in-industry organization, the time came in 2011 to move it forward to the NPGA Executive Committee. A small group of male and female leaders formed a steering committee to establish the mission and bylaws. Then, the structure of a business council under the NPGA umbrella was established. As the only woman on the Executive Committee and champion of the Women in Propane Council’s formation, I presented the concept and received the necessary support from my male colleagues. In January 2012, the NPGA Board of Directors voted to approve establishing the council and I became its founding chair.
GD: Who can be a member of the Council? What sort of benefits do members receive?
NC: Membership in the WIP Council is open to all members of the NPGA: men and women. At the Council’s professional development seminars, equal numbers of men and women are routinely counted. WIP members enjoy live professional development training and networking events. Held in conjunction with other industry conferences around the country, videos of training sessions and speeches are also made available to those members who haven’t attended in person. Training sessions include leadership skills, management techniques, effective communication, mentoring benefits, successful negotiations, power networking, customer care and more. One of the benefits members enjoy that impacts their careers is the access to influential people at the council’s networking events. It’s important to note that the council’s programming is made available to all industry members—to paraphrase the idiom, we are looking to raise the tide that lifts all boats
GD: What is the scope of the WIP Council? How many members are there?
NC: At nearly 700 members, the WIP Council is the fastest grown business council of the NPGA. Members represent all geographic regions of the country. The focus currently is to develop a strong national organization in these early, building years. Last year, the World Liquid Petroleum Gas Association (WLPGA) announced its intention to establish a network for women in our industry worldwide. Their inspiration came from the WIP Council. Last May, in Berlin, Women in LPG (WINLPG) was approved and will hold its first meeting in Singapore in September.
GD: What are some of the Council’s activities? Are you invested in attracting more women to the propane industry?
NC: In order to get out to our members, the WIP Council has hosted multiple seminars, training sessions, roundtable events, networking programs and workshops across the country. WIP events are piggybacked with other industry events hosted by state associations, corporations, or NPGA. By focusing on professional development, the Council is not only fulfilling its mission, it is creating an environment in our industry that will attract more women to it. Without women in leadership roles, a young person entering the industry may perceive that being a woman is a liability. The council is effectively changing the landscape and providing a forward-looking, progressive outlook for the industry’s future.
GD: What are some of the challenges that women face in the propane industry? How has the Council worked to address these?
NC: Working in a male-dominated industry can create challenges for some women. The goal is to get men and women working together in effective ways that creates strength and improves our organizations. Studies show that men and women collaborating at the executive level produce better-governed companies and higher profits. That’s a strong business reason to support the work WIP does. The value provided by both genders, due to their differences, is what creates improved outcomes. I love getting this message out to people! The WIP council is proving to be a “leadership laboratory.” People join, get involved, get trained, develop skills, get promoted and give back to the industry. The council is a vital organization.
GD: What are some ways in which the Women in Propane Council benefits the propane industry as a whole?
NC: I’ve talked a lot about what the council has done so far. What it’s about to do could be the most impressive and has the potential to make the greatest impact. In 2016, the council will launch two industry-wide initiatives that expand its reach. At the NPGA Southeastern Expo in Nashville (April 8–10, 2016), a Leadership Forum will be introduced to all attendees. This value-added package, presented by WIP, includes all-day professional development training by top-tier presenters, head-shots by a professional photographer, networking opportunities, and a bonus roundtable session. And it’s very exciting to announce that The Knowledge Exchange (WIP Mentor Network) will become the council’s signature program soon. This structured mentoring program will bring together mentors and mentees using mentor-matching software. Once matched, the “knowledge partners” will have “Mentoring 101” training on best practices, guidelines, and confidentiality prior to beginning a six-month course designed to achieve the mentee’s goals. Mentoring is proven to be more effective than other types of training or coaching. We will have a program in place to transfer knowledge from our experienced people to those with ambition. The Knowledge Exchange stands to transform the propane industry.
To learn more about the Women in Propane Council or to get involved, visit www.npga.org or contact [email protected]