Good Choices Ahead

Written on: July 10, 2019 by Phillip J. Baratz

Fuel oil dealers are used to dealing with challenging situations:
• How do I find enough drivers?
• If I drug-test everyone, will I have enough staff?
• How can I make enough money if I keep hearing from my customers that my prices are too high?
• How do I compete with “the big guys?”
These and many more questions are often very logical but nearly impossible to answer. In order to compete, you need to level the playing field; in order to win, you need to tilt the odds in your favor.
Making the change
Over the past few months, we have been focusing on different methods to improve aspects of your business including remote monitors as well as route optimization processes and software. In all cases, there are costs associated with achieving benefits, and there is also a good deal of uncertainty. Questions such as these can arise:
• Can I really change my Optimal Delivery?
• Will my technicians actually install monitors?
• Will I get the return on investment that I hope for?

It is always easier not to change things, especially if the amount of work required to achieve the results might not get done. How many times have you heard, Sure, that’s a great idea but I’m not sure when I‘ll have time to do it?
We all want better results, and even more so, we want them to happen without us having to put in a lot of effort or dramatically changing the way we operate. The old adage good things come to those who wait doesn’t hold water in our ever-changing, technology-charged world. It’s more like if you snooze, you lose. Increased profits will not happen by waiting around and it certainly won’t happen if you don’t modify your (and, by extension, your staff’s) behavior.
Without rehashing all the moving pieces, you should soon be in a position to decide whether you: like the size of your business and want to make just a little more money operating it, or would like to make a lot more money using the same assets and resources that you currently have.
Change is scary, and not changing can be even scarier.
• 40 years ago, as your company (if it was around) was transitioning from the “file room” to a back-office accounting system, you got a lot of push-back. Really, who wanted to type on a keyboard when all a person had to do was to scribble a note on a piece of paper and put it the file (after photocopying the check that just showed up in the mail!)?
• 30 years ago, you didn’t offer anything but “a fair price and good service.” There weren’t any pricing programs that have now become the industry’s biggest retention tool.
• 20 years ago, the thought of a customer going online to make a payment—without interacting with anyone in your company—would have made your bookkeeper scream.
And 10 years ago, how opposed were your drivers and dispatchers to the notion of on-board computers?
Industries do change, even ours, perhaps slowly. Every industry evolves or they cease to exist. In the not-too-distant future there will be technology “haves” and “have nots” in our industry regarding the best method to make deliveries (while not allowing for run-outs).
In the future, deliveries will be fewer and bigger. Summer deliveries will be a different size than the winter deliveries. High-K factor customers will be treated differently than others and your fleet will not spend nearly as much of the year sitting idly waiting for that “cold week in January.” Most importantly, it will all happen with the push of a button.
Old School customer care, employee training and “soft skills” are as important today as ever. However, companies who take those to the extreme, who say the way they operated 20 years ago was the perfect way and believe there is no need to take advantage of today’s technology, might find themselves searching for their old Hall & Oates mixed tape to comfort themselves when the competition heats up.
Panic? Absolutely not. Plan? Absolutely. ICM