By Paul Nazzaro, Nazzaro Group, LLC and National Biodiesel Board Petroleum Liaison
A business lifecycle has four components, depicted as an arc. Organizations pass through the stages of starting up, growing, maturing, and eventually declining – unless of course they reinvent themselves.
George Bernard Shaw, the Irish playwright and co-founder of the London School of Economics, once said: “Progress is impossible without change; and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
If you plot out your company sales trajectory you will launch, grow, mature and decline, unless you have a plan to reinvent, restart, grow and continue the cycle of instituting constant change.
Businesses are launched because someone like you came up with a clear vision or idea. Those visions and ideas become ordinary once they hit maturity. It seems apparent that the business of buying and selling heating oil, diesel and gasoline is stuck in the maturity zone with decline imminent, for several reasons. First, many of these products simply have not evolved. Their proposed value is imbalanced, and consumers are conserving, reducing the demand and challenging your supply system.
To avoid declining it is pivotal that to adjust and adapt your business strategy so it is at the right place at the right time in the future. If you fail to travel the new path – the one that to date has been the one less traveled, you will wither.
For nearly a decade, Bioheat® pioneers and leaders have established a product and market that can be simply plugged-and-played with minimal effort. For a variety of reasons heating oil industry participants have poked and prodded Bioheat, but only a few have embraced and fast-tracked the new, improved heating oil.
Now, some good things are happening. The transition to ultra-low sulfur heating oil is under way, the natural Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA) is reauthorized or five years, and – perhaps most exciting – the technical community is preparing to present to ASTM the facts to support an increase in blend percentage of biodiesel from 5 percent to 20 percent. At 20 percent, another barrier to success has been pummeled, and heating oil can now be touted for being as clean as its nemesis, natural gas.
How does a company change? It takes guts and intuitive skills to move forward while others are retreating or remaining stagnant. Unknown futures bring unfamiliar risks as well as rewards. Companies that learn to thrive in the turmoil are healthier than those that do not. Many times the future cannot be quantified with statistics, facts or proof. This is a time when you have to rely upon your inner gut to reconcile which road is the pathway to a brighter future. Leaders let their gut lead them into uncharted territories where statistics haven’t yet been generated.
The good news specific to Bioheat and your decision to advance your Bioheat sales agenda is this: The Bioheat waters are not uncharted. Reams of data and field success support a fuel dealer’s decision to toss in the “carbon towel” for a new heating oil that holds promise both for themselves and those that they serve.
It is necessary to make continual shifts and improvements to stay healthy, both for yourself and your company. You need to persuade your team to self-organize at a distinct place in the future or risk the demise of the organization. Just ask the hundreds of fuel dealers that have surrendered and given in to simply closing the doors or, if fortunate enough, sold out to aggregators interested in amassing new delivery locations.
Getting ahead of the life cycle curve requires courage and communication. Courage to determine the next move, and communication to keep the troops committed moving forward. Rallying all involved to pursue a common course of action is all part of the innovation and survival process. It is my hope that as the conference season unfolds that dealers are more drawn to the business sessions regarding growth than to the ones that focus on selling their businesses.
Lessons From a Champion
At this year’s National Biodiesel Board Conference held in San Diego, I was captivated by Olympic Gold Medal winner Jim Craig’s speech, where he shared some of the key elements of his personal and team success. Jim’s strategies, which is part of his Gold Medal Strategies® include:
- Recruit for Results: Great teams are the product of meticulous recruiting.
- Power of Teamwork: Great teams have a shared dream.
- Confidence Building: Great teams have a chip on their shoulder – and think of themselves as winning underdogs.
- Goal Achievement: Great teams have a real or invented enemy.
- Conflict Management/Transformational Change Management: Great teams manage through ego and conflict.
- Rewards of Risk-Taking: Great teams make personal sacrifices.
- Accountability for Action: Great teams hold each other accountable.
- Commitment to Excellence: Great teams stay young in spirit and outlook.
- Fundamentals of Winning: Great teams and great companies win!
Think about it. “Great teams” and “great companies” can benefit from implementation of these strategies. Your goal is to hire the best people, share your vision with the them, think and act confidently, and set your sights on the competition, both the other dealer and of course, natural gas. You wrestle and manage inevitable conflicts, make sacrifices, hold each other accountable and do your best to stay upbeat and positive. The net result: you win.
Those that don’t follow these principals will have a more challenging time with transitioning to a new improved fuel like Bioheat. This is one time in the history of your company that you can’t be a passenger on this journey we call the “Evolution of Oil Heat.” If you’re worrying about your industry (and you should be) there is only one thing you need to do: “Be good at what you do.” That means adapting and initiating change to your marketing footprint.
Resources are available to move the needle. All you have to do is ask.