NEFI Energy Leaders Program Declared an Overwhelming Success

See more images from the NEFI Energy Leaders Program in the Oil & Energy Online Photo Gallery

NEFI held its Energy Leaders Program March 31-April 5 at the Revers Center for Energy, part of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. Led by Tuck faculty, this weeklong educational program drew energy business leaders from across the Northeast and beyond for a series of intensive and insightful courses and seminars.

Topics of study covered a range of issues critical to success in tomorrow’s energy-economy, including corporate reputation, brand management, innovation strategy, new-energy mergers and acquisitions, industry disruption, the role of private equity in industry transformation, and more. The Tuck faculty members who led these courses and seminars were Sydney Finkselstein, Paul A. Argenti, Kevin Lane Keller, Ron Adner, Geoffrey Parker, Phillip Stocken, Alva H. Taylor, and Praveen Kopalle. “Over the last year, Tuck engaged in a deep study of our industry, confirming that we face serious challenges and are going to need to make significant changes to survive and flourish in the coming years,” said Peter Aziz, founding partner at BantamWesson in Waterbury, Connecticut. “But they also affirmed that there is a bright future ahead if we do it well.”

In addition to daily courses, the NEFI Energy Leaders Program featured three dinner sessions, two of which were held at offsite locations. The closing dinner at Simon Pearce Restaurant in Quechee, Vermont included a talk from Sarah Irving, executive vice president and chief brand officer of Irving Energy, who shared invaluable lessons on leadership from the long and storied history of her family business. Several other members of Irving’s senior leadership team were also on hand, as was Sarah’s father, Arthur Irving, founder of The Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society at Dartmouth.

After a week of heavy coursework and inspiring interactions, industry professionals emerged from the NEFI Energy Leaders Program with new insights, connections and strategies for success.

All participants were asked to submit reviews of the program at its completion, and the collective response was both unanimously enthusiastic and overwhelmingly positive. “I found the Energy Leaders Program to be really enlightening and enjoyable, and as an executive I definitely got my money’s worth,” said David Singer, CEO of Robison Oil in Elmsford, NY. “The theme of the week focused on business strategy, anticipating disruptions in the market,” he continued. “Our industry is subject to a number of variables that can make it very difficult to operate — the regulatory environment, the continued assault on our product and the volatile cost of goods. Approaching these issues in an intellectually strategic way offered a great opportunity for energy executives to think about the broader picture, take ourselves out of the day-to-day operations and look at the industry with a wider lens and long-term perspective.”

Aziz agreed. “We all brought back ideas that we were able to implement immediately in terms of long-term strategy and short-term technical operations,” he said. “We sent two members of our company, and my only regret is that we didn’t send three.”

NEFI leaders celebrated the gender diversity, age diversity, and geographic diversity of the program, which attracted participants not only from the Northeast, but also outlying oilheat states such as Ohio and Maryland; and not only fuel retailers, but also wholesalers and manufacturers. “That diversity allowed for great collaboration,” said Jim Townsend, CEO of Townsend Energy in Danvers, Massachusetts. “This was a very rigorous program, running every day from 8:30 a.m. into the late evening hours, yet even when we had some downtime, our conversations came back to the program, what we were learning and how we could execute these ideas and strategies in our businesses. In my experience, that is very unique.”

Townsend went on to thank Sarah Irving for helping to connect leaders from NEFI, Dartmouth and Tuck. “The professors and faculty all seemed very impressed with the participants’ depth of inquisitiveness and the willingness of our industry to collectively adapt,” Townsend said. “We are already working with Tuck to develop content for next year’s curriculum,” he added.

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