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Woodford Oil: A Family Business Grown Big

 

The family business has long been a staple in the American economy. According to the Small Business Administration, about 90% of all U.S. businesses are family-owned or controlled. Ranging in size from small “mom and pop” shops to Fortune 500 entities, family businesses generate about half of the country’s gross national product and half of the total wages paid. As Maura Keller reports here, Woodford Oil Co. is one such business—with the third generation of the family at the helm of this growing entity within the fuel oil industry.

Headquartered in Elkins, W.Va., Woodford Oil Co. is a locally owned, fuels and lubricants marketer and value-added service provider with customers in a six-state region that includes Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, as well as West Virginia.

It was 1947 when the company’s founder, C. William (Bill) Woodford, started out as a marketer for a small Gulf Oil and Tire distributor in West Virginia. When Bill took control of the business in 1962, the company had grown into a multi-branded petroleum wholesaler, selling Shell, Texaco, Exxon, Marathon, Citgo, Mystik and all products related to the service station business.

A bit more than a decade later, Bill’s son, C. Curtis (Curt) Woodford, joined the company full-time in 1975 after graduating from college, and has continued to operate and grow the company. Curt remodeled and modernized Woodford Oil’s original bulk plant in 1999, installing new tank farms and equipment, a move designed to make Woodford Oil competitive with larger distributors.

Todd Woodford, the third generation of Woodfords, joined the company in 2003, and is now chief operating officer, driving Woodford Oil on a path of continuous expansion. Since 2005 the company has acquired myriad petroleum assets, expanding its area of operations across six states.

Today, Woodford Oil Company is one of the largest independent locally owned petroleum marketers in the industry. The company offers a full line of petroleum products and motor fuels to retail service stations and convenience stores, as well as commercial, industrial, mining, and farming industry customers. The company is a “Chevron 1st Source Elite Lubrication Marketer,” distributing industrial lubricants, as well as home heating oil, racing fuels, and diesel exhaust fluid (DEF).

According to Scott Kiser, vice president of Woodford Oil, the company’s staff includes fuel technicians, chemical engineers, and lubrication specialists; part of their charge is to help the company’s commercial and industrial customers improve their operations. The oilfield services division provides the oil and gas extraction industry with 24/7 service.

Woodford Oil has focused on offering biofuel at all of its locations. The company strives to educate consumers about biofuel as a heating option, telling consumers that Bioheat has been shown to reduce carbon emissions by an average of 80% compared to traditional fuel oil, and that it also reduces sulfur oxides and sulfates, which contribute to acid rain. Another part of the company’s message to consumers is that Bioheat can be used with existing heating oil equipment and can extend the life and efficiency of equipment by reducing black smoke and soot residue.

“Most consumers are aware of biofuel as a vehicle fuel option, but not many are aware that biofuel can also be used for heating oil,” Kiser says. “That’s why the Kentucky Petroleum Marketers Association (KPMA) launched its Bioheat campaign last fall. The campaign is designed to raise awareness of Bioheat and educate Kentuckians about the benefits of using Bioheat to heat their homes and businesses.”

KPMA’s awareness campaign includes wrapping a fleet of local oil delivery trucks with the Bioheat brand.

“Woodford Oil is one of many marketer members in our state who reliably provide Bioheat to Kentucky’s residential customers,” says Brian Clark, executive director of the Kentucky Petroleum Marketers Association. “They were they first KPMA member to have a vehicle wrapped with our new Bioheat campaign truck graphics.” That first vehicle was a Woodford Oil truck domiciled at the company’s Danville, Ky., regional office. (See “Kentucky Marketers Launch Bioheat Campaign,” pg. 14, Fuel Oil News, January 2017.)

Kiser, a KPMA board member, helps lead the initiative as a committee volunteer in the association.

“He offered the first tanker truck for the wrap and we are very pleased with the results. Local TV and newspaper media have featured the truck in news stories,” Clark says. “Numerous other members are having their trucks wrapped, too. It is becoming a popular campaign for our Kentucky members.”

Information technology yields continuous efficiencies for the company and its customers, Kiser says, a critical advantage as the company operates a fleet of more than 100 petroleum delivery vehicles, including tank wagons and transport trucks. The company adds new vehicles to improve service and to serve new areas as the company expands. This continuous expansion means an enterprise software system is a necessity.

Woodford Oil currently uses software provided by Factor, Oklahoma City, Okla., to drive its back-office accounting, dispatch and logistics planning. The software, for companies in the petroleum marketing and convenience store industries, is designed to optimize processes and reporting. “It essentially manages the entire customer relationship from order to delivery,” Kiser says. “The primary benefits are that it helps us improve our efficiency, cut costs, and provide our customers with world-class service.”

The software is tied into Woodford Oil’s onboard truck system, which allows the company to dispatch drivers efficiently, know their position in real time, and make sure drivers keep to schedule. Further, the company can provide an estimated time of arrival to customers.

“The software also enables us to complete transactions at point of delivery, which improves billing accuracy and timeliness,” Kiser says. “And it ties into our customer relationship management software used by our sales department.”

Woodford Oil also offers tank monitoring service to customers who want to save time on inventory management. “We utilize cellular or Internet service to remotely monitor tank level readings and schedule delivery to ensure that our customers have the product they need, when they need it,” Kiser says. “We use several brands of equipment, including Veeder-Root, Centeron and LevelCon.

We use tank monitoring a lot for our large-volume convenience store fuel customers and our commercial fuel accounts, but we make the service available across most of our product segments and industries, including lubricants and heating oil, but not propane tanks.”

Woodford Oil promotes its products and services to new and existing customers in various ways.

“We have a robust online and social media platform that includes the woodfordoil.com website, as well as a strong presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Yelp,” Kiser says. “We value engagement with our customers, and utilize these forums to let them know about Woodford news, industry news, and other useful and fun information. We’ve achieved good success with this type of outreach.”

Walk into any sports arena, community celebration, or tradeshow and you’re bound to see company logos printed on T-shirts, banners, placards, or brochures. These themed events rely on sponsors to contribute money or other assets to the organizers of the event in exchange for advertising and other honorable mentions. Woodford Oil supports communities in which it operates by sponsoring various local events and charity drives, especially when the company can be on site to meet and interact with customers.

“We don’t do a lot of print advertising these days,” Kiser says. “It seems that people are so busy that they have little time to sit down and read a printed newspaper or magazine, and often prefer electronic communication.”

While marketing its products and services to customers and potential customers, Woodford Oil nurtures a growth mindset throughout the company. As Kiser explains, from top-level leadership to entry-level team members, the company ensures that the core vision is clear:

“If we all do our jobs, accept accountability for our performance, and put the needs of the customer first, then we will grow successfully as a company,” Kiser says.

In recent years Woodford Oil purchased a number of retail locations, and five wholesale acquisitions. Each provided substantial growth in market footprint, product and resource capabilities, and overall company value, Kiser says.

In 2017, Woodford will continue on its growth agenda with the opening of a new wholesale fuels and lubricants bulk plant in Morgantown, W. Va.  The facility will enable Woodford to reach further into the northeast region of the United States and into new markets for the company, Sikes says.

“The future for Woodford is very bright,” he says. “Leadership continues to invest in growth strategies to increase our product and customer service capabilities, as well as our footprint. We plan to continue our growth through increased market penetration, product expansion, diversification, and, when appropriate, strategic acquisition.”

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