Recently, I have heard many stories from the fuel oil dealers and some are somewhat scary. Many have shared their concerns about the following:
What will the price of oil be this heating season?
What will I do to keep my customers from going to gas?
How will I handle my receivables?
How can I continue doing business with prices of oil going constantly upward?
These are just some of the concerns that I hear on a regular basis, and I’m sure you can find many more subjects to add to this list. However, you can only control what you have control over, and you must first be able to identify the areas of possible weaknesses that are within your control in order to find the answers. I also suggest, if you haven’t recognized it already, that you can’t survive unless you examine every part of your business. If you think that it’s just business as usual, you need to read the very popular book Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson, and I would hope that you have an established business plan in place. The first stage of the plan would be to look within your company for new ideas and direction. Many times as owner and managers you get so entangled in some of the above issues that you lose sight of those around you who could provide some cost saving ideas. So, if that might be the case, why not have a brain storming session with your employees and allow them to offer their input regarding a possible new direction that could lead to a more healthy business continuance?
On another note, do you worry too much about the gas companies? Well, guess what, they have a plan, and it is beyond your control. Yes, I have heard that they are offering some nice incentives to switch from oil to natural gas. However, one of the things that they do not offer is the opportunity to switch companies if customers don’t like the price. And, by the way, in my area the public utilities commission was solicited by the gas company for a rate increase of 10 percent, and it was granted.
Then, how about the day, night, holiday and after hour service that your customers have become so accustomed to over the years? Well, the last time I heard the response to a no heat or hot water call placed to the gas company, is ‘call a plumber.” And, when the customer asked which one, the reply is ‘check the yellow pages.” When it comes to a customer paying for the oil, many of you have extended payments that often have gone beyond the normal payment schedule. I doubt that the utility companies will show these same customers the compassion that many of you have over the years.
So if you find yourself in a world of worry, don’t quit on your customers and they won’t quit either. Take a look at the resources around you, and I bet that you can find some very good support. These resources can come from the National Oil Heat Service Managers, local oil dealer associations and even the companies that supply you with your every day heating and cooling equipment. One thing I can say is that none of those I mentioned will ever quit on you.