Sudden Stop

 ‘Nothing happens until something moves”
– Albert Einstein

About a month ago I stumbled across the quote above, and since, it has been the screen saver on my PC at the office.  It’s a constant reminder to take action.

Ever heard the saying, ‘Doing nothing is not a strategy,” or its corollary, ‘Hope is not a strategy?”  How many times have you heard this? Or said it out loud?  Throw a rock in any direction and you hit the carcasses of competitors that didn’t get the message.  Perhaps they got the message and just did nothing. How many businesses have you known that have succumbed to standing still?  If you are new to the business and have not yet been witness to this, you will. It is inevitable. 

Closer to home and attributable to someone many readers may even know is: ‘Are you in business to sell fuel oil, or are you in business to make money?”  

Years ago this comrade-in-arms told me he would regularly ask members of the industry association exactly that question. It was 10 years after the introduction of the personal computer.  Very few of your competitors had yet diversified their products and services. Technology was changing our lives in leaps and bounds and many wondered whether our industry could, or would, keep pace. Back then, we called ourselves ‘oil dealers.”  At the time, only a very few had yet changed the company name to include the word ‘energy.”

Clearly, some got the message and acted before it was too late.  In some instances a new generation was in line, or already there, to take over the business, and with them came the reinvention of the ‘fuel dealer.”  

I tell the following story often. It concerns a nearly 100-year old heating oil company that woke up one morning to the following realization: ‘If we do not make drastic changes to who we are, we will not be around in a few years.” This story came to me, told in the first person, and it disturbs me to this day how close this energy marketer came to going away for good. They got the message. They acted.   

Armed with committed and deliberate leadership, they broadened the company portfolio to include bio-heat, bio-diesel and propane, went head-long into ‘full envelope” weatherization, energy services, monitoring services, and last but not least, into electricity and natural gas marketing.

Today, the company thrives.

Everyone talks about change.   Some embrace it.  Some flee it.  Some curse it.  Some use it to flourish, or even leverage it, to beat their completion to death with it.  Some give speeches at industry events about it.  Some just plain die as a result of it.  

Meeting after meeting, conference after conference, board meeting after board meeting, seminar after seminar, reception after reception,  nearly everyone says, ‘Oh, yeah, we gotta change and I’m all for it.”

‘Do nothing and you are toast,” a long time friend in the industry likes to say.

We have all heard that is the sudden stop, not the actual fall, that kills you. For energy marketers, it’s not the changing world that will kill your company.  Doing nothing will suffice.

Act.  Act now.  Don’t wait for the sudden stop.



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