Randy and Melissa Kube are building a propane business on expertise and “people skills,” reports contributing writer Maura Keller.
About three years ago, Randy Kube was approached by one of his former bosses about opening his own company. “He gave me a name of someone who would back my wife and I, and help us get started,” Kube says.
That’s how Randy and Melissa Kube came to launch Kube Propane in Lake, Mich. “The rest is history, as they say. We have wonderful partners and they have become family to us.” Randy Kube says.
Today the company provides propane for farm and industrial segments, as well as home heating. In addition, the company installs aboveground and underground tanks and pressure test systems. Kube Propane also offers an onsite propane dispenser, which allows propane cylinders and motorhomes to be filled onsite.
“Melissa runs the office and I take care of the daily deliveries and service work,” Kube says. “Our son Tyler has just joined us and is learning the business. He will be getting his CDL this winter and will be delivering gas along with learning the office from Melissa.”
PICTURED: Melissa and Randy Kube.
Randy Kube is a veteran of the propane business. His background includes more than 25 years in the propane industry. He began at Fuelgas in Flint, Mich., in 1993. During his tenure at Fuelgas, Kube worked in the management training program at the company’s Kimball plant in Wadhams, Mich. Over the following 23 years, Kube worked as a plant manager and sales manager for several different companies (due to buyouts). Some of these companies include Ferrellgas, Heritage Propane, Blarney Castle Oil and Propane, Fuelgas, Mapco, and Williams Energy.
“Having 25 years in the industry has been fun and very interesting,” Kube says. “I have worked for many majors over the years—each one had its challenges and learning experiences. I made a lot of great friends over the years and still keep in contact today with many of them. Each company I worked for I learned different computer systems and new ways to market your products and services.”
One aspect of business ownership that Kube learned was the vital role exceptional customer service can play in a company’s success. When Kube interacts with his customers, his goal is not only to engage with them, but to have them engage with his company’s brand. Kube combines loyalty marketing and first-hand interaction to nurture and strengthen the connection between customers and company.
“When you call Kube Propane you’re talking to one of the owners, not just an employee,” he says. “We enjoy seeing our customers when we are out in the community at different events. They love when we recognize them and stop to talk. We care about our customers and their families and what’s happening in their lives. Larger companies lose that personal touch and community involvement. The customers become nothing but an account number. And many companies charge fees to lock in your price for the season. Kube Propane does not charge anything.”
Today, Kube Propane operates in a geographic area that covers a 30-mile radius, with the company’s core business being 10 to 15 minutes from the plant. Kube Propane has one bobtail delivery truck and one service truck. In addition, about one year ago the company started using a tank monitoring system provided by Tank Utility, Boston, Mass.
“It allows us to monitor usage from my phone, so the customer never runs out,” Kube says. Most of the business consists of residential and commercial heating accounts. Kube Propane also offers a variety of direct vent and ventless heaters and supplies autogas, filling vehicles at their location.
“There is a great opportunity for autogas in central Michigan,” Kube says. “With many schools wanting to switch from diesel to propane there are unlimited opportunities for autogas.”
While Kube embraces technological advances within the industry, he has chosen not to use mobile communications or dispatching software to manage his drivers and technicians in the field. “We have enjoyed the personal touch of a courtesy call or a stop when in the area, to our customers,” Kube says. “Our customers appreciate that.”
While employed with various propane companies over the course of his career, Randy Kube has often worked with propane equipment and parts wholesaler Bergquist Inc., based in Toledo, Ohio, and Bergquist today supplies Kube Propane. “We have a personal friendship with many of the people that work there,” Kube says.
The family business is a vital force in the U.S. economy. About 80% to 90% of all U.S. businesses are family owned or controlled. They range in size from the traditional small business to Fortune 500 firms. According to the Small Business Administration’s estimates, family businesses generate about half of the country’s gross national product.
Small family companies like Kube Propane are often driven by a sense of family legacy, a sense that the family heritage has an intrinsic worth of its own. Kube Propane has such a legacy. Randy, Melissa, and Tyler Kube make sure the family-oriented aspect of their business is at the forefront of all they do.
Randy Kube’s family has a long history within the propane industry. In the 1970s, his grandfather, Charles Tryon, drove bobtails for Fuelgas and his father-in-law, Karl Klawon, worked for nearly four decades for Fuelgas. In addition, Randy’s father Ken and his uncle, Lee Prince Sr., worked in the propane industry for more than 40 years.
“The most challenging aspect of this industry is the competition, along with the cost of propane right now,” Kube says.
As operators of a customer-focused business, the Kube family puts a premium on “doing the right thing” for others in the community. Kube Propane provides Thanksgiving turkeys to the company’s customers, as well as donating turkeys to local schools, churches, and food pantries.
Randy Kube enjoys making new friends and meeting new people in the community. “The most rewarding aspect is the relationship you build with your customers,” he says.
“Word-of-mouth and community involvement is always the best advertising,” Kube adds. “Melissa and I look forward to many years of serving our customers and meeting many new ones.”
PICTURED (home page): Randy and Tyler Kube/Photo by Melissa Kube.
Article posted Friday, June 15, 2018.
Updated Tuesday, June 19, 2018, to include role of propane equipment wholesaler Bergquist, Inc.