ENG offers its customers petroleum products from a variety of brands including Mobil, Exxon, Gulf, Irving, Citgo, Sunoco and Valero. The company also offers unbranded gasoline, E85, diesel, kerosene and biofuels.
In addition to fuel, the company offers its customers design, construction and loan programs, co-branding opportunities, general and health insurance programs, buying cooperative programs, electricity, natural gas, signage, automated dispatch and other services. ENG partners with suppliers, insurance agencies, technology providers, training organizations and others to provide these opportunities, he adds.
Keeping Close Contact
Although ENG’s roughly 250 employees and $1 billion in annual revenues place it among the largest distributors and store operators in its region, ENG believes in maintaining that day-to-day level of contact with its customers that many of its competitors are too large to achieve.
“One benefit we have is that we are close to the ground,” O’Connell says, noting the company maintains a flat organizational structure. “Our senior management is closely involved with each of our retail stores, and we have closer relationships with our wholesalers and dealers than many larger companies.”
ENG’s wholesale account representatives are expected to spend time at customer locations on a frequent basis. “Our people need to be in the stores and with our customers,” O’Connell says. “For us, employees and customers come first, and I think that’s forgotten by many others, who seldom visit customers.”
Personalized service through frequent contact is the main way the company retains its wholesale customer base. “It’s nice to get a new customer, and that is important, but retaining our existing customers is what’s most critical to us.”
O’Connell and other senior ENG management are also available to customers. “If there is an issue and someone in the field is not available, that customer can come to me, the president or any of the senior management staff to resolve the concern right away,” he says.
ENG’s senior management takes a similar approach to its employees. “We treat our employees well, and people want to work for the Energy North Group; we very seldom have issues with our folks out in the field,” O’Connell says.
The company regularly hosts company outings in the summer months as well as monthly dinners and other employee recognition events. “We try to see all our employees, so they all know our names and who we are,” he adds. “We want them to feel confident that they can call us if the need arises.”
‘A Culture of Growth’
ENG within the past seven years has significantly grown its physical footprint through acquisitions. “We are a culture of growth,” O’Connell says.
The company in 2008 made the first of these acquisitions when it purchased the assets of Draper Oil Company. Three other wholesale distribution company purchases quickly followed. The company anticipates closing on another acquisition, which O’Connell calls one of its largest yet, in early 2015.
Several recent technology purchases will allow the company to better integrate its new additions. “We’ve created an infrastructure that allows us to continue to grow,” he says. “We’ve purchased and put into place several systems with the idea that acquisition and growth is our future.”
The company last year began implementing the Pinnacle retail automation and Microsoft Dynamics software, which includes pricing, automated ordering, inventory management and financial modules. ENG also now uses the Microsoft SharePoint and Paycom platforms for document management. “We’re shedding paper and trying to become 100 percent paperless on the general business and human resources side,” O’Connell says.
A Balanced Company
ENG’s other technology-related initiatives include using automated inventory and mobile logistics systems within its transportation division, which along with the retail and distribution divisions is one of the company’s main business lines. The transportation division, ABS Fuel Systems, was established after ENG purchased ABS in 1999. The company makes deliveries on a 24/7/365 basis at competitive rates, ENG notes.
The wholesale, retail and transportation divisions combine to make ENG a “very balanced company,” O’Connell says. “When the margins in our retail stores are good, we see the benefit of that, but when they’re not as good, we have agreements with transportation, wholesale and dealers that allow us continued profitability,” he adds.