Hope is at the center of many dealers’ business strategies. Hope that if they sell the business, the sale will return the cash they need to retire and support their dream lifestyle.  However, many dealers have to show up with checks to pay debt and find a job to help facilitate retirement.  Or, now that they have the cash, dealers are hoping they can find a safe place to put their money despite an uncertain economy so they can live out the retirement of their dreams.

And then, there is hope that if they keep it, they can overcome industry, competition, and business challenges to survive and grow.  Finally, many hope that the family may become interested in the business and do what it takes to earn the respect of managers and one day lead the business.  In a perfect world, everyone will get along, the family will fall in line and assume the right roles, key leaders will stay, and the business will survive to see another generation. 

Some time ago, hard work, pure grit, and hope it will work out sometimes brought about a future people could live with; however, in our new world order, hard work isn’t the business strategy it used to be.  There are too many headwinds impacting liquid heating fuel businesses to generate a return on investment without a well-thought-out strategy developed in partnership with outside experts.

In this episode, Champ Rawls, a succession planner with The Rawls Group, Marty Kirshner, Partner with Gray, Gray & Gray, our very own succession planner Clayton  Latiolais, and Doug Woosnam, a Consultant with Cetane Associates, discuss what fuel dealers, propane marketers, wholesalers, and service contractors must do to generate what they want and need from the business.

Protecting and securing your financial and family future requires you to look at the foundation of your business.  Basics such as developing a growth strategy, strategic planning, creating healthy boundaries between family and business, developing bench strength, and leaning on expert guidance position you to get what you want and need out of the investment and hard work put into the business.

Growth Strategy

Thriving into the future requires growth because someone else is focusing on taking your market share if you aren’t growing.  In this discussion, Champ Rawls shares that the place to start when discussing growth with your team is first knowing what you are good at now.  Additionally, identifying current market penetration, understanding performance metrics to know your potential for the future, and then discussing what different lines of business make sense for your existing structure and the structure you envision for the future.

Strategic Plan

Engaging in strategic planning facilitates insight into where you are now and where you want to go.  Marty Kirshner shares that developing a strategic plan looking forward at least 2 – 5 years aligns the owner’s vision and team towards organizational goals.

Family & Business Balance

Family influences, motivations, and each family member’s vision for the future impact business decisions.  Often it is the emotional dynamics that can bring a business down.  Implementing governance strategies protects the business from negatively impacting family relationships and the family negatively impacting business performance.

Leadership Bench and Successor Development

People are the backbone of your business.    Investing in people development is one of the many ways to build attractive cultures.  Inspiring cultures attract and retain top talent providing the opportunity to implement strategic plans.  In addition, as Clayton Latiolais shares,  successor development curriculums offer a pathway for family and/or managers to know what it takes to fulfill leadership and potential ownership roles in the organization.

 Expert Insight

To decide whether to sell, grow or transition the business, it is important to reach out to expert professionals for third-party insight.  As Doug Woosnam shares, an owner may want to grow their business, but unless the owner can fund it or the team in place to make it happen successfully, growth/transition is going to fail.  Commonly, business owners are reluctant to step outside their business to get professional advice to give them insight on what it will take to grow/transition and what it will take to sell at the multiple needed or wanted.

For more insight:

Visit the “Create Control Over Your Future” discussion page or select one of the additional episodes of the series below:


  • Cetane Associates: a unique group of fuel industry specialists armed with assets and proprietary processes that help them perform wonders for their clients
  • Gray, Gray, and Gray:  With 77 years of experience working with fuel oil and propane marketers and convenience store owners, Gray, Gray & Gray has established a reputation as the energy industry’s leading accounting, consulting, and business advisory firm.
  • Succession Readiness Survey:  A 7-minute investment in time will put you in an informed position of opportunities many business owners overlook, impacting business value, growth, and lifestyle, and ultimately achieving your vision.
  • Contact a Succession Planner: The Rawls Group can help you with insights and other resources and see if it makes sense to work together. At the very least, in 30 minutes, you may get some ideas you can apply to your business immediately.

The Succession Planning Matrix

Many people put off succession planning because they think it means retirement, exit, and the end. However; succession planning is just the beginning. It gives the owner options in terms of what “their next” looks like, whether that be growth, philanthropy, or a new business venture. Our process focuses are addressing 10 key areas of what we call the Succession Matrix.family-business-succession-planning

Click the following link for more drill-down resources on The Succession Matrix, or check out our Facebook post.

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We can provide insights and other resources and assess whether it makes sense to work together. In just 30 minutes, you may gain actionable ideas that you can immediately apply to your business. Contact us via phone or email below, or fill out the “Ask An Expert” form.