PAPCO: Solutions for Success
Founded in 1976 as a family oil business, PAPCO has evolved with the times, continuously setting the standard of excellence in the energy supply market.
Providing fuel supply, storage, dispensing and inventory management solutions for businesses and government agencies, PAPCO’s largest differentiating factor from its competition is providing innovative solutions through personalized customer care.
“One of the things that we offer our customers is a very customized approach to becoming their fuel supplier,” said Frank Daniels, Director of Marketing at PAPCO, during a recent interview.
PAPCO makes the conscious effort to understand its customers’ needs prior to shipping any products. Beyond a tactical fuel supply perspective, PAPCO works alongside its customers in an effort to help them meet their financial goals in running their business.
“We strive to be an aligned strategic partner with each and every one of our customers where we can provide them with efficiency, cost-benefits and help them grow as we grow right alongside them,” said Eric Rosenfeldt, VP Sales, Supply and Trading.
“We help such an under-served market in that regard because fuel procurement is mainly driven by price. It is a commodity. Taking that extra step and time to listen to the customer, to understand what their needs are and then come back with real solutions that help their fuel purchasing or their strategy around how they obtain the fuel that operates their business is something that we try to focus on,” Rosenfeldt added.
A Multi-Step Process
From the very start, PAPCO creates a personal bond between provider and customer. During the initial appointment, PAPCO creates an open relationship to understand their customers’ business challenges.
“We listen to them and try to understand what keeps them awake at night,” said Rosenfeldt. “Is it the fact that they don’t have enough fuel supply for their business because the logistical infrastructure around their facilities is very constrained? Or is it the price because they’re in a highly hypercompetitive market?”
According to Rosenfeldt, upon identifying the risks and concerns customers have, a plan is created to alleviate said risks and/or constraints and then benchmark said plan.
“We then sit down and say ‘How has this worked over time?’” said Rosenfeldt. “We’re not just consultants where we throw something out there and say, ‘You should do this.’ We always circle back to the customer and ask what worked, what didn’t work and how have things changed.”
Providing Value for the Customer
Thanks to this customized solutions approach, every customer can be sure that they are obtaining product at a market-related price. But that’s not where the true value factors in.
The value comes from the why.
“It’s not just, ‘Here’s your product, where’s your price?’ and that’s the end of that,” explained Rosenfeldt. “It’s more about bringing information to the customers and that has a lot to do with the content that we provide our customer base to help them understand where they stand amongst the market and the logistical constraints that have popped up.”
By sharing the “why” and “how” with their customers, PAPCO is able to receive valuable feedback that allows them to create new strategies in their operations.
In short, PAPCO both watches and analyzes the market, allowing them to manage their own costs and supplies on behalf of their customers.
“Answering the ‘What should we do now?’ is a pivotal moment in our relationship with our customers,” said Daniels. “It really defines us in making a strong recommendation based on the customer’s needs.”
“We don’t tell the customers we know where the prices are going to be two weeks or two months from now, because no one knows that,” added Rosenfeldt. “What we do is share our knowledge base with them, and offer them substantive fuel market information and analysis that helps them make more of an informed decision. That’s what sets us apart.”
A Supply Chain Leader
PAPCO has access to over 1 million barrels of owned or leased storage. A shipper on the Colonial Pipeline (which links the company’s supply chain all the way to the Gulf Coast) with inventory locations throughout the eastern United States, PAPCO maintains fuel supply agreements with major oil refining companies such as Exxon-Mobil, Citgo, Shell and BP.
PAPCO has prided itself on never missing a delivery on account of a lack of supply, and according to Rosenfeldt, this is made possible because of the contingency plans set in place.
“It comes through contingency plans and asset diversification,” he said. “What I mean by that is, on a very macro level, the ways in which we transport product are via pipeline, rail, barge or truck, and you need to be able to understand and execute contingencies around all of that.”
By having contingency plans in place, PAPCO can ensure that if something were to happen on the pipeline, the product can still be delivered via barge—if it’s not a waterborne market, then by rail.
Asset diversification is having the access to product from a variety of producers so if one has issues, another producer is in place.
“When you look at our business of oil distribution and all the other value additions that we bring to the table, one of the things our customers look to us for is experience to get them through tough times,” said Daniels. “Whether its hurricanes or other stressed weather situations where the entire oil infrastructure is severely constrained, that’s when we’re needed most.”
Triumph through Tragedy
Hurricane Sandy was the deadliest and most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, as well as the second-costliest hurricane in United States history.
When PAPCO was called upon to continue delivering fuel during this calamity, rather than declaring force majeure, the company stepped forward and continued operations without missing a beat.
“We took a lot of pride in stepping up to the table and performing during that timeframe and not looking at the situation as, ‘How can we have an out because of certain challenges that we may or not be facing because of the market?’” said Daniels. “We looked at it as, ‘This is our opportunity to prove to our customers the value that we bring to the table.’ And that was the time we needed to perform.”
Ben McClenahan, Director of Commercial Sales, added, “That’s part of our value proposition. The supply chain is fragile, but you know, 11 months out of the year there are no problems, but we always tell our customers ahead of time, ‘This will happen at some point.’ Hurricane Sandy is a good example because we have customers today that are very loyal to us, still remembering the tough times they had during those two, three, four months where their supply was very tight and we provided them supply when no one else would.”
Creating Relationships with Suppliers
Meeting with their suppliers quarterly, PAPCO continuously reviews its relationships to determine what is being looked at, what new markets look interesting and what assets might be available.
“We have quarterly business reviews to make sure our goals are aligned,” reiterated McClenahan. “We don’t want to bring on a new supplier if we can’t help them grow their business along with our business, so it’s just a constant communication with them.”
PAPCO itself has been recognized as a quality supplier from the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency (DLA).
A primary resourcing arm for the U.S. military and other agencies, the DLA recently announced its top performing supply contractors for fiscal years 2013 and 2014 and PAPCO was designated as DLA Superior Supplier.
Looking Towards the Future
“We have taken our model and executed it,” said McClenahan, “from the consulting base to the selling to the logistical infrastructure—everything that it takes to do our business. Now, we’re going to take that into new markets.”
PAPCO’s growth can be attributed to acquisition and organic growth. Acquisition aside, the company feels that there are a number of markets they have not entered that hold substantial potential. But how do you continue to expand in such a competitive market? Focus on your people and your brand.
“It is our people at the end of the day that are keeping all our promises and delivering our value to the customers,” said Rosenfeldt. “We’re also seeing the benefits of a really strong brand reputation. It’s rewarding to know that when we approach customers that they’ve heard of us and that our reputation is strong in the marketplace.”