In 1976, my junior year of high school, my dad came to me and said “It’s time to see if you know how to run a business.” We leased this DX station and I ran it every day of the summer. Played baseball at night.
When I graduated I already had my own business. I started selling milk, bread and beer. Opportunity came along to sell it for a profit. Then I went in with my brother at his place. I was 18 years old at the time.
I’m an ASE certified mechanic and I’ve been in the business 35 years. I employ 10 people and have been in business in Nevada for 20 years.
Full line convenience store. Chicken restaurant. Liquor store. Auto repair. All in one building.
I offer more than a lot of people do. I try to set myself apart because I’m just a little independent. I offer flex fuels; you have to go about five counties to find what I’ve got.
We’d been selling ethanol since 1972. We have a picture of my dad standing by a pump with an ear of corn that says “Gasohol.”
My brother and I were partners together; he passed away from cancer. There were a few prominent families in town that started doing business with me 20 years ago, and if those few families wouldn’t have done that I probably wouldn’t have been successful. But they had faith in me.
This just happened to me last week. A fellow came down and said, “I’m looking to do renewable fuels, can I come down and look at your location?” His big question was, “are people using it?” I said yes they are. I told him, if you’re going to put in blender pumps, put in all blender pumps. Don’t make my mistake and just put in one.
After I sold my business in 1979, I went in with my brother, sold that to a convenience store company, and the only way we’d sell it to them is if I went to work for them as a store manager. After a year they promoted me to a merchandising manager supervisor.
The operations manager of that company and I went out and built 21 convenience stores. Then I ran a company in southeast Iowa, a five-store chain. Then a 16-store chain. Then I went to a 118-store chain for five year, then moved back here to do this store with my brother.
I have opinions on everything. As a consultant I went in and told people, “This is what you have to do to be successful.” It’s hard to take that from somebody when you think you know what you’re doing.
Things change, you gotta adapt with the industry.
I use the George Constanza School of Business — anything the major companies do, I do the exact opposite. It works for me.
I knew in my business as an independent there’s certain things I could get away with that major companies won’t do. Sacred cow stuff they won’t do.
My name doesn’t necessarily drive people to me, so I want my product to. And the flex fuel is my product to drive people to me.
Putting the renewable fuels in, that’s they way I looked at it. Kum and Go and Kasey’s and all these major corporations are never going to do it because they have a name and they don’t need to do it. I need to make my name.
I knew that if I followed that strategy that I had a good chance of making it work. When I rolled out, I rolled out looking like a corporate store.
When I decided to do the flex fuels I was looking to upgrade my installation regardless. My installer said maybe you should look at the flex fuels. Blender pumps are going to be the thing of the future. I said let’s rebid it.
I was plenty scared. I had my doubts.
I just said I’m going guarantee all my fuel 100 percent, period, no matter what. And if I have to fix somebody’s car, I have to fix somebody’s car. And I’ve never had an issue.
People think there’s going to be problems with their motors. I’m a year and half into this and I have had not one single complaint, not one single claim. There’s absolutely no down side in my book.
I think you would be hard-pressed to find somebody other than somebody that’s hooked up to a major oil company to tell you that there’s a problem.
My gallons per month for my ethanol sales, it’s 94% of my sales per month, and my average month is 45 to 50,000 gallons and I’ve had zero claims. Period.
The biggest thing in my mind is we’re not giving money to people who want to kill us. We’re giving money to the American farmer and we’re keeping the air cleaner.
Once or twice a week, people come into my store and ask “what can I use in my car?” My customers feel comfortable talking to me because I’m a certified mechanic.
The dumb thing about what I did is, instead of putting in one blender pump, I should have put in three. Trust me, that is the biggest mistake I made. And I will tell anybody that any time.
If I would have three blender pumps, I know the choice is there and people would use it. There’s people that want it, and there’s more people who would put it in if they were at at pump that had it.
E15 and E85 are running about the same. E15 on a daily basis is consistent. E85 is up or down on a daily basis, but when it’s up it’s up quite a ways.
It’s this decision to survive. I feel that this is coming and it’s going to come strong. And I’m going to be the leader, not the follower.
It’s definitely worked for me. My gallons are up and they were up dramatically the first year. And a couple months in to my second year, I’m continuing to raise by 3-5 percent a month. All of my gallons that are going up are E15, E30, E85. My other gallons have basically stayed the same.
The blend wall to me is a totally fictitious thing made up by the oil companies, because 94- 95% of my total fuel sales is ethanol-based fuels. I’m at 15-20% of fuels sales of E15 and flex fuels. A wall is something you hit and fall back. I am through that wall [they] said we would never get to.
To be quite honest with you, I hadn’t heard of this “blend wall” until I went to Washington DC. When I got out there and saw the fight they were fighting against us, I just couldn’t believe it. I had no clue we were being fought that hard.
I felt like it could increase my revenue, I could increase my dollar, I could increase my customer base. But the main thing is, when more people come in through my door, they come to buy the flex fuels, they buy all the other stuff in my store too. So it’s increased me two ways.
What you need to know is people will use it. People try everything. They’re going to wonder what it’s there for, can I use it, why should I use it.
Biggest question I get is, “Where is my fuel mileage going to go?” I tell them every car’s different. You just gotta try. They’ll decide for themselves is what works for them.
I tell them if the cents-per-gallon difference and the money staying in the United States doesn’t sway you to spend your money locally, whether you lose a bit per mile, it’s miniscule for what you’re going to spend in a year, for what you’re keeping in the United States.
I was this close to locking it up once. My brother passed away, left me with a lot of debt. I was trying to lease my store out, I had the ink pen in a fella’s hand and he backed out at the last minute. I changed my marketing strategies, and basically I have done eight years of double-digit sales increases.
I have been very, very lucky. I made some of the right moves at the right time. And I believe truly [flex fuel] is the right move.
And here we are. Not one claim. Not one problem. And sales continue to increase. Oh, I feel real good.
I am very, very proud of the store that I have, the staff that I have, the business that I have. And I’ve worked very hard to do this. I love this business, it’s the only thing I know in my life. I think I’m good at it. I enjoy what I do and I do it with a passion and I do it with one thing: to be the best, period.