Craig Snyder | Crain's Connecticut

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Craig Snyder

Background:  

Waterbury, Connecticut-based Wesson Energy Inc. was founded in 1914 when the grandfather of current CEO Robert Wesson began selling Texaco motor oil, later becoming a Texaco consignee in 1935. The company is engaged in a major transition, moving from being a traditional seller of petroleum products including home heating oil into what President Craig Snyder calls a “property management company” offering multiple home services stemming from its energy audits.

Revenue has risen 55 percent since the transition began in 2008, with the oil business going from 61 percent of margin to 35 percent last year. Wesson Energy’s diversified business margin has increased 146 percent during that time, according to Snyder.

Wesson University was founded in 2014 to better train the company’s workforce and others in the industry. Wesson Energy’s workforce has more than doubled to 100 employees servicing 34 towns.

Snyder became Wesson’s president in 2004. Among his current board affiliations is chairmanship of the Cromwell-based Connecticut Energy Marketers Association, formerly known as the Independent Connecticut Petroleum Association.

The Mistake:

There’s no easy way to do what we’re doing. We’ve made a major cultural shift and it was difficult beyond belief. Some of our employees weren’t ready for it.

They’re good people but they just didn’t fit with where our company is going. Change is hard for people.

Create a culture that embraces change, encourages risk-taking and thrives on the concept of team.

The Lesson:

First, create a culture that embraces change, encourages risk-taking and thrives on the concept of team.

Second, analyze your people, both internal and external. Do all you can to connect with people about your culture. Your employees have to understand your culture. If your people are not willing to change then you’ve got to change the people.

I’m very emotional about my employees. We’ve invested a lot in training. I want our employees to have the very best and everything they need to succeed. Education is very important both for people in the industry and our customers.

Our industry is evolving faster and faster. The green movement has forever changed it. We’re constantly working on transition.

There is tremendous respect for our technicians. We’re supermen. People trust us to come into their houses even when they’re not home and fix things including getting the heat going again. "In your home" – that’s what we’re leveraging, that’s the gig.

But that won’t stick without the right culture. I can sit here and make all kinds of plans but if we don’t have the people to execute them then we’re going nowhere.

The entire team is completely committed to building the best company to meet our customers’ needs. We want to meet those needs even before the customers realize they have them. Our energy audits create a more educated customer.

Before our diversification, we were very weather-dependent. When it was cold, business was great. When the weather was warmer than normal, we suffered. We really had zero control of our destiny because, in reality, it was a trickle-down business. Through education and having highly motivated people serving our customers, we’ve created – and continue to create – a more sustainable company.

Wesson Energy is on Twitter at @WessonEnergy.

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