Peter Aziz | Crain's Connecticut

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

Peter Aziz

Background:  

Bantam Home & Energy, a supplier of heating fuel, HVAC services and home comfort solutions, was founded in 1930 in the Litchfield borough of Bantam. Peter Aziz has been the company’s owner and president since 2006, when he bought out the interest of his father, Paul, who purchased the business in 1979. Bantam Home & Energy had 10 employees when Paul Aziz took over. It now has 36 full-time employees and 11 part-timers. Annual sales are between $21 million and $25 million, depending on oil prices. Peter Aziz is a native of West Hartford and a 1981 graduate of Conard High School. He was named the Connecticut Energy Marketers Association’s Marketer of the Year for 2016.

The Mistake:

Choosing the wrong back office system.

The supplier didn’t try hard and I didn’t push back. The conversion was painful – a nightmare, really. It took two years. They provided almost no training, Customer service suffered and employee morale tanked.

It was so cataclysmic. People like to be successful in their jobs and they couldn’t do their jobs the way they wanted to. But we stuck with it. We figured out workarounds but it was not enabling us to fly.

Culturally, we’re past the pain of the last change. And now I can finally consider changing the system for the better. That’s something we’re looking to do this spring. I’ll be asking many more questions this time.

Overpay for smart people who are overqualified.

The Lesson:

I learned the importance of investing soon – not just in IT systems but in people and marketing, too. Overpay for smart people who are overqualified. Hiring bright and creative people changes the business. It’s like magic. People with poor attitudes are not worth having at any price. We want people who are made happy by their work and who truly delight in a job well done.

You can’t afford to let amateurs do your sales. Sales is a craft that very few people know well. Nice people are a dime a dozen. Consummate salesmen, those who live for getting the customer to “yes,” are rare. When you find one it’s a beautiful thing.

Don’t wait to invest in technology. The risk of opportunity lost by failing to be an early adopter is greater than the risk of choosing the wrong platform. It’s better to have a cassette camcorder of the 1990s than to take no video for 10 years while waiting for digital.

Budgeting and tracking are very important. Twice a week I track performance against budget projections. It’s a very powerful tool in making your business come out how it should. It’s a discipline.

Be bold. Be willing to be different than the rest of your industry.

Loyalty to vendors is far less than important than loyalty to customers. To do right by your customers you have to be two different people. You have to be a ruthless consumer with your vendors to keep costs down so you can do all those nice things for your customers. If your prices are high and your service is lousy because of your vendor relationships then you’re failing the customer.

Back office systems people should realize it’s not a static product and act on that. I never wanted it for free. I’d rather be overcharged for a good job than undercharged for a bad one.

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