Jim Gillis, Energy Consultant at ADD Systems, joins Brian Cohen, ADD Systems Multimedia Specialist and host of ADDCast, to discuss the primary goals he has when visiting with a client; the potential for our clients to gain significant cost savings; opportunities for our clients to grow their respective businesses or bring in additional income; and additional advice that can help them succeed.
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Brian Cohen: Welcome to ADDcast, I’m ADD Systems multimedia specialist Brian Cohen, and I’m joined today by Jim Gillis, Energy Consultant at ADD Systems. Jim, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us.
Jim Gillis: You bet.
Brian Cohen: Can you start by telling us a little bit about your background and the industry experience gained prior to working at ADD Systems?
Jim Gillis: Yeah, when I was about 19 years old, I went to work for independent propane company out in California, and essentially moved up through a lot of different positions over a 25-year period, before coming to work for ADD Systems. It was a really good experience for me because I got to learn the different components from the different positions in the industry, which really provide a lot of value to me, in my experiences today.
Brian Cohen: Can you talk about how your role with ADD Systems and your interactions with ADD clients has evolved since you joined the company?
Jim Gillis: Yeah, almost 17 years ago, I started with ADD Systems, and I worked with the Special Projects group. I was over on that side of the building for a little while, and eventually wound up in the implementations group. At some point, my role kind of changed, and I got into more of a consulting/training situation where I would reach out to customers and ask if I could evaluate their data, and then offer up suggestions where they might be able to make more money, be more efficient, be more successful. And, it kind of just grew and grew and grew into what it is today.
Brian Cohen: Can you discuss what some of your primary goals are when you visit with a client?
Jim Gillis: Because I’ve been doing this long enough, there are a lot of topics that I hit on, that I get a lot of bang for my buck, if you will. And, it makes it very easy for me to find those hot items where I know that our customers have opportunities to modify their business: essentially working smarter, not harder, and making more money, which is really appealing to our customers, and just really creating a more efficient organization, if you will.
Brian Cohen: So can you give us some examples of areas where you found the potential for our clients to gain significant cost savings?
Jim Gillis: I typically will tell our clients that you have to do two things, and again this is my opinion, you have to do two things very, very well. One is, you have to deliver your liquid really efficiently, and the other is that you have to collect very efficiently. The components in the delivery applications and the components in the credit and collections applications really lend themselves to help our clients be much more successful. However, many of our clients, even though they are extremely successful, they’re not using the application to their fullest extent. So, I poke and prod them, and I help them turn a lot of lights on, and they realize that they have opportunities, which is why clients will often have me back again and again. For example, there are tools in the credit applications that allow our clients to have this simplicity, if you will, to know where they left off in their collections effort yesterday, and where they pick up today, so that they don’t lose any momentum. Because, they have to work their credit on a daily basis. If they work it on daily basis, their collections efforts improves dramatically over the course of time. I typically will show them where they are at today, and then a year later, I’ll reach out to them and provide a visual representation of their success, which really electrifies and excites them.
Brian Cohen: How about opportunities for our clients to grow their respective businesses or bring in additional income that they maybe didn’t think about initially?
Jim Gillis: There are different things. One example is: many of our clients have underground propane tanks for those propane customers, and there’s some requirements where those underground tanks are supposed to be tested. However, a lot of clients didn’t realize that our Equipment Module has some functionality that allows them to perform that testing, and put some follow-up dates so that they can easily run those reports on a monthly or yearly basis to be able to make sure they follow up. A lot of those clients have created revenue streams that they didn’t have before in the propane world.
With the fuel oil customers, there are situations where (and this applies probably to the propane world as well) a lot of customers have will call customers. For the most part, this industry, we’ve been dismissive of our will call customers. We take the attitude of “they’re a will call customer, and they’ll call us when they want to delivery.” However, in the last couple of years, I’ve used the software to help some of our clients reach out to those will call customers, and they’ve actually turned those customers around, where many of them have converted from a will call position to an automatic delivery.
The benefit is that, especially in the oil industry, those customers who own their own equipment, they tend to stay with our clients who are giving them attention. I often tell the clients, listen, if you’re not courting your customers, they’re going to go with somebody else. You know, it’s a date. If you’re not paying attention to them, they’re going to go someplace else. Even though there are will call, you can use the software that will allow you to indicate when those customers are truly due for delivery, and then communicate with them through some applications in our system, and get them to request a delivery. So, it’s really beneficial to utilize more of the software than they’ve used in the past.
Brian Cohen: So what are some of the typical goals you set for clients post visit?
Jim Gillis: I used to give, upon departure, 10 or 15, things that I’d say “okay, get these 10 or 15 things done, and when I come visit next year, we’ll find 10 or 15 more new things.”
But, the first couple of years that I did that, I overwhelmed customers, and they essentially did nothing. So, I’ve cut it back to giving them about two or three different projects. And I tell them “don’t get anxiety, because you didn’t get here overnight, and you’re not going to fix it overnight. Just work on it little by little,” and I provide reports that will show them what their progress is on a weekly or monthly basis, and they can see their performance. They see their movement, and it gives them encouragement to continue down the road of making improvements that really provide them long term benefits, and long term dividends, if you will. Giving our clients a little bit of homework until we meet again, and giving them the right amount that allows them to have the confidence that they can get it done. So far, that’s been very, very successful.
Brian Cohen: What are some of the biggest challenges our clients face in achieving the goals that you set for them, and what advice could you give to help them succeed?
Jim Gillis: I think the biggest obstacle that our clients face is having resources that they can dedicate to projects full time. The reality is, they don’t have resources that they can dedicate to projects full time. So, I present those different tasks to them in a manner where they can work on them in different chunks, if you will, and it allows them to make progress on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. Giving them a limited number of tasks.
In my experience, knowing the client and knowing the situation, being able to know when I should give them more / when I should give them less, and not overwhelming them with the different projects, that’s been my success: being able to know when a customer can do more, or when I have to back off and really not overwhelm them. Because if I overwhelm them, then they’ll give up. I want our clients to be successful, so I try and manage their projects for them in a way that allows them to work on them at different time increments, and help them to achieve that success.
Quick story if I can, this last week I was at a client, and I overheard the service department talking about something that they couldn’t do. And so I went in, I stuck my nose in there, and asked what the issue was, and they explained it. And I said, “give me about five minutes.”
So, I ran down and ran a report, and it wasn’t a normal report. It wasn’t Transaction Analysis or Report Generator, it was it was something called ODBC, which is kind of a high level Report Generator or high level Transaction Analysis. And, within 5-10 minutes, I had this individual report, and actually thought I was going to see some tears. It was a real treat to see the joy and realize that I had solved a problem that had been ongoing for a while. So, those are things that really go a long way.
Brian Cohen: How can somebody get in touch with you if they’d like to receive more information on what you could possibly do to assist their company?
Jim Gillis: They can simply email me at Gillis@addsys.com, or in May we’re having our BTC conference in Florida. That’s in May of 2023. Sign up for the conference, and come by and visit with me. I’ll be happy to meet anybody and evaluate their situation and share what we could offer.
Our software is amazing, and in the last nearly 17 years, I have yet to come in contact with a customer that that I couldn’t show them opportunities that they have. It’s exciting stuff. I really do love what I do and getting to share that information is pretty exciting.
Brian Cohen: Well, Jim we’ll stop taking up your time so that way you can get back to working with all of our clients. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today.
Jim Gillis: It was really my pleasure, and I look forward to meeting new clients and sharing the ADD Systems E3 applications and best practices.
Brian Cohen: Like Jim mentioned before, if you’d like to learn more about ADD Systems’ BTC Conference, which comes up in May of 2023, you could visit addsys.com/BTC.
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