Monday, June 13, 2011

THIRTY YEARS OF JOBBERS Preface - How this book began (continued)

In the likelihood a few people who pick up this book may be unfamiliar with the oil marketing industry, let me present my idea of what an oil jobber is:

¾    An ‘oil jobber’, or ‘oil marketer’ is a business person who makes his or her living buying gasoline, diesel fuel, oils and greases from a supplier such as Exxon or Chevron, and re-distributes these products to farmers, commercial accounts, industrial accounts and convenience stores in a limited geographical area.  In addition, many oil jobbers own, or have owned and operated convenience stores, car washes, fast food operations, tobacco shops and even pet food and farm supply businesses. 

An oil jobber is as diverse a business person as you can find. The industry has grown from a time when the major suppliers decided they could no longer afford to deliver fuels and oil products directly to the consumer, through a decade of enormous growth, to a reversal of supplier policies in recent years,  only one of the several factors that has meant financial ruin for many of the 16,000 oil jobbers who grew and died from the late 1970's through today.

What makes my position unique is that I am among a handful of the individuals who has pretty much seen it all. Even today, I continue to observe jobbers struggling against insurmountable odds, running their businesses by the seats of their pants - the way their fathers did and their grandfathers before them. I often want to stop them and plead with them to change the way they're managing their businesses, but they are so busy staying ahead of the wolves, they can't find the time to stop, load their guns and shoot.

I am a computer programmer, first, last and always. I have never had an interest in becoming an oil jobber. In the beginning, my interest was in developing and supplying oil jobbers with tools to keep their businesses running smoothly. In the end, I find my job became a challenging effort of attempting to get oil jobbers and convenience store operators to understand and use the tools I developed. I seldom failed if they had the capacity to change. Learning to use new tools and embrace new methodologies is a frightening thing. If they were confused and stressed over other issues, quite often it became too much.

In my position as an independent contractor for so many jobbers, I had to dig deep into each customer's business to a level that no one, not even their CPA's had done. These efforts enabled me to absorb an enormous amount of information about the jobber and convenience store industry I would have never been able to gather from working with only a few.

I come to you with some knowledge about where the industry has been, where the industry is now, and where it is going. There is no need to re-invent the wheel. Times change, and people change, even entire cultures change, but man is the only animal that speaks from the grave. Even though we may have forgotten our ancestors, through books and the experiences gained by others, mankind is able to stand on the shoulders of giants and view the horizon from an entirely different perspective.

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