Choices – A Letter from Mark Fenner, MFA Oil President and CEO

The following column is written by Mark Fenner, president and CEO, and was originally published in the Fall 2018 issue of Momentum magazine.

Choices. Don’t you love them? Whether it’s an ice cream flavor, a pair of jeans or the vehicle we drive, most of us like to have options. The same thing applies to our business at MFA Oil. In my last article, I wrote of the many things we’ve done to make it easier to do business with us. Things like online bill pay options and the ability to order online in the near future. We received several responses such as, “I’ll never do business that way,” and “MFA Oil has lost the personal touch with the customer by making us go that route.”

As a point of clarification, these services are completely optional. We aren’t forcing anyone to do anything. We are simply trying to offer the conveniences and service options many of our customers have requested. MFA Oil is fortunate to have been in business since 1929, and that means we’ve served some customers for many decades. We do business with customers in their 80s all the way down to the 15-year-old farm kid who just got his driving permit. Do you think the expectations of these customers might vary from one another? Of course they do. But the beauty of the situation is that we can offer a variety of ways to do business with our cooperative while still satisfying our customers’ needs.

For example, we’ve recently began installing monitors on some of our customers’ fuel tanks to track their volume. While this technology is relatively new to MFA Oil, it’s been around in the industry for a while. In fact, I personally have worked with fuel monitoring technology for more than 25 years. And, guess what? It works. That’s why we have established programs to incentivize our customers for allowing us to monitor the diesel volume in their tanks and to make sure the tank is of sufficient size based on demand. It’s a win-win situation but, ultimately, you as the consumer will choose whether you want to participate or not. It’s really that simple.

We can afford to offer you a more competitive price in exchange for you helping to make us more efficient in our fuel and propane deliveries. Think of it like calling an airline for a plane ticket. If you want to fly somewhere tomorrow and you book your flight today, you’ll pay a much higher price than if you called a month prior to your flight. Similarly, by knowing what is in your tank, we can avoid costly trips when you may not need fuel yet. Making fewer trips with deliveries of larger volume puts less wear and tear on our trucks and reduces the risk of accidents for our drivers. But at the end of the day, you, the consumer, will choose how you want to do business with us as we are here to serve your needs.

Similarly, the MFA Oil management team makes choices all the time based on the feedback we receive from our customers, delegates, board of directors and field employees. For example, we recently chose to decentralize the routing of our trucks, sending it back to the local level. Doing so gives our plant personnel more input into that process. We have also chosen to increase the amount of training our plant employees receive and to bolster our field support staff by adding highly trained personnel at our Moberly Business Support Campus. Additionally, we’ve invested in upgrading our phone systems to ensure we can handle times of heavy call volume like we experienced last winter. All of these choices were made to improve our service based on the valuable feedback we receive from our members and customers.

Lastly, I’d like to mention Floyd Buckman, our board member from the Monroe City, Mo., area who passed away in August. Floyd was one of the best people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. He was a kind gentleman, a great husband, father and friend to so many. Floyd was a fun-loving guy and a musician whose email handle was rocknrollhogfarmer. He was reserved and respectful, but he could also be tough and gritty when needed. And he did it all with a smile on his face. He was a friend and mentor to me, and I miss him every day.