4Refuel Overview

4Refuel reached out to me and I checked them out. They are part of a strategy for energy that will help the US put itself in a better energy position. What is the strategy? It is the additive affect of solving one energy problem at a time and efficiently. This strategy will make a lot of entrepreneurs very rich.

With that said, here is an overview of 4Refuel. Tomorrow I will post an email interview I did with them. 

4Refuel
9440 202nd St., Suite 215
Langley, British Columbia V1M 4A6
(604) 513-0386

(877) US-FUELS
(888) 456-8896
www.4refuel.com


Leadership:

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Jack Lee, Chairman, President and CEO
Terry Thompson, Executive Vice President
Joe Valeriote, Senior Vice President / Business Development
Norm Bogner, Vice President / International Development

Concept:

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4Refuel, one of North America’s largest fuel management organizations,
is a franchised fuel management business that specializes in onsite diesel
refueling, fuel logistics, automated fleet management and biodiesel solutions
for any company that uses diesel or biodiesel as its fuel.  These
companies include those with fleet vehicles or operating equipment in industries
such as transportation, construction/earthmoving, government and
municipalities, power generation, industrial, rail and marine.

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By leveraging 24/7, onsite “wheel to wheel” delivery with proprietary
fleet tracking, management and reporting systems, 4Refuel assists clients in
minimizing the cost of refueling vehicles and equipment and maximizing overall
fuel efficiency, regardless of how clients currently get their fuel.

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4Refuel’s proprietary Fuel Management Online (FMO) is an internet-based
reporting tool that provides comprehensive fuel consumption and account
information and allows companies to effectively manage their fuel, reduce costs
and increase productivity. In addition, U-CON Automated Fleet Management
utilizes some of the world’s most powerful fuel management technology to merge
fuel consumption reports with engine

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performance data, allowing clients to see how
long their vehicles spend idling, speeding or engine revving starting, which
wastes fuel and causes excessive emissions.  The technology can even
measure asset utilization and Green House Gas emissions saved by using
4Refuel’s/U-CON’s Fuel Management services. 

Market Position:

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4Refuel is Canada’s largest fuel management company and the only
franchised concept of its kind, managing and delivering over 150 million
gallons of diesel and biodiesel to customers in 2007.

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Based on strong worldwide demand for fuel, continuing customer feedback
and the diverse applications for its fuel management services, 4Refuel is
actively expanding its corporate and franchise operations to the United States,
Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

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The U.S. onsite refueling industry is highly fragmented, consisting
primarily of small, locally owned businesses and large multi-regional chains.
Fuel management itself, is still in its infancy. “Jobbers,” or mom-and-pop
businesses, simply deliver fuel and have no sophistication in terms of service,
information or fuel management.

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Other companies choose to handle fuel delivery
themselves. However, after labor, fuel typically represents the largest
operating cost for most transportation and construction companies and no other
U.S. company offers customers 4Refuel’s array of fuel management solutions that
allows clients to effectively manage their fuel, reduce costs and increase
productivity.

History:

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4Refuel began as part of the “Mini-Tankers” franchise system that
originated in Australia in 1984. Its primary service was onsite diesel
refueling for the earthmoving and construction sectors. In July 1995, the
master license for Canada was awarded to Jack Lee, a Canadian citizen living in
Australia at the time.

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Lee moved back to Canada, started operations in British Columbia, and
eventually expanded operations across Canada through corporate and franchised
operators.

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In September 2003, Mini-Tankers International, licensor of the
Mini-Tankers system, became insolvent. Mini-Tankers Canada terminated its
contract and re-branded the highly successful Canadian franchise operation as
4Refuel in January 2006 with the tagline “The LEADER in Fuel Management,” which
was indicative of its focus on fuel management.

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Today it has more than 6,000 clients, surpassed
one billion liters of fuel pumped in July 2007 and expects its second billion
litres in less than two years. 4Refuel also launched its franchising program in
2007.




Growth Projections:

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4Refuel has approximately 110 tanker trucks operating in Canada, with
about two-thirds of those company-operated. 4Refuel launched its first “corporate
franchise” in the United States covering the greater Seattle area on Aug. 1,
2007. Expansion will be focused in core markets across the U.S. and 4Refuel
expects to have 50 to 75 tanker trucks operating by the end of 2010, about 80
percent of which will be franchise-owned.

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About 25 to 35 tanker trucks will be added in
Canada during the same period. Market expansion efforts in Europe, Asia and the
Middle East is expected to be even more active in 2008.




Franchise Facts:

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Expansion in the United States will be through a network of regional
franchisees who are granted exclusive territories in which they will be
required to operate a minimum of 10 tanker trucks by their fourth year in
business, beginning with a minimum of four their first year and adding a
minimum of two units in each of the next three years.

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The estimated initial investment ranges between $500,000 and $750,000,
including a $50,000 franchise fee and 50 percent of the unit development fees
for the first four tanker trucks, which is $50,000 (50 percent of $100,000).
The royalty on fuel is 8 percent of the franchisee’s gross sales or 3.5 cents
per gallon of fuel delivered, whichever is greater. There is a two percent
advertising and promotion fee paid weekly.



Training:

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Comprehensive classroom and hands-on training is provided in Langley,
British Columbia and Toronto for up eight people, typically the general
manager, controller, two territory managers, two certified refueling
professionals and a sales office coordinator. Depending on their role,
individuals receive between three and four weeks of training.

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Seven to 10 days of onsite assistance in both
operations and sales is provided when franchisees launch their business.

Here are some other stories I found on 4Refuel:

A New Approach to Dealing with a Costly Commodity
THE JOURNAL REPORT: SMALL BUSINESS
A New Approach to Dealing with a Costly Commodity

reach out to me if you have energy or health care innovations

My next few entries are going to focus on some energy innovation – both in regards to applying technology as well as the business model. Representatives from 4Refuel reached out to me to see if I was interested in learning more about their company. This was back in early September. I was intrigued and followed up with them. The next couple of entries are what I culled.

I have no problem writing about similar companies, so if you are in a space I write about, then feel free to reach out to me (ben@workthingthoughts.com).

Another blog I just learned about is Daily Franchise News. Check it out.

Thank You Veterans

Veterans Day in the US is today, November 11th. Here are some resources for
people interested in finding out more about Veterans Day:

US Department of Veterans Affairs
History of Veterans Day
Wikipedia site for Veterans Day
American Military Personnel Wikipedia site

I’m sure everyone has a friend, a coworker, or a family member that is a veteran. These people are special. I have absolutely no reservations about writing anything I want on this blog because of the freedom they provide. And what is so great, is that the job a person in the military performs can be on the front line or somewhere in New Mexico checking on nuts and bolts on a wing of a jet that might never be flown. All of these jobs are important. Each one ensures our freedoms. So again, thank you to every Veteran.

Cultivating a Business Network

Networking in business is harped on so often. But it is one of those things that can’t be simply attained, it has to be cultivated. I over the past few years have started to build a network that I can lean on, especially during times like now. But what is probably more important, others can lean on me.

Late last week I ran across two resources I thought were great.

The first is an article on Fortune.com in the Ask Annie section called Be a Better Networker. Anne Fisher speaks to a couple of references, namely Ivan Misner from www.bni.com. He wrote a book that bebunks a common misconception – six degrees of separation. What he says is that the finders show 29% of people are separated by six connections. The other 71% are not. That is important because it means many people can get better at networking and that there are few honest to goodness stars out there. Misner, in the article, offers these tidbits for connecting with someone you don’t know very well:

Next time you go to a networking event, including an office party, Misner suggests asking a trusted friend to keep an eye out and report back on how you measure up in these four areas:

Eye contact. Are you making steady eye contact throughout your conversations, or looking behind the person you’re talking with, to see who else is there?

Arm movement. Where are your arms while you’re chatting? Are they folded across your chest (which says, “I’m bored”)? It’s better if they’re tucked behind your back (“I’m interested, I’m listening”). If you’re in the habit of gesturing when you talk, to add emphasis to your words, that’s good too.

Positioning. Are you standing in an open, welcoming way – or blocking people out of your conversation? Are you leaning on something, looking tired or bored? Are you unable to shake hands because you’re juggling a glass and a plate? Tsk, tsk.

Facial expressions. Misner advises keeping conscious control of the look on your face. You don’t have to wear a nonstop grin, but do try to look friendly and interested, even if you’re not.

What you say counts too, of course. Within the first seven seconds of meeting someone new, ask a question like this: “How can I help you or your business?” “Ask her to talk about what she does,” advises Misner. “This others-oriented approach produces a powerful and positive first impression, because people remember you as the person who offered to help them – not just as someone trying to sell them something or get something from them.”

The second resource about networking I liked was from the Wall St Journal. It is called How to Build a Job Network. The premise centers on mentoring and how that can have benefits for both the mentor and mentee. Kathy Kram is interviewed below and she says that two skills are needed for good mentoring. They are the ability to actively listen and have self awareness. Listening is important because it strengthens the bond and how each person can help the other. Self awareness is important because it identifies the strengths of the relationship i.e. sometimes it is better to defer to someone more knowledgeable.

http://s.wsj.net/media/swf/main.swf

And finally, if you don’t believe that networking is worthwhile, check out this link of the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit.

October 2008 Job Report Analysis and a Look Ahead

The October 2008 Job Report was pretty bad. Not only were the October numbers really poor but the revised September 2008 numbers were revised to 284,000 jobs lost. Between the two months that is a loss of 524,000 jobs. In 2008 alone almost 1% of the job market is gone. 1% doesn’t seem like very much but when you couple it with wages that have been stagnant for several years you get a job market that is very poor and uninspiring to the worker.

But what is causing this job wage malaise and subsequent contraction? I theorize that the losses of the late ’70s, early ’80s and finally early ’90s were the result of the US economy moving from a manufacturing base to a services based economy. This shift required a new skill set to be developed. Many of the skills transfered from blue collar to white collar and the rise of the personal computer. I could probably rationalize another change in the economy from services to intellectual but that sounds a little like splitting hairs. Is it the overarching impact of globalization? I say yes. The US is moving to understand globalization… finally. This shake out will benefit the US business community because the expectations are much more known and opportunities to profit will expose themselves. For instance, right now the focus on globalization is the exporting of jobs and work, but after the current economic situation plays out other nations will import US services at a higher rate again. But the questions are how and why?

The US needs to be good at something again. Over the past 100 years the US has been good at war (still is), manufacturing, infrastructure building, education, IT, agriculture, and finance. Over the last 15 years the rest of the world has overcome a certain undefined threshold and is now very good at many of the items listed. The current US leadership (for two more months) has focused on war as the next innovation driver. And that is too bad.

The next innovation drivers should be energy and healthcare. Both have so many inefficiencies and business opportunities.
The problem with energy is mostly image. The investment it needs aren’t coming in like they should because of a perceived need to overcome economies of scale. And economies of scale are an issue, if your business plan is one of large initial purchases. An incremental business case would be a good one to pursue. Another issue with energy is regulation. Tapping the energy grid or upgrading it is very difficult to do.
Healthcare has an information problem. HIPPA helped create the problem because paranoia crept in. But standardization in healthcare patient records will begin a domino affect in the industry. As soon as the waste of inaccurate, unknown, and not up-to-date data is resolved the resources spent on correcting this issue can be pointed at improvements in testing, care, prevention, and medicines.

Without these two potential job creators the job market will continue to degrade. A few weeks ago I predicted that the US job market would be deep and quick. The deep is starting. I expect it do bottom in February of 2009, level off over the following six months and then start to really improve in the fourth quarter of next year. I even expect this improvement to be pretty dramatic as well. In the mean time, I encourage everyone to round out their skills. Read varied books, take a class, and participate in some local organizations. You never know which connection will get you the next opportunity.

October 2008 Jobs Report and Wages

Here are the job market and compensation numbers for October 2008 (based on the job report):


Net
loss of 240,000 jobs in the month
(revised to a loss of 320,000 in the November ’08 report and revised to a loss of 423,000 in the December ’08 report revised to a final loss of 554,000)

  • Analysts expected a loss of 200,000
  • tenth straight months of job losses
  • 1,200,000 jobs lost in 2008
    • Half of that number is in the last three months
    • 3.3 million workers have been added to the jobless rolls over the last 18 months
  • September was revised to loss of 284,000 jobs (revised again in the November ’08 report to a loss of 403,000 jobs, revised to a final loss of 458,000)
    • Highest since November 2001
  • August revised to a loss of 127,000 jobs
  • Over the last 12 months the number of persons unemployed has risen by 2.8 million and sits at 10.1 million


Unemployment rate rose to 6.5% 

  • Forecasters thought it would rise to 6.3%
  • The unemployment rate hasn’t been this high since 1994
  • Over the last 12 months the rate has increased by 1.7%
  • Underemployment is now at 11.8%
    • This includes part timers who want full time jobs
  • The number of people in the Underemployment category increased by 645,000 people to 6.7 million
    • A third of the 6.7 million joined over the last year (2.3 million)
    • Highest since July 1993
  • The long term unemployed (those without a job for 27 weeks or more) increased by 249,000 and totals 2.3 million people
  • Of those unemployed, the long term unemployed comprises 22.3% of that group – so over a fifth of those unemployed are without a job for more than half a year
  • Another grouping that is unfortunately growing is the marginally attached to the labor force group. These are people not counted in the survey. These are 1.6 million persons who haven’t looked for work in the last four weeks but need a job.


Specific Segment Job numbers:

  • Manufacturing lost 90,000 jobs
    • 27,000 of the 90,000 are due to the aerospace strike and are expected to return to work eventually
    • Without the strike the losses are in line with the last two months
    • The manufacturing and auto industries are in the worst shape in 30 years
  • Construction lost 49,000 jobs
    • Since peaking in 2006, construction has lost 663,000 jobs
    • Infrastructure projects would help with this situation
  • Retailers lost 38,000
    • Consumer spending in the third quarter saw a decrease for the first time in 17 years
  • Professional and Business Services loss 51,000 jobs
    • These losses are increasing in size compared to 2007
  • Government sector added 23,000
    • Largely based in the local governments
  • Education and Health Services grew by 26,000 jobs
    • 348,000 jobs added over the last 12 months
  • Mining added 7,000 jobs
  • Financial Services lost 24,000 jobs
    • Lost 200,000 since peaking in December 2006


Wage:

  • The average weekly paycheck is $611.86
  • The average hour earnings of production and nonsupervisory workers is $18.21
  • The average hourly work week stayed the same – 33.6
  • The average weekly wages for many Americans has increased by 2.9% over the past 12 months
  • September’s annualized inflation was 4.9%
    • Pay is lagging prices and is expected to continue to
  • Wage growth for September and October was much slower than earlier in the year, indicating a deteriorating economy


Notes:

  • The share of adults who are working is 61.8%. This is the lowest number in 15 years
  • The economy is expected to get worse and an unemployment rate of at least 8% is expected in mid 2009
  • 8% unemployment was last seen in the early 80s
  • GDP is expected to be stalled out until early 2010

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Report Stats Summary

Glassdoor.com and Jobschmob.com are Fun

I’ve recently stumbled over a couple of new sites that I need to add to my Job Site Resource page. They are Glassdoor.com and jobschmob.com. Both, if anything, are entertaining. But perhaps in the coming contraction of jobs they are worth something more than a few chuckles.

Glassdoor.com
This site offers employees to rate the place of employment. The data entry part is pretty thorough, but not too time consuming. It allows for some free flowing opinions as well, so that is good. There is a salary function that allows you to select your company and input your statistics and then after a couple of days of review you can see yours and others as well. All in all, it is a good site for someone who is curious about a certain company and a certain role in the company. One downside is that is still pretty new so some companies don’t have much in the way of reviews or salaries. One final note, this site is the ultimate “why didn’t I think of that?”

jobschmob.com
This site is a little bit more tongue in cheek than Glassdoor.com. It provides its users an opportunity to vent about their bosses, their coworkers, their company, and so on. It is geared towards humor which is good because the target audience – the miserable – loves company. I guess the site is a little bit like theonion.com but with more real life stories. I recommend this site as an occasionaly diversion or after a bad episode with your boss (someone certainly has it worse).