How do you describe a year that began with one of the warmest winters in recent history and ends with OPEC+ members signing off on an admittedly vague plan to phase out fossil fuels at COP28? My answer is… it was better than the prior two years!

We are completing a year of relative normalcy for the oil markets – marred by a series of events that caused price volatility, but nothing like we saw during the pandemic or when Russia invaded Ukraine back in ‘22.
We have signs of:

  • Prosperity in Stock markets
  • Horror in the Hamas attacks in Israel
  • Global tension in Iran, North Korea & Yemen
  • “Soft landing” in Interest-rate pivots
  • Technology, again the force to be reckoned with

Retail margins are strong and access to data is stronger. We see a clear divide in our industry between those who are looking to the future and those who believe “the past is good enough” and see no reason to leave it.

The quickening adoption of technology must look odd to those who grew up in our industry, but likely no different than how the prior generation viewed the adoption of Back-Office Systems, on-board computers, or how price cap programs were to become the single most predictive component to retaining (happy) customers. We, as a group, might be a little slow to the tech party, but those of us who ultimately arrive understand that proper deployment of technology leads to increased efficiency and profits.

Those looking to the future see the value of data and what it can do to improve your company’s results. What we see in data isn’t anything new, it is the recognition of patterns:

  • New customers are more unpredictable than old customers.
  • Customers who don’t renew a service contract might have one foot out the door.
  • Deliveries in the Fall are the most unpredictable – yet they are “predictably unpredictable.”
  • “Old time” dispatchers understand the real meaning of “seasonal Ks,” while newbies simply rely on the creation of delivery tickets.

None of this is new, and more of it can be Predicted, Presented, and Acted-on than before.

It’s understandable that there’s hesitation to change things that don’t seem broken. Payphone owners and taxi medallion owners saw competition coming but refused to adapt or modify their thinking. Why start something new when there are so many other initiatives? Our answer: those “other” initiatives are also new, and you have chosen to prioritize them. Why? Maybe it’s something that “speaks to you.” Maybe a great salesperson convinced you that you need to. Maybe your kids won’t stop pushing you. Maybe you’re tired of hearing how your competitors are using it, and you’re finally taking the leap.

Navigating calmer seas might have been a luxury for prior generations. The seas of the future are anything but calm, yet the tools to forge ahead continue to expand and improve.

Enjoy your family, enjoy the holiday season, enjoy this time in history and life in the greatest country in the world.

Phil Baratz