GREENLAND — As people around the world cut back on their usage of propane and other fossil fuels, the CEO of Eastern Propane & Oil wonders what will become of companies like his in the decades ahead.
Tom Manson, a former corporate attorney in Manchester, was speaking at a forum Wednesday morning for UNH’s Center for Family Enterprise and CEO Excellence held at Portsmouth Country Club. He said one of the biggest challenges he faces is determining Eastern’s fate as he navigates the changing energy industry on behalf of the family that established the regional provider in 1932.
“I don’t know what the future of energy will look like more than anyone else, but I know there will be a transition and propane will be a part of it,” Manson said.
Manson started advising the Rochester-based company in 2000 when it was looking to reorganize management; he was named CEO in fall 2015. He talked about the benefits of working for a family that has built its success over multiple generations. Chuck Clement III, the company’s president, still plays an active role in overseeing operations.
“When you work with a family, it’s much more than the bottom line. It’s personal,” Manson said.
Manson said he tries to instill that family pride in each and every one of the 441 employees because it is reflected in the satisfaction of their 101,000 customers.
To build employee loyalty to the company, Eastern has an apprentice program that recruits people and trains them at a facility on Industrial Way in Rochester. The first class of seven completed the program in September; a second group of eight people is currently enrolled.
Manson said his other trick to success is letting employees do their job. Eastern distributes to customers in New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont. The business has 11 offices and 23 storage facilities.
“I sleep well at night knowing the people I work with are very good at their job,” Manson said.
The next CEO forum will be held at the UNH Franklin Pierce School of Law in Concord on Jan. 23. The featured speaker will be Tom Sullivan, senior vice president of operations for firearms manufacturer Sturm, Ruger & Company.