WP Group has secured the front cover and a double-page spread in the March edition of Fuel Oil News.
From left to right: Darren Borras, Melanie Hand and David Fairchild
In a market that is as mature and traditional as that of fuel oil distribution, how does one take a business forward with a fresh feel and image? One distributor that has been making changes is Southampton-based Wessex Petroleum. FON visited the company’s headquarters on the site of Esso’s Fawley refinery to find out more about its recent evolution into the WP Group.
FON asked Managing Director David Fairchild what prompted the changes. “As a company with a £160 million turnover last year, and with an increasing portfolio of both companies and brands under the Wessex Petroleum name, we felt that whilst a regional title had served us well in the past, it no longer reflected the company’s offering for today or in the future.”
Having recognised the need to evolve the company, Darren Borras, who formerly managed Chevron’s lubricants division, was brought in to execute a thorough review of the business, lead the restructure, develop the WP Group brand and implement a new sector-led strategy.
By understanding the customers’ market place and requirements, the new WP sector approach enhances the group’s offering to provide a more complete portfolio of products and bespoke service solutions across each of WP’s eight markets - Industrial; Aviation; Agricultural; Heating; Automotive; Commercial; Motorsport and Marine.
Getting the business balance right
Having trusted his instincts when the company looked to expand its lubricants division a few years ago, David, a great believer in gut reaction and first impressions, again followed his instincts. “Since purchasing the company in 1999, Wessex Petroleum has had a commercial business focus, avoiding the traditional swings that a distributor suffers when most of its sales are derived from heating oil and deliveries are confined to just four months of the year.
“Encouraged by ExxonMobil to build up our lubricants offering, and impressed by Mobil’s brand awareness and professionalism, it set us thinking about how this ethos could be translated to our business. The challenge for us was could we make our offering more corporate without losing the flexibility and personal touch of a family business?”
The time is right to deliver more than just fuel
“Fuel is a commodity it’s easy to slip into a routine where customers ask the price and you just deliver,” explained David. “Each sector in the WP Group is now strongly branded and offers the customer a dedicated resource staffed by a growing number of specialists who can assist with extras such as lowering fuel use and emissions reduction.” Whilst expansion has seen some spread themselves too thinly, WP Group’s intention is to be a market leader in each of its tightly defined areas.
“Commercially, there’s a real need for specialisation in each of our sectors,” said Darren. “We’ve been gearing up for this and hiring the right people.” Headed up by a dedicated business manager, each sector is structured for greater involvement with customers, taking time to better understand their needs. The new structure allows for development, for teams to grow and for pride to be taken in the specialism of each sector. Emphasis is firmly placed on delivering not only fuels and lubricants but quality, innovation, service and performance.
Taking new routes to market
With extensive marketing experience, Siân Francis, as Group Marketing Manager, is one of the specialists brought in to take the company forward. FON asked if online presence and the use of social media would be figuring strongly in marketing plans for each sector, to which Sian replied: “The more contact points a company can have the better. We see the use of digital marketing via mediums such as our website as being a major marketing tool. And, Mobil is certainly keen to see us expand the use of social media.”
Darren added: “In today’s business world, social media is very significant as is the addition of useful databases and marketing tools to help better inform our customers. We want our customers to value us as a trusted, knowledgeable and friendly brand, so we’re really diversifying our online offering in particular. On our website it will soon be possible to link with our social network, enter a vehicle’s registration to find out exactly which Mobil lubricant to use in that vehicle, track your fuel delivery, challenge friends to beat your time in the Mobil F1 game, take part in the WP Motorsport forum, or seek further information about legislative changes in the marine industry.”
From 1960 to 2011 and beyond
The origins of Wessex Petroleum go back to 1960 when Southampton Oil Supplies began. 1n 1962 that company became an Esso distributor and acquired Solent Petroleum Distributors. By 1970 it was selling 10 million gallons of Esso Blue and, eight years later, had 150 Esso Blue retail outlets serving industry, farm and retail. Wessex Petroleum Holdings became the holding company for Southampton and Solent and also took over Hants and Berks Oil Service. The Fairchild family, former owners of Minster Fuels, bought Wessex Petroleum in 1999 and remain in charge today. David works alongside brothers Russell, Richard and William.
The past decade has seen the establishment of Airport Energy and Airport Energy Services, supplying fuel and an integrated energy management solution to the majority of UK airports. In 2007, Atol, a well known name in motorsport circles, was acquired.
Putting change into effect
In preparation for the changes, internal presentations were made to the WP Group’s 70-plus staff. “Communication is important to ensure we have an empowered and united team with a clear direction,” said Darren. “David leads from the front; he encourages staff to engage with the business and to go that extra mile to ensure it always profitable.”
David added: “Family-run businesses like ours are still here, driving the fuel distribution industry forwards and into the future. These changes have seen us take a big step forward - our mindset, our structure and our environment have all changed.
“This industry has been my life - it still is, and I remain passionate about it. The price and deliver distributor remains, but the WP Group has evolved from its regional distributor origins to an independent group looking to the future with a more defined offering and an even stronger customer focus. I believe this stance in the market will engender respect.”
View the cover and article, courtesy of Fuel Oil News:
Fuel Oil News, Front Cover, March 2011
Fuel Oil News, WP Group Spread "Strong, Different and Independent", March 2011
To find out more about WP Group please call 0800 980 6172 or email .
The WP Group, headquartered near Southampton in Hampshire, is a leading independent distributor of fuels and lubricants, with a £160m annual turnover and employing 70 people.
Based at Wessex House, Cadland Road, Hardley, Hythe, WP offers a complete portfolio of products and bespoke service solutions across each of its eight trading divisions Industrial, Aviation, Agricultural, Heating, Automotive, Commercial, Motorsport and Marine.
WP, located by Fawley Oil Refinery, has a 50-year heritage and is the supplier and support specialist of choice to thousands of businesses.
Telephone: 023 8089 7841
Freefone: 0800 980 6172
Fax: 023 8089 8876