What is your story going to be?

“You don’t put a team together with a computer.
They call it Moneyball I think he bought a ticket on the Titanic”.

Billy Beane, Oakland A’s general manager had one of the lowest player recruitment budgets in all of baseball.

Instead of trying to compete on recruitment dollars, he changed the rules.

He employed an Ivy League mathematician to leverage a statistical computer-generated model (sabermetrics) for recruiting new players.

He was laughed at, ridiculed and dismissed. Especially early on when the results were not positive. His peers, his family, his team all doubted the substance and reality of his experiment’s likelihood of success.

And they were all wrong

It took a desperate heretic(s) to help change a 100 year old game. Today, the business of baseball is forever changed. Now teams predominately utilize similar methods in architecting winning teams.

For the past seven years I have lived the life of Billy Bean in the Retail Gasoline Industry.

Although baseball holds the crown for more glamorous, the business of selling gasoline is as fierce and complex a business.

Gasoline, alcohol, coffee and tobacco have always been the four industries that I have viewed as highly tolerant to economic downturns. My conscience precludes me from the tobacco industry. The crowd of the alcohol business keeps me away.

Howard Schultz has dominated the business of coffee. But the business of selling Gasoline has remained largely unchanged since the first Model-T rolled off the line.

From Big Oil companies to small independents both have gone about the daily gasoline pricing process the same way:

  • check the competition
  • check my product cost
  • Check my gut (what should I price today?)
  • send a smoke signal or carrier pigeon to every location I own to communicate a price change

This is how I found the industry

We started asking, “If we could automate all of those steps through software, would you buy it”? Some said it could never be done. Our competitors said it was “Pricing Nirvana”, but a few said “Yeah I think so”.

Like Billy Beane, I started creating a software solution to a business problem that had never been done before. We were wrong more than we were right. But we were right enough of the time to keep advancing.

We found a few willing customer’s who had very little too loose other than closing down their roof-top pigeon coops.

(Image Creative Commons by @MSG’s)

Years later and with the on-sight of gray hairs we control over five (5%) percent of the total gasoline sold in the United States, the naysayers are no longer jeering us.

Hundreds of millions of dollars of product are sold and reported on like a stock traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

We created a technology that enables our customers to manage their entire network of locations through their iPhone.  We connected every device from headquarters to the store:

  • Point of Sale
  • Pumps
  • Electronic Price Signs

It Costs a lot to be first

When you start paddling out into the Blue Ocean it is extremely lonely. You hear all kinds of “it can’t be done” or “good luck trying” type statements. Some of us are made to ignore the people who say the world is or should remain a certain way. It does not mean we do not doubt ourselves or consider aborting our mission.

We do however possess an inordinate amount of passion and belief that carries us beyond where most are ever willing to go. And, “the first guy to the wall is always bloodiest”.  It costs a lot to be first.

When I stumbled on the movie MoneyBall, I discovered the translation of story that I needed. Baseball and Gasoline are very dissimilar, but the power of passion and leading a revolution in a 100 year old industry is the same.

So I have a choice. I can tell one of two stories.

  • “I lead a software team who serves the gasoline industry”.
  • Or “Have you seen MoneyBall?………”

As you might assume the second story is both more true as well as exciting to listen to.

What versions of your story do you have?

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted on: 04 / 04 / 2012