It’s Brad Bettencourt’s reputation that has made his personal gamble pay off as well as it has.
Over more than 30 years, he’d become an expert in an industry most people don’t even know exists. Then he started his own company on a bet he could do as well or better than the other firms he’d worked for. And he did it in part by leveraging his reputation for competence, fairness, and honesty. He relied on his credit rating to borrow money—after all, a good credit rating is a measure of promises kept—and much of his subsequent success was about relationships: A legion of loyal customers with whom he’d worked for years answered his call to bring their business his way.
We sat down with Brad to talk about his business and his personal beliefs regarding success.
Can you describe your business?
Ever wondered why your lawnmower won’t start in the spring? Ask yourself what’s in your tank (and what’s been sitting in your carburetor all winter). Fuels of various kinds that are in storage, whether it’s in a small-engine gas tank, in the huge underground tanks at gas stations, or in the fuel tanks that serve backup generators for large buildings, all are susceptible to contamination from moisture and other sources that will lead to breakdowns and maintenance costs in engines. Our trucks periodically filter and chemically treat the clients’ fuel on-site.
Do what you say you’re going to—make it happen.
What are the key elements that you think led to your success?
I’d say two different things: Back when I started in fuel filtering in 1986, I had to educate people who were using oil, diesel, and gasoline in various ways to get them to understand how important cleaning their fuels was, whether it was for boilers, backup generators, or vehicles, so that they all worked when needed. It’s not just about reliability, but well-maintained fuel tanks and clean fuel also save a bundle in long-term maintenance costs. A hospital facility with backup generators, for instance, has life-saving reasons for making sure the backup power works when needed, just as the owner of a gas station wants to make sure his fuel is not contaminated. Likewise, our clients at large data and financial centers count on backup generators to stay up and running at all times.
What do you believe your customers would say sets you apart from your competition?
Honesty, reliability, fair pricing and expertise. 33 years with a 25-year head start was huge. With that experience comes the know-how to build latest fuel-filtering equipment and fully understanding the science behind the technology to the point that all of our filters are custom-made. That helps us stay ahead of the competition. We are also the only 100-percent fuel filtering company in the mid-Atlantic—everyone else does it as a sideline. And there’s more need for what I do than ever: The fuel you buy today is far less stable than those made prior to 2012. That’s when the EPA mandated that diesel/oil be nearly sulfur-free and that gasoline contain 10 percent corn-based Ethanol. Ironically, the differences in air quality are negligible because it causes pollution to produce these fuels, and they can cause major problems for both the consumers and the industrial user. Another problem now is that, in order to make diesel that is virtually sulfur-free, it goes through a process called Hydro-treating that makes diesel water-soluble and vulnerable to bacteria due to the high water and oxygen content.
What advice would you give to a young entrepreneur starting up a new venture in the construction, engineering, or commercial support field?
Don’t have a customer-service department. Make customer service the culture and you will build life-long partnerships. Price the jobs fairly with next year in mind. Do what you say you’re going to—make it happen. And make sure everything you do is guaranteed—it’s important to show up when promised and get it right the first time.