OTTUMWA — Andrew Woodard has realized something over the years of watching his father and grandfather run Elliott Oil Company. A lot changes over time. The fundamentals don’t, though.
Take care of your customers. Build the relationships.
That’s especially true when you gain new customers, as Elliott Oil did this week with the acquisition of Bob Lancaster Oil Company. The two companies have long served southeast Iowa and, if Woodard has his way, the new customers won’t see too many differences in the approach.
“Bob Lancaster Oil Company has been around since 1957. The current president and owner is second generation,” Woodard said. “We’ve known Mark and his family for a lot of years.”
The relationship between the companies goes deeper than just knowing each other. Woodard’s grandfather was a business partner with Bob Lancaster back in the 1970s. It’s part of why Woodard sees the acquisition as the companies coming full circle.
In a letter to his customers, Mark Lancaster wrote that the companies shared basic values and that he was confident in the sale to Elliott Oil. He plans to retire but is working with Woodard during the transition period.
Lancaster Oil dates to 1957, four years before Elliott Oil began. There are different parts of the fuel business. Gas stations are one side. Bulk services are a bit different; they involve sales to customers like construction companies and farmers. Elliott Oil reformed its bulk services branch in 2008.
It’s the bulk services portion that comes into play with the acquisition of Lancaster. Woodard said Lancaster “wanted to see a business acquire them that he was confident would take care of his customers the same way he had.”
The acquisition closed earlier this week. The job now is to get to know the people Lancaster spent decades building relationships with and forging new ties to Elliott Oil. And it all hinges on trust.
“The farming community in Iowa, they’re very loyal,” Woodard said. “Trust is a big thing to them.”
He hopes they’ll learn it’s equally important to their new supplier.