Tasco Petroleum is an institution in the fuel industry, an integrated wholesale, carrying and retail business that is family owned and community focused .  A founding member of ACAPMA, Tasco and it’s antecedent entities has been supplying fuel, lubricants and heating oils throughout the Murray region for over 66 years.  As new General Manager Evan Newell builds on the past and looks to the future Tasco Petroleum is the focus of this weeks ACAPMA Member Highlight.

Established in 1956 Tasco Petroleum is a wholly family owned fuel business that includes wholesale, carrying and retail elements, headquartered in Mildura with secondary admin offices in Albury.

The wholesale and carrying elements of the business are based out of the 19 wholesale depots and 24 OPT locations spread across SA, VIC and NSW servicing a broad swath of customers, some of them very remote.

Tasco Petroleum started life as a distributorship and remains committed to being a distributor of choice,  “that is what I see as one of our real strengths as an independent distributor, the ability to build relationships and service those areas and customers that are not easily serviced, our independence and customer focus allows us to go the extra mile” says Tasco Petroleum General Manager Evan Newell.

Like many distributorships Tasco Petroleum diversified into retail early on and now has an extensive retail network.

“We have over 50 retail sites directly now, almost every one of them AMPOL branded, and we have very close supply relationships with a further 35 sites.  We do have a Shell site in the network too” explains Evan.

“We have just completed the AMPOL rebrand flawlessly.  I am really very proud of our team and AMPOLs who have navigated COVID and floods but have still met all the deadlines and turned out great looking sites in some really challenging locations” outlines Mr Newell.

Recently promoted to the General Manager role Evan Newell now sits across the very active wholesale and retail sides of the business.  Coming most recently from a retail and systems focused role as Retail & IT Manager the addition of the wholesale element is actually a return to beginnings for Evan.

“Actually I started my career in the business 30 years ago in the Swan Hill Depot, so wholesale is not a mystery, but it is a very complex and detailed part of the business that those who are sitting in exclusively retail positions can greatly underestimate” outlines Mr Newell.

Indeed a deeper recognition and appreciation of the complexity and nuance that faces fuel carriers is something that Evan encourages all retail operators to strive for.

“Even with my history, even being in an integrated wholesale and retail business I will admit that the deep levels complexity that applies to the carrying of fuel is something that I did not always fully appreciate.   I do now and I am building on a tradition of engaging with site operators to achieve best outcomes for our customers.  A simple example is when a site operator orders a load of fuel there are a heap of things that will impact the cost of that fuel as well as the delivery time” explains Evan.

“Standard things like a significant difference in the fuel cost if the delivery is made in the evening or the morning due to TGP impacts, route restrictions and driver overtime and rest requirements can greatly impact cost and timing of deliveries.  Most operators understand these elements in a surface way only and that can lead to frustration with delivery times or cost fluctuations that are outside of the control of carriers.  I think more understanding and close relationships between site operators and carriers allow these complexities to be understood and to be strategically managed and leveraged that is why we have long invested in building very close relationships with our third party supplied sites and wholesale customers” continues Evan.

Taking the General Manager role at a time of unprecedented change in both wholesale and retail has been challenging.

“Any new role is challenging, but between pandemic, disasters, AdBlue supply disruption, war, unprecedented pricing pressures and then fuel excise changes and more disasters, just for good measure, has been a little crazy” explains Evan.

Tasco has been continuing to grow, expand and invest throughout the years, including the “lost” COVID years.  Evan puts the success of the business down to the long term commitment to diversification and risk mitigation.

“COVID was a real challenge for retail.  Demand evaporated overnight but costs did not.  We still needed to keep the lights on, do the maintenance, have stock instore despite waste increases.  I really feel for those operators that are purely retail based.  Our wholesale side has been vital to getting us through the worst of COVID” outlines Evan.

The diversification is about more that wholesale supporting retail.

“During floods and droughts and off seasons our retail side supports the wholesale side.  Tasco Petroleum is one integrated business and our continued investment into both sides is for the benefit of the whole business and is a conscious risk mitigation strategy that the last few years has proven was the right approach for us to take” adds Evan.

When it comes to future success Evan highlights; active partnerships with industry leaders; nimble IT and business systems, processes and management; rapid market change response and retail engagement as the keys for Tasco in the future.

“The future is never certain.  I would argue that even though the masks are off COVID is not over yet, but even if we are ‘through’ COVID there is still changing and uncertain times in the industry’s future” notes Mr Newell.

“To prepare Tasco is committed to partnering with industry leaders who are committed to working with us to ensure we are on the leading edge, not the bleeding edge, but the leading edge of change.  Hydrogen, electric and oil mix on the forecourt is going to look different in every site and we feel quite confident partnering with AMPOL and VIVA Energy on this important future fuel conversation and we feel supported in preparing to respond to the market demands in these areas”  continues Evan.

“Beyond the future fuel question growth for us is about being nimble.  Nimble not just in our business processes and management structures, both of which we have worked extensively on recently, but also nimble in our IT and business systems.  I have an IT and systems background so this is something close to my heart, but I am often stunned by how IT and business systems integration issues is offered as a reason not to take an opportunity.  It should not be that hard.  Company operated, CA, different brand POS, different brand Cards, we take the time to ensure that all of our systems can integrates with all of these elements so that we can say yes to the opportunities that present themselves and hit the ground running.  We have invested quite a bit of time and effort on ensuring this is the case, but it is worth it” adds Evan.

“Lastly we continue to be committed to investing in the retail network, particularly with regard to the food offer.  It seems everyone in retail is talking food.  We have our own approach of course.  Healthy food is important, and you have to have those options, but what we have found is that the old favourites and comfort food remains really important.  The Dim Sim Ratio is a cheeky stat that we track and it truly is a great success indicator for a site.  Old favourites aside we have found that like the rest of convenience, food is local.  Our slow, homecooked food is often a winner, even when placed head to head with low cost quick service restaurants such as at our Tailem Bend site.  Building on this local success and crafting dining experiences for customers is a big focus for the future”  continues Mr Newell.

The challenges of a new, broader role, continuing COVID and future fuel speculation have not diminished Evans natural optimism and enthusiasm.

“I recognise the challenges but I am really energised by the opportunities and the people.  Seriously the people in our business and in our communities is what feeds us” explains Evan.

Tasco Petroleum has a long and deep history of community engagement that goes beyond charity and well beyond the support that many businesses make, most of it done very very quietly.  This tradition continues with Evan in the GM chair.

“We have our supports and charities and projects, and most are just something we do, we don’t really talk about it, but there are a few that we have undertaken recently that are about broad community support.  Although traditional support for events like the Mildura Easter Tennis Tournament, recent events like being a major sponsor of the upcoming Mildura Harness Racing Cup are included.  The reason we are getting involved in such a big way in these event based sponsorships is to encourage people to come back into town, to get out of the house.   Its about bringing people back which for these tourist towns is vital for all of the community.  It cannot be understated how interconnected business and social outcomes are in small towns and how much some of these towns need tourists back” adds Mr Newell.

“My job is to get us through COVID, prepare us for the future and then get to business development and that means getting systems, partnerships and the business ready, but it also means supporting the communities that we are a part of, that our staff are part of and that we serve” concludes Evan.

Tasco Petroleum have continued to grow and develop from day one, the change that has occurred over the last 66 years has been extensive, the change in the next 16 years will be stellar by comparison.  With a diversified, risk managed, community led and involved approach Tasco is positioning itself to ride the wave of change.

For more information see; https://www.tascopetroleum.com.au/

Elisha Radwanowski BCom(HRM&IR)