Awesome restrooms are one of the keys to unlock the future of electric vehicles as I see it. I said that is a November 2021 column. That is because EVs need time to charge if an EV driver is on a long-distance trip; needs to be something to occupy the driver while the vehicle charges up.
The example I used for such as place is a convenience store chain called Buccee’s. The stores are huge. They have dug out various product niches. I vowed to take a road trip to a Buccee’s because I had only heard about the experience from family and friends. No firsthand experience.
I took a road trip to Texas for the Thanksgiving holiday to see family (Buccee’s enthusiasts). Dropped $60 in about 20 minutes, not on gasoline. Fudge, jerky, fountain drinks… (I have a family member who is a Buccee’s fudge devotee.)
Now I understand. Certain things become iconic. White Castles, Whataburger, Apple, Twinkies (dead and brought back by demand), Trader Joe’s, Lego’s, Harley Davidson.
And Buccee’s, too. I could tell by the shoppers inside. Happy. Comfy. Not in a hurry. The gasoline pumps were hives of activity. I did not see EV chargers, maybe they were somewhere, though headlines say chargers are in the future.
Buccee’s is also known for its huge and clean restrooms. Miles away the interstate billboards said, for instance, “Let us plan your next potty.”
I like it when people or companies don’t take themselves ultra-seriously. Companies that do their work well have that latitude.
As an energy guy, I note that no power company is listed above as iconic. That’s an opportunity. As the electric industry evolves, what power companies will be the Apple or Harley Davidsons? Over the course of writing 600 energy columns, I suggest several traits are key.
Customer service. Of course. For instance, FPL (Florida Power and Light) won the ServiceOne Award for exceptional customer service for eight consecutive years, and most recently also took home awards for its contact center, billing, payment, revenue protection, credit and collections, meter reading, field meters, and safety.
Reliability. Keeping the lights on. That means a company invests in the future with new poles, smart meters, and new power lines. Consolidated Edison Company of New York got the most reliable utility this year. I met with various ConEd people several years ago and Hurricane Sandy made a huge impression on the company. They did their homework, obviously.
Finances. Management must handle its balance sheet in a way that does not jeopardize customers’ wallets. Financial acumen translates to operational flexibility; the tools to get the job done. South Carolina has had its challenges with its state-owned, debt-laden power company. Debt is a threat to operations, interest costs, clean energy options, talent management, and building a credible profile to stakeholders.
Energy transition. A stellar company knows how to advance clean energy options and exit carbon-heavy fuels. Strategies and implementation, not excuses. Florida is in the midst of one of the largest solar expansions in the country, Gulf Power is being creative in its approach, right
Something extra. Every company that has become iconic finds something that sets it apart. It is hard to say what that ought to be, or what it is until it is there. That can be a gift to the right energy company. The field is open for exploration and creativity.