Jack Donald founded Parkland Fuel Corp. with his wife Joan, and oversaw the business for nearly 25 years; Bob Espey is now guiding it though one of its greatest periods of growth.
The former and current CEOs of Parkland Fuel had a chance to share their experiences on Monday during the official reopening of Riverside Office Plaza, the company’s longtime home.
Canada’s largest independent marketer and distributor of fuels, Parkland Fuel supplies a network of approximately 850 service stations in Canada and the United States.
In addition to operating its own Fas Gas Plus and Race Trac brands, the company is a retail branded distributor for Esso in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and the Northwest Territories, and for Chevron in British Columbia.
Its commercial brands include Bluewave Energy, Columbia Fuels, Sparlings Propane, Neufeld Petroleum & Propane, Island Petroleum and Farstad Oil.
Since Espey became CEO, Parkland Fuel has made a number of major acquisitions, including SPF Energy in the United States.
He explained on Monday that independent petroleum companies have become available, and integrated oil companies like Imperial Oil and Chevron are moving away from retail operations.
“Really, we’re capitalizing on that opportunity because of the fact we’re a public company and we’ve got a strong balance sheet and a good operating team.
“The market is continuing to consolidate and a big pillar of our growth is acquisitions.”
Donald marvels at that growth.
“I never thought it would be this big,” he said.
“That’s the difference between Bob and I, I had no ambition to grow beyond Western Canada; he’s had a far more positive outlook on the company and is grasping at opportunities wherever they stick their heads up out of the sand.”
In 2011, Parkland Fuel announced its Parkland Penny Plan, which aims to double the company’s 2011 normalized adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) of $125 million by the end of 2016. It planned to do this through a combination of acquisitions and increased efficiencies.
“We’re well on our way there,” said Espey. “We’re over half way there two years into the plan.”
Parkland Fuel’s rapid expansion has not been without hurdles, he acknowledged.
“The biggest challenge with that sort of growth is building the team and getting the team to work together.
“We are a national business now, so we have major operating centres here in Red Deer, out in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia in the east, in Victoria, and then also in Calgary.”