Parkland celebrates 50 years!

by Angela Altass

Parkland is Canada and the Caribbean’s largest, and one of America’s fastest growing, independent suppliers and marketers of fuel and petroleum products and a leading convenience and carwash operator.

Celebrating 50 Years Team Effort Drives Parkland’s Success

President and Chief Executive Officer Bob Espey, the man at the helm of a business that services customers in 25 countries through three channels: retail, commercial and wholesale, stresses that team effort is the driving force behind Parkland’s success.

“My job is to facilitate and build a great team and that is something I am passionate about,” states Espey. “I believe that if we build the right team, we will be successful, not only with our customers but ultimately for our shareholders. It only works when we all work together as a team. Externally, the marketplace sees us as Parkland or our brands. They don’t see individuals or departments or functions and it is when we work together as a team that we are successful. I am really proud of what the team does every day and the fact that they do work really well as one Parkland, independent of where they are in the business.”

Espey, who proclaims his love for the western Canadian provinces, became vice president of retail markets for Parkland in November 2008 and was promoted to chief operating officer in November 2010. He was appointed president and chief executive officer in May 2011.

“Western Canadians, and particularly people in the Prairies, have such an open and trusting culture,” comments Espey, who has spent time living in several Canadian provinces, as well as in other countries, such as Africa and England.

Celebrating 50 years as a public company, Parkland is a business that is continuously adapting and changing, says Espey.

“One of the strengths of Parkland is that it has always been focused on growing,” he says. “One of the things I am most proud of is the team that we’ve built here at Parkland and their ability to carry on that tradition of growth and change to really create a downstream champion in the space that’s the preeminent consolidator in Canada, and now also North America, and hopefully soon internationally.”

The company is fundamentally built around four pillars, notes Espey.

“The first is to grow the business organically and 95 per cent of our team focuses on that every day,” says Espey. “The second is having the best supply capacity in the industry, which we call the supply advantage. That is where we work to have the best logistics and the best service to both our internal and external customers and be the partner of choice for refiners to move gasoline, diesel and other hydrocarbons into the marketplace. The third is to be an acquirer and to acquire great companies that we can fold into our business and continue to grow. Finally, the fourth pillar, is having a great team and that works together to provide great service to customers every day.”

Some of the well-known Parkland brands, in which they own or operate, include Ultramar, Fas Gas Plus, Esso, Pioneer, and Chevron Canada retail. Parkland will open its first Chevron retail site in Calgary in the coming months and Espey, who lives in Calgary with his wife and three children, is excited to now be able to purchase gas at a Parkland location.

“I work and live in Calgary so I couldn’t buy gas at a Parkland gas station,” he mused. “That’s a market of 1.3 million people where we really don’t have a significant presence. The first Chevron site in Calgary will be located just off the main highway in the city, Deerfoot Trail, so I am looking forward to getting my fuel there. I am quite excited to grow the Chevron brand in Alberta and in some of the key urban markets where we don’t have a large presence. We recently opened our first Chevron site in Edmonton and since then have been rolling out a number of new locations under that banner.”

As an acquirer, Parkland has a history of making sure that the companies purchased, big or small, continue to thrive and be successful.

“I think one of the things that we do very well is that we do a lot of due diligence,” says Espey. “Not only to understand the business financially but culturally as well and to make sure that when we do integrate a business, we understand all aspects, to ensure continuity once that business is part of Parkland. I would say that every acquisition that we’ve brought in has ended up being a great business for Parkland and it’s that focus on treating each opportunity as a unique one that has enabled us to do that.”

Parkland continues to keep an eye on the market south of the border.

“We’ve been in the U.S. market five years now,” comments Espey. “We started with a company called SPF Energy and became comfortable with operating in the United States and with the team we have there. One of the things we’ve learned is that the U.S. is not one homogeneous market. It’s many different markets and the markets that we like are the mid-continent region and the Rocky Mountains where I would say that in some ways it looks and feels a lot like Canada. It’s the low population density, high distribution focused market that plays to our strengths and fits in well with the business that we do in Canada. It fits with our operating model and we’ve been fortunate to buy great businesses that have been able to grow in that market.”

As the company moves forward, Espey wants to ensure that they maintain their team-based focus.

“In our industry, I’ve seen time and time again that great teams outperform and that’s why the focus is on team and, as we grow, it’s very important that we don’t lose that team-based approach,” states Espey. “I like the downstream marketing space that we are in. We will continue to be a business that’s active in both retail and commercial along with wholesale and supply. Certainly, the focus is a little different in each jurisdiction. In Canada, we are more focused on organic growth and acquisitions within some of the white space areas where we don’t have a big presence. In the U.S., we are more M & A (merger and acquisition) focused and in the Caribbean, we just recently bought a business that brings our footprint as far as South America. We see some great opportunities to continue to grow through servicing the market and focusing on high growth markets while also looking for strategic acquisitions that fit well within the supply obit.”

Parkland has been able to buy some great assets with a great team to run those assets, adds Espey.

“We continue to work every day to make the business stronger and better so it’s a great platform, a great business and we’ve been getting some great results,” states Espey. “I am passionate about this company. I feel very fortunate to be able to work at Parkland and work in the industry and lead a team that has been able to continue to outperform consistently.”