As a preface to this interview, we would like to express how amazing this community story of Colby & Gale is. At first, they were hesitant to be highlighted for their community involvement. To Mr. Clifford and staff, being involved with the community is NOT something they do for publicity, it’s something they do because it’s their culture and their way of life. This culture was set in motion by Robert Clifford. Many of you may be aware of his recent retirement at Colby & Gale. During his time at Colby & Gale, Mr. Clifford lead the company in giving over $2 million in community outreach. At his retirement party this past fall, everyone from the community came out to give thanks to Robert for all that he has done and continues to do. Now, the MEMA Staff would like to do the same. Thank you for being such a big part of our industry Robert and all that you have done. You are a true leader and inspiration to us all and we wish you a happy retirement! A big thank you to Matt Poole for participating in this interview. -The MEMA Family
Q. First of all, we want to thank you for taking the time to provide us with an interview for the MEMA Mag. We understand that Colby & Gale is incredibly involved in the community. Can you tell us a little about your company moto and why you feel it’s important to Colby & Gale to play such a role in the community?
A. Well first off, thank you for the recognition. Community involvement has been built into the foundation of Colby & Gale for generations. However, Robert Clifford took it to another level during his 25-year tenure. I think the best way to explain it would be, “we truly feel responsible for our community, we feel it’s our duty to continue to re-invest into it”
Q. You support a lot of businesses in your community, including Big brothers Big sisters, Healthy Kids, the Lincoln Theatre, and American Legion as well as MANY more. If you had to pick just one or two to talk about, which ones would they be and why?
A. It would be really hard to identify one or two. Maybe that’s what might make us a little different, we help/support most all of them. In most cases it isn’t just a business relationship. Over the years we have developed personal relationships with most of the local organizations because our values so closely align.
Q. This past July, The Lincoln County News ran an article about the amazing effort of The Community Energy Fund of Lincoln County does in servicing and providing energy for the residents in need. We understand Mr. Clifford was a co-founder of this program. Can you elaborate about the program and how it works to keep people safe and warm in Lincoln County?
A. It was founded in 2005 by Robert and two other local businesspeople. To date more than 1.5 million dollars’ worth of energy (heating oil, kerosene, propane, wood, pellets) have been delivered to local residents. What makes the CEF special is that we are able to run it with ZERO overhead, all time and resources are donated by local people/businesses. 100% of raised funds go directly to heat for a household in need.
Q. About how much money annually is donated to the program?
A. We raise $120,000-$160,000 annually. (with little effort btw)
Q. When Mr. Clifford started the program in 2005, what do you think his mindset was and what inspired him to do it?
A. He was having a beer, with two local businesspeople and the fear of volatile $2/pg oil. Yes $2.00pg seems funny now, for the first time oil was hitting $50 per barrel. With winter quickly approaching one asked “how are our residents in need going to pay for these steep increases?” With all three of them longing to help, the CEF was formed. Three years later prices only got higher, oil hitting $90-$100 per barrel.
Q. What advice can you offer other Members who may be interested in creating similar programs in their communities?
A. If anyone is interested in getting involved or creating a program similar to the CEF, we would be happy to sit down with them and explain what we do and how. Our program can very easily be modeled & duplicated.
Q. Browsing through your website and social media channels, we notice that educating your client base about propane and other relevant topics is important to Colby & Gale. Can you elaborate on this?
A. Safety is one of the core values in our company and we believe it’s critical to take every opportunity to communicate that message to our customers. Our goal is not only to have our customers rely on us to safely and efficiently deliver their fuel, but to assist and ensure they completely understand all safety aspects of their heating equipment and what to do in the event of an emergency.
Q. In addition to the education, we also notice that you enjoy sharing about your hardworking employees. Can you tell us about the Colby & Gale culture and what it means to you to have good employees?
A. Longevity with our employee base is unique. In a small community your reputation is everything, our customers still call and want the same service technician that has been coming to their house for the past 15 years or talk with the same C.S.R. they “always” talk to. They still want to come into our office to pay their bill. It sounds so cliché, but our employees are truly our greatest assets!
Q. Winter is upon us and soon it will be time to start shoveling. Can you talk to us about the “Shovel your Pathway” campaign you had last year, and will you be doing anything like it again this year?
A. We will be doing a “shovel your pathway” again this year. We don’t always get a lot of participation from our customers. However, if we can get just one more path shoveled for our drivers its worth us doing!