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Farmers Union Oil Co., names Rick Harris general manager...

Patrons of the Farmers Union Oil Co., are going to see a familiar face when they interact with management in the future.

7/16/19 (Tue)

Patrons of the Farmers Union Oil Co., are going to see a familiar face when they interact with management in the future.

Rick Harris, a former vice president at State Bank & Trust of Kenmare, was named general manager of the Farmers Union Oil Co., which has locations in Kenmare, Powers Lake and Bowbells.

Harris replaces Jamie Hoggarth and begins his new duties on Monday.

“My No. 1 priority is day-to-day operations and management of the company is going to be there once again,” Harris said. “I will work on all areas to become more efficient and profitable. I’m going to deliver day-to-day management of employees and running of the company.”

Harris admits he has a tall mountain to climb, but he’s going to climb it and return confidence to the patrons of the nearly 90-year-old co-op.

“Farmers Union will be around for another 86 years to come,” he said. “We’re going to strive for business development and we’re going to try to regain customer loyalty and confidence that I think has been shredded the last few years.”

To Harris, customer service is paramount to bring about the change that is needed at FU Oil. By just creating an uptick in customer service, he believes a lot of things that have been lacking, will begin to fall into place.

“My philosophy is to make customer service No. 1,” Harris said. “And employee confidence is important too. I’ll be somebody to come to every day because I’ll be there every day. I will be there so they can come in talk. The door will be open.”

Harris is acutely aware of what has taken place the past couple of years at FU Oil, but rather than dwelling on something that can’t be changed, he’s looking toward the future of this co-op because that he can steer on a steady path.

“I want the patrons to come in and discuss the future,” he said. “As an example, some areas may see partnerships develop to become more efficient.”

Harris talked about the five divisions of FU Oil and would like to see all five return to profitability, but added if one of the five isn’t, the other four will still make the co-op profitable until the fifth can support itself.

“It’s the patrons that are going to turn this around,” Harris said. “They own it and they’ll make it profitable with confidence and loyalty. We’re going to treat the patrons with the respect they deserve.”

The new general manager couldn’t stress enough how important customer service will be going forward. It isn’t going to happen overnight, but he expects the pendulum to swing to the opposite side of where it is now.

Harris still remembers college marketing courses and how customer service was stressed then and he has seen it in a number of businesses and wants to see the same at FU Oil.

He believes the co-op is one of the most critical businesses for the success of the city of Kenmare and so he wants FU Oil to represent Kenmare’s psyche.

“This company is the backbone of our community and we need it to succeed and make sure all our patrons and community prosper,” Harris said.

For the time being, Harris will be working day to day with interim manager John Reese who has many years of experience managing the Farmers Union Oil Co., in New Town.

Reese built a strong business in downtown New Town that had to move to a new location on the east side of town because of its growth.

“The board made a commitment to keep John on for an excellent transition from past management to new,” Harris said. “And I told John, we’re going to buy local whenever we can.”

In his application letter to the board of directors, Harris said the idea of working with Reese for a significant period of time made the position even more attractive to a local candidate and shows commitment by the board to make the next general manager a success with the co-op.

After the decision was made and Harris was welcomed on staff, the board of directors released a statement regarding the change.

“The board of directors of Farmers Union Oil Co., in Kenmare, Powers Lake and Bowbells is very excited to announce longtime local native and businessman Rick Harris has been chosen to be the next general manager.

Mr. Harris has 33 plus years in the financial and agricultural sectors and brings day-to-day operational stability to our patrons and employees.

Mr. Harris’ lifelong residency in Kenmare and his strong banking, business and farming backgrounds, along with community oriented up-bringing will help Farmers Union Oil Co., succeed in the future, as it has the past 85 plus years.

Day-to-day management to deliver customer service to our patrons will be a top priority and we feel this will develop the growth and employee trust within our company that we feel is a top priority.

The board and Mr. Harris welcome all our patrons and non-patrons in the communities we serve to come visit Mr. Harris concerning any issues now or in the future, as we strive to deliver service to build sales through the coming years.”

In closing, the board thanked its patrons for years of loyalty and, according to Harris, any of that loyalty that may have been lost, will return with the new business plan.

In addition, he wanted to stop rumors on the street about parts of the co-op being sold or closed.

“All three communities are vital to this company and always will be as long as I’m the manager,” Harris said. “I will be available every day as of July 22 and the employees are fired up to work.” ... Read EVERY WORD on EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News by subscribing--online or in print!