A look into the past, present, and future of a successful and dedicated entrepreneur
A Look into the Past
One decision can change everything, and for Dick Powell, it did.
Dick grew up in an entrepreneurial household with a father who worked full-time as a farmer and operated a trucking company as a second business. Dick graduated from Iowa State University with a BS degree in Agriculture. Upon graduation, he accepted a job with Amoco Oil in the fertilizer manufacturing business. While at Amoco, Dick served as the bridge between Amoco and the petroleum marketers who re-sold Amoco petroleum products.
Dick thought he was going to be with Amoco for the remainder of his work career. But, his future changed suddenly when he was asked to transfer to Philadelphia. For family reasons and his love of Wisconsin, he decided to leave Amoco without another job lined up. During the 20 years that he worked for Amoco, his interest in being a Jobber, or wholesaler, grew. This interest led him to a small Jobber in Wisconsin (Fletcher Oil Company, a petroleum marketer for Shell petroleum products) that was looking to sell some assets. These included several convenience stores, car repair stations, a bulk motor oil business, HVAC, and bulk distribution to farmers, commercial customers, and dealers.
The purchase of assets from Fletcher Oil Company, which he renamed to Wisconsin Petroleum Inc (WPI), was long and challenging. Dick struggled to find a banker to help finance his new business; he went through three rejected proposals before finding a banker who was willing to take the risk with him. The final agreement consisted of bank financing of $900,000 and owner financing of $150,000. Additionally, for three years after the sale of the business, the banker required monthly reviews of all financial statements, sales, and expense trends. These meetings proved to be painful, and at times, challenging.
During the negotiations, the banker demanded that Dick should take on a partner to spread the financial risk. In true entrepreneurial spirit, Dick chose to only proceed as a sole proprietor. To this day, he is glad he held his ground and did not choose to take on any partners.
Over the course of 18 years, Dick grew WPI from supplying four dealers, seven convenience stores, and annual sales of $4 million, to 99 dealers, eight convenience stores, and annual sales of $200 million.
Dick sold his distribution business in 2010 and sold the convenience stores to different dealers throughout the state over the past 9 years. In 2010, Dick decided to change the company name from WPI to Powell Petroleum, and today he owns and operates just one of the eight convenience stores (Riteway) located in Spring Green, WI.
Today, Dick enjoys being involved in the day-to-day business of his convenience store, Riteway, as he stops in about five days a week to help in some major decisions and personnel issues. Since 1991, Dick has always been a strong believer in being totally hands-on with his business.
His manager, who is a well-known and long-time resident of Spring Green, WI, is very responsible, which allows him to tend to his 1,100 acres of farmland, where his true passions lie.
Riteway, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright architects, sells gasoline, diesel, in-store convenience items, and hot food, including hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and brats, which are grilled daily, and pizza from his Pizza Pit franchise.
The competitive prices, quality products, and clean environment are just a few of the things that keep customers coming back. Dick has always felt connected to the saying:
“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”
He believes that if you sell something cheap or of poor quality, people will eventually forget about the price, but will remember the poor quality. Much of his success has come from providing superior service and high-quality products. Throughout his years in business, he has learned there are two ways of doing business: cheat your customers or be honest and transparent, and grow. It’s simple – be honest, fair, and show interest in your customers.
This year, Riteway installed new pumps to take chip credit cards, which not many gas stations are implementing yet. As electric cars become more popular, Dick is also considering installing a charging station.
Looking to the Future
Dick plans to keep the Riteway convenience store for as long as possible, and eventually sell it. Many of his future plans involve his 1,100-acre farm, which he plans to operate for his own personal use. He also uses his land to plant trees and do timber stand improvement, and he has a 150-acre monarch butterfly restoration. His goal is to leave the land better than how he found it.
If you find yourself in Spring Green, be sure to stop by Riteway to be treated with superior service and high-quality products, that only a business built with passion, hands-on hard work, and dedication can provide.