It took Ashley Madray and Jason Willingham numerous brainstorming sessions, discussing opportunities they saw within the marketplace, before they realized their complementary relationships, skills, and talents and formed Texas-based gas supplier Gas Innovations.
“We tested the waters for a bit,” explains Willingham, who now serves as president of the thriving gas company. “We interviewed many potential customers, seeking commitments for support of our proposed company, and we got commitments. We also developed a sound business model with four key complementary business segments and a strategy to implement them that created our competitive advantages. The last piece of the puzzle was choosing a good and useful name, which would help us market our products and services.”
“We chose the name Gas Innovations because we wanted to be new and different and offer those kinds of products and services,” adds executive vice president Ashley Madray. “Just the name of the company demonstrates that we are always looking for new and different products. Virtually every line we have demonstrates the newest generation of products. We are really a background industry to all industries. Whether it’s a hospital needing oxygen or a bridge needing repairs, our products are needed.”
by the numbers
employee growth in
average tenure of
executive, in years
average employee age
projected employee growth over next 5 years
Once open for business, the newly created Gas Innovations team concentrated on finding ways to operate not only effectively, but creatively. “We received owner financing of the properties and buildings we purchased and angel financing for our equipment purchases,” Willingham explains. “We chose and still have key partners in some segments of our business and selectively chose talent to join our team.”
These ideals have continued to serve as the backbone of Willingham’s company. Established in 2002, Gas Innovations is an independent wholesale company that provides services to gas suppliers. Serving up hydrocarbon gases, equipment, and technical expertise to both industrial gas producers and the independently owned network of distributors, this international company also provides innovative gas packaging and efficient asset-utilization programs to the gas industry. In 2005, the company expanded with the addition of the Southern Propane and longtime executive Bryan Willingham.
“We continue to strategize for clarity of purpose,” Madray says. “We want to strengthen our business model and not dilute it, and strive to continue improving our customer service and not take our customers for granted. And no matter what, we want to continue to strengthen the team we have built.”
“Our people make this company successful,” says Jim Hoffman, vice president of sales. “Each of our key personnel has an exhaustive background in our industry, and our customers support us because we help them grow their respective business or reduce their costs. We continually train and support our customers and refine our offering to them. Calling on our customers and taking advantage of their coverage is a clear competitive advantage.”
Earlier this year, the company announced the purchase of four acres adjoining the firm’s LaPorte, Texas-based headquarters, essentially doubling the size of its facilities. With over 60 employees, Jason says one of the main keys to the company’s success is the strong family-oriented atmosphere at work, which keeps employees happy and production high. In recent months, Jason says the company has added a high-pressure compressor for ethane, methane, and carbon monoxide, which more than doubled the size of its facility to best enable its hydrocarbon expansion. Since the company’s inception in 2002, it has doubled in growth every year until the economic downturn of 2009. And while its goals have been affected a bit, Willingham says it’s looking to improve productivity of cutting and wielding steel in the fabric industry, along with continuing the expansion of both facilities and the company as a whole.
“I would say we are back off the wheelchair, but we are still on crutches,” Jason chuckles. “We are a true behind-the-scenes industry, and when manufacturing is down, of course we suffer. But in order to make progress, our clients need our materials. Overall, I think the economic downturn made us a better company and forced us to reevaluate how we spent money and made us invent new ways to spend money wisely.”
“Yesterday is over!” adds Don Bobyk, vice president of marketing. “We innovate, create, and make things happen.”