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Interview with Jon Strimling

By: Joshua Unseth-- 2010-03-01 6:00 am --

Jon Strimling is President, CEO & Founder of the American Biomass Corporation

Please briefly describe your company.
American Biomass Corporation is the parent company of a family of logistics enterprises which, collectively, form the nation’s most efficient, most extensive network for biomass fuel distribution. AB works with hearth shops in unique, customized ways, from offering wholesale pricing on the highest quality wood pellets, to finding contract delivery solutions in often sparsely seeded markets. WoodPellets.com, our retail arm, provides a convenient online platform for consumers to order fuel for home delivery, as well as an educational portal that offers the latest information on fuel testing data, home heating technologies, and renewable energy legislation. We also have a subsidiary dedicated to the development of the bulk wood pellet market: Revolution Pellet Systems was inspired by the overwhelming successes of widespread bulk pellet adoption in the European market, and employs a team of engineers and some of the brightest minds in the biomass industry to develop domestic solutions for bulk-fed wood pellet heating systems.

Who are your competitors?
We’re the only company that does what we do, focused on home delivery of the highest quality wood pellets direct to consumers. There are certainly other ways for consumers to obtain pellets, but it’s often through an ancillary part of a different business. On the other hand, pellets are our business, and we pride ourselves on our world-class customer service and our knowledge of all things relating to pellets.

How did you become the leading provider of wood pellet fuels to residences?
In one word: efficiency. We use patented logistics software to streamline the entire distribution process, and, even more importantly, we hold all our producers to strict quality standards. By independently testing all of our products and working with manufacturers to ensure consistent quality, we’re helping to make pellet heat even easier for consumers.

Talk a little bit about the intersection of social, political, and environmental values with best business practices.
Our goal is to make heating with wood pellets a viable option for consumers, and we make sure to look out for our customers in pending and upcoming legislation. American Biomass is heavily involved with some of the most effective, most respected nonprofit organizations and environmental advocates in the industry, including the Pellet Fuels Institute (PFI), the Biomass Thermal Energy Council (BTEC) and the Alliance for Green Heat (AFGH). We also have an internal team devoted to promoting biomass thermal to local, state, and federal legislators.

Could you tell me a little bit about how you approach marketing.
We try to reach customers both online and offline through traditional outreach and Web advertising. But we’ve found that, far and away, the most effective marketing strategy revolves around positive word of mouth. There’s no better advertisement than a satisfied customer recommending your business to a friend. So we make sure encourage those referrals through our PelletBucks rewards program.

Explain how you revolutionized the distribution of wood pellets to residential consumers?
We maintain strict quality standards for all of our fuel, and are the independently test all of the fuel we sell through a third-party lab. Nobody else in our industry does that. We make those results transparent via WoodPellets.com, so customers know exactly what they’re purchasing.

Please describe any other innovative aspects to your business.
We’re working to help develop bulk wood pellet adoption, distribution, and storage, along with designing and maintaining automated biomass heating systems. We’re building off of the European model, innovating on the techniques used by countries such as Austria and Italy in achieving massive reductions in carbon emissions and astounding self-sufficiency in fuel sourcing. We’ve created customized central heating systems for clients across New England; and we’re working on some very exciting new technologies that will make automated pellet systems viable for a much broader market.

You recently changed your Web site from PelletSales.com to WoodPellets.com. Talk about the benefits of strategic re-branding.
The name change has been phenomenal. WoodPellets.com is a much more intuitive name, and we’ve found it’s easier for customers to find us on the Web.

What challenges does your business currently face?
Our main goal, the challenge we’ve taken on, is educating consumers and legislators alike about the advantages of wood pellet heating. Pellet heat is sustainable, cost-effective, and domestically produced, and it’s vitally important – to invigorate the American economy and to reduce our carbon emissions – that wood pellet heat is given its due place in public policy and the green energy sector. We strive to make sure the consumers and policy makers have access to the most current information about testing data, new technologies, and all the benefits of pellet heat.

How is the recession affecting your business?
The recession has affected our business because it has forced consumers to alter their buying habits. Many simply could not afford to buy an entire heating season’s worth of fuel all at once and, instead, purchased smaller quantities of fuel throughout the year. We had many customers looking to finance their fuel, to work within budget plans over the course of the year. This presented an opportunity for us to offer new and exciting benefits to our customers – we now provide a wide variety of payment options, including RevolutionCard, a credit card simple application process, progressive security measures, and instant approval, allowing customers to manage their fuel payments easily and securely.

As a small business owner what lessons have you learned since founding your company? What advice do you have for other small businesses?
The most important thing for any business owner is to keep the customers in mind: quality matters in everything, from the product or service you’re providing to the customer service you offer.