Ash Backman joined Viva Energy in 2016 as Business Development Manager for the transport sector. Today, as Viva Energy’s National Sales Manager for Transport, Ash leads a large sales team dedicated to delivering tangible benefits for Rail, Truck, Bus, Construction and Commercial Fleet customers.
Ultimately Ash’s team is responsible for managing all of Viva Energy’s key customer relationships in the Transport business, and it’s a role in which he thrives.
“It’s really dynamic,” he says. “It’s a great challenge. Every day is different, which brings new and exciting opportunities.”
Partners in business
In his current role, Ash works closely with some of Australia’s largest businesses and understands the value and importance of building customer partnerships that are mutually beneficial. “Helping our customers do great things is central to our strategy,” he says.
“For example, we’ve worked closely with customers to trial and implement Shell Diesel Extra, which offers improved engine efficiency compared to standard diesel. By trialing the product in our customers’ equipment, we’ve been able to demonstrate that Shell Diesel Extra drives tangible value for their business by lowering fuel consumption. Improving fuel efficiency for our customers is an achievement we’re really proud of.”
Another example is transitioning customers to Viva Energy’s Managed Inventory, which removes complexity from the fuel management process for customers. “Fuel management is our area of expertise,” he explains. “By taking on that responsibility we can improve safety, because site staff no longer have to walk across busy transport yards and dip tanks. They also don’t have to spend time recording dips or sending through orders. We take care of everything end-to-end through our world-class Quintiq automated scheduling system, which allows us to optimise when we deliver fuel. It ensures that our customers’ tank levels are exactly right, giving them supply security, while reducing the number of times we need to visit their site.”
Improved safety is another benefit for customers with on-site fuel depots. “Removing any risk to our customers’ people and to our people is our number one priority,” he says. “Our key account managers and our technical team will visit customer sites to identify risks and recommend equipment solutions that will maximise the efficiency and safety of our customers’ depots. We also offer a maintenance service that will ensure their storage equipment remains in line with Australian standards. By removing these concerns and providing these value add services, our customers are able to focus on their core business.”
Being customer obsessed
Ash loves the customer-obsessed culture that’s embedded across Viva Energy’s business. “We’re empowered to create value for our customers and partners, which is an aspect of my role I find really exciting,” he says.
“My team spends a huge amount of time working closely with our customers to create true partnerships. This includes ensuring our supply arrangements are optimised to maximise benefits for our customers, exploring innovation and continuous improvement opportunities, and ensuring we’re as closely aligned with our customers’ objectives as we can possibly be. We seek a thorough understanding of our customers’ operations, because that depth of knowledge provides crucial insights that allow us to identify beneficial opportunities.”
Ash is also happy to share industry intelligence with his customers, something he thinks is probably unique to Viva Energy. “Fuel pricing can be perceived to be quite complex, and we add value by offering transparency, support and simplification for our customers and potential customers,” he says. “We’re really transparent in that regard, to the point where we’ll introduce them to our pricing analysts if they require a deeper level of understanding.”
Supporting the transport industry
Having worked in the industry for over ten years, Ash has a thorough understanding of – and appreciation for – the intricacies of the industry. He believes that Viva Energy is ideally positioned to help his customers gain a strategic advantage in a highly competitive market.
“Transport is a rapidly evolving industry,” he explains. “There is an ever-present requirement for customers to innovate and improve the way they operate. That’s where Viva Energy can help.”
Innovation may also take the form of alternative energy. Viva Energy recently announced that it’s assessing a number of future energy development projects that could be co-located at the company’s Geelong Refinery. If implemented, these would establish Geelong as an ‘Energy Hub’ for Victoria and South East Australia, supporting the transition to lower carbon energies such as hydrogen for the transport industry and enhancing Australia’s energy security.
“I’m really excited about the proposed Energy Hub. It could provide a great platform for us to support our customers with new innovations as we move into the future.”
Working through today’s unique challenges
The transport industry is not immune to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, as Ash explains. “Some of the challenges facing the industry are unprecedented. Freight demands have been impacted, moving freight across state borders has become more complex and regulated, and ensuring the health and safety of transport staff and drivers is more challenging.”
Ash is very much aware of the impact on drivers. “It’s harder than ever for drivers to manage the balance between home and work. Protecting their mental health and wellbeing is an industry-wide concern, given the difficult circumstances they’re working through.”
On a functional level early on in the pandemic, Ash’s customers need regular updates about the availability of Viva Energy’s service station facilities for on-road refuelling and rest breaks, so he keeps the lines of communication open.
But Ash also sees the crisis as an opportunity for Viva Energy to provide support in another way. “Every transport operator is different, but in some instances Viva Energy has faced similar challenges across its operations. Where we can we’re sharing our learnings and exchanging ideas about how we are safely managing our operational facilities and ensuring we can deliver fuel safely to our customers sites, so that both businesses can steer through this environment in the best possible manner.”
A sense of pride
Ash is enthusiastic about leading a large team of high performers who consistently deliver amazing results. In fact, he considers it to be the highlight of his career, which spans more than ten years in the fuel industry.
“I’m so proud of what the team has been able to achieve. They are such a fantastic and genuine group, and I feel privileged to have been involved in their successes. Working with them to achieve our collective goals has been incredibly rewarding,” he says.
Viva Energy’s genuine commitment to its people and their wellbeing also gives him immense satisfaction.
“The company I work for supports me and supports my team. That environment allows us to create a fantastic team culture and perform our roles to the best of our abilities. That’s what I’m most proud of, working for Viva Energy. We are trusted to deliver and make decisions, and Viva Energy also enables us to effectively manage our work and family commitments through initiatives like Viva Energy Flex. It’s great to work for such a progressive company.”
Learn more about how Viva Energy supports the Transport industry.