July 19, 2021
What comes to mind when you think of philosophy? Old men with beards? Flowing togas? Soaring ideas about life, the universe, and our place in it? What about Fuel Pricing?
You see, fuel pricing and philosophy have more in common than you might think, or at least with a specific school of philosophy.
It’s called ‘Stoicism’.
Don’t leave yet. I can almost hear your thoughts! “Philosophy is just written by men with beards who just talk but don’t do.”
Ok, you might be right, but this gets interesting. So read on!
What is stoicism?
Stoicism is a philosophy of personal ethics and a methodology for seeking practical wisdom in life. A desirable pursuit for sure.
The key principle is the belief that we don’t react to events, we react to our judgements about them, and those judgements are very much in our hands.
And, therefore, Stoics advise that we should not worry about things beyond our control as everything in life can be divided into two categories: things that are up to us and things that are not.
Well, this is where Stoicism teaches development of self-control and fortitude as a means of overcoming harmful emotions. You need to become as clear and unbiased as possible to understand the universal reason (or Logos in Greek, I always liked the way that sounded).
In other words, feel the emotion, but don’t let them control you.
This is an oversimplified analogy but if you’re looking for an easy equivalency and you’re a bit of a nerd like me, then think of the Jedi in Star Wars. The Jedi, like the Stoics, believed that self-mastery and self-improvement lead to virtue and happiness. Note: In the interests of accuracy, the stoics of 2500 years ago did not have colorful laser swords, despite also being around a long, long time ago, in (what seems like) a galaxy far, far away.
So how does this relate to fuel and how you run your fuel stations? Well based on the writings of Marcus Aurelius, Seneca the Younger, and Zeno of Citium to name a few, Stoics came up with the Four Virtues of Stoicism. They are:
This one is about your competition.
Life will throw you in difficult situations. So will your competition.
Think of these not as inconveniences, but as a way to learn. Seneca remarked: “If you have passed through life without an opponent, no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you.”
Aggressive competition between stores is something our clients reference often, but what if we saw them as an opportunity?
Competitors constantly moving down in price to steal volume certainly is a difficult situation, but what if you had the courage to hold your pole sign price (and as a result, your margin) a little longer before following the competition? Or maybe you need some courage to give away margin to drive more volume to increase your store sales.
Courage is great, but too much can lead to recklessness and elevated risk.
This is where temperance and moderation come into play. Doing nothing in excess, but doing the right thing, in the right amount, in the right way. As Aristotle is often misquoted as having said: “We are what we repeatedly do, therefore excellence is not an act, but a habit.”
We often hear from our clients about the pursuit of the ‘right time’ to change their pole sign price to take advantage of the competitive environment.
Data insight is key here to make sure you identify your best options and use them at the right time and in the right situations. Small adjustments, good systems (like EdgePetrol 😜), good process.
The Stoic form of justice was ‘doing the right thing’. There is no stoic virtue more important than justice because it influences all others.
This requires understanding, strategy, and a refusal to accept the status quo.
This is no different in pricing fuel. We require understanding of our margins, volumes, and profit, an optimized strategy to take advantage of the competitive landscape, and a refusal to accept things as they are. If there’s an aggressive competitor down the road stealing your volume and pricing so low that to compete with them directly would be disastrous for your bottom line, it's time to switch up the strategy and come at it from a different perspective.
As part of the Customer Success team at EdgePetrol, I can tell you retailers spend a lot of time with us identifying these opportunities and it is showing on their bottom line.
The knowing. The learning. The experience required to navigate the world.
The founder of Stoicism himself, Zeno of Citium, said that we’re given two ears and a mouth for a reason: to listen more than we talk. Since we also have two eyes, we are obligated to read and observe more than we talk as well.
It is key today, as it was in the ancient world, to be able to distinguish between the vast aggregations of information that lay out there at your disposal—and the actual wisdom that you need to live a good life (or price your fuel).
It's imperative that we study, and always keep our minds open. As Epictetus said: “you cannot learn that which you think you already know.”
In the fuel pricing world, wisdom can be translated to data insight. The goal is not just to acquire information, but the right kind of information. Using the right data to inform your decisions is honoring the stoic virtue of slowing down, being deliberate, and finding the wisdom you need to impact your bottom line.
So there you have it, a beginner’s guide to being a stoic in the fuel industry. By having the courage, temperance, justice and wisdom to understand the universal logos of your sites, you too can reach fuel pricing nirvana.
And, if you want some of that lovely data insight we keep mentioning, you know where to find us 💚
Contact us today for a demonstration!
Get our best content on fuel pricing and retail in your inbox weekly.