A Leap Of Faith Into A Successful Career In Propane

Like many Americans, several weeks ago Libby Byrns, a marketing and sales representative with Alliance Energy Services, a wholesale propane marketer located in North Kansas City, Mo., transitioned from sitting side-by-side her coworkers to working in her home office with her dogs, Freddy and Stanley, by her side. Although her work environment changed, her 24/7 availability and responsiveness to the needs of her customers remained unfaltering.
BPN May Women In Propane Profiles Libby Byrnes

In her 13 years at Alliance, Byrns has built a personal portfolio with approximately 25 customers located primarily in the Midwest and annual sales of more than 60 million gallons of propane. This is an impressive accomplishment for anyone, but particularly for Byrns.

Thirteen years ago, at the age of 27, she took a brave leap of faith. After spending five years in an insurance and billing role in a chiropractor’s office, she jumped into the propane industry when her friend and owner of Alliance, Jason Doyle, offered her a position.

“I was ready for a change and my finances were capped out. I could only move up so far. That was my main motivation.”

With no prior experience in sales or knowledge of the energy field, the transition was difficult, but she was persistent and immersed herself into learning everything she could about propane and the needs of her customers.

“I knew nothing about propane. For the first six months, I questioned if it was the right decision for me. There were days I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, what have I done?’ I’m glad I stuck with it.”

As Alliance has quickly grown organically and through acquisitions, so has Byrns. Alliance is now a leading wholesale propane marketer shipping in the U.S. and Canada out of approximately 75 terminals. It supplies propane by rail, pipeline, cavern storage, refinery production, and fractionation facility production. Customers are offered product procurement, logistics assistance, and price risk management planning.

“You can truly learn something every day. It changes so fast,” Byrns said. Her customers and co-workers have become trusted allies acting in tandem to learn and solve problems. Of course, there are always challenges.

“I would say trying to get the retail customers to have enough storage is a challenge. In cold weather, to have more storage pays for itself 10 times over. Prices can change overnight. If they are going through a lot in a day and can’t get supply to customers, that’s a problem. “

As a woman in the propane industry, she has overcome some hurdles. “I would say being a woman can sometimes be an issue. You do have to prove yourself. I feel like I am talked to differently because I am a woman. There are extra steps a woman has to take because it’s a male-dominated industry.”

She added, “I am very detailed orientated, and I have good instincts so I believe these are things that have helped me gain the trust of my customers.”

Byrns has also gained customers’ trust by being a responsive partner. “It’s a not a 9-5 job; it’s a 24/7 job. I’m tied to my phone quite a bit. A carrier may call at 5 a.m. with a problem or in the winter a customer will call at 7 p.m. and need more gas.”

Although she admits work-life balance can be difficult, since she doesn’t have children or a lot of other responsibilities, the demanding position works for her. “I lead a pretty simple life, so having work keeping me busy is fine.”

When she’s not working, Byrns loves being outdoors walking and running with her dogs. She and her boyfriend enjoy fishing, mainly catching crappie and bass, and traveling to Florida once a year. Spending time with her family is also a priority. A native of Kansas City, she lives close to where she grew up, with her mother, father, and brother and his family nearby.

“I’m sure I’ll stay with Alliance my whole career. I love the people I work with. We’re like a family,” Byrns said. “I don’t know where Alliance will be as a company in 10 years, but I have no interest in moving.” — Karen Massman VanAsdale