A good day for Rick Wells, UFA Petroleum Agent in Rycroft, includes hauling fuel, chatting with his customers at their farms and working alongside his son, Andrew. And for anyone who knows Rick, they’d probably say it’s all accompanied by a good dose of teasing.
He jokes that he’s 15 years into a prison sentence, but it’s quite obvious, that couldn’t be further from the truth. “If I didn’t love my job and UFA, I wouldn’t still be here after all this time. Honestly I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Rick was born and raised around the Spirit River area, and when he wasn’t causing trouble at school, he was helping his parents, Albert and Shirley, who owned and operated the Wanham UFA Petroleum Agency.
“I worked with my mom and dad at the agency when I was single and then after I got married, we just weren’t making enough to support both families, so I left to haul grain and fertilizer,” he says. “I loved driving truck and doing deliveries, it’s in my blood and still my favourite part of the job today.”
In 2005, Rick and his wife Debbie saw an opportunity to run the UFA in Spirit River. “UFA treated my parents well and I had fond memories, we thought it was a good chance to continue the family tradition,” he says. Together, the couple ran the agency for nine years. A few years later, a brand-new cardlock and bulk facility was being built in Rycroft which meant new opportunity, and Rick jumped at it.
Once the Rycroft site was completed in 2014, the UFA in Wanham was closed. The Spirit River agency moved to an unmanned cardlock for customers to still be able to purchase fuel from, and Rycroft became the main agency, providing lubricants and fuel, and with Rick and Debbie at the helm, unparalleled customer service.
Rick says that many of the customers who were loyal to his dad, remain loyal to him. “Some of our customers have been with us for almost 40 years,” he says. “There is always going to be competition, but what sets us apart are the relationships. I’ve had customers say that, even during the infamous price wars when they could get fuel for two to three cents cheaper, there’s no way they’d leave because the service is what sets UFA apart. I’m proud of that.”
A couple of years ago, Debbie retired which opened the door for their son Andrew to purchase her share of the UFA business. Today, he is an equal partner in the Rycroft Petroleum Agency, working alongside dad, Rick.
“I’m proud that Andrew is a third generation UFA Petroleum Agent,” says Rick. “I had great memories of filling fuel with my dad and I’m grateful that he will be continuing the family tradition. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not always a picnic, but for those days I have a little help from Jack Daniels,” he laughs. In all seriousness, you can hear the pride that comes through when Rick talks about his son. And he doesn’t take for granted the gift of working alongside him.
Rick is quick to add that success is a team effort. “I’m lucky to have staff that are like family. I have two drivers who have been with me for about eight years and everyone in the office runs the business like it’s their own. When you’re dealing with the public, you need to go above and beyond and whether I’m there or not, I know they’re doing that every day.”
Speaking of going above and beyond, Rick and Debbie have made it a priority to give back to the communities they serve. “My parents taught me that you need to give back, to reinvest in your community,” he says. “We are farmers too. We have a quarter section of land with horses and we know how hard it is for some rural communities to thrive. Each year we give to 4-H and we support local schools and fundraisers.” It’s also one of the reasons why the Wells family is proud to be part of UFA Co-operative. “Success is a two-way street and you’re only worth your salt if you’re giving back, UFA’s Community Investment program is critical to supporting future generations and in keeping young leaders in ag in their home communities where they can make a difference.”
In fact, in honour of Rick’s 15-year agent anniversary, he has chosen to donate $3,500 to nearby schools impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’re giving to local schools because they have been hit hard, they need funds now more than ever, and quite frankly, we have a responsibility to support the education of those kids who are our future.”
Rick always looks for ways not only to improve his community, but his business and he says when they introduced Dieselex Gold into their offering, it was a game changer. “In 2018, we brought a new diesel fuel to our bulk delivery market – Dieselex Gold. It’s a clear and dyed diesel product engineered to be the best diesel fuel to power and protect,” he says. “There’s a lot of technology and science behind it, but honestly, it’s one of the best things we’ve ever done. I use it myself, I could never promote something I didn’t believe in, and it’s a phenomenal product that I’m proud to offer to our customers.”
Great products like Dieselex Gold, combined with long-lasting relationships built on trust, and incredible support from everyone at UFA has been the right recipe for success says Rick. “I’ve always felt support from the field and from the support office. From the beginning, I’ve been told there is an open-door policy and that’s no bull. I’ve been encouraged to speak my mind, whether it be as part of the Petroleum Agent Committee meetings or sitting in the Petroleum Director’s office. I can pop in at any time, even unannounced, and we can have an open conversation. I’ve always felt like my voice matters.”
Today, Rick is gearing up for the busy harvest season. He and his team are ready to serve their customers with the right products, at the right time, with the service they have come to expect. And for Rick, even though his wife is retired, he jokes that he’s nowhere near ready, well that is unless things change on the home-front.
“I’m no spring chicken, and I don’t see myself retiring anytime soon,” he jokes. “Unless of course, I become a grandpa. I’ve dangled the carrot and told Andrew that I’ll sell him my share of the business if that happens, but I’m still waiting.”
While you’re waiting Rick, from everyone at UFA, congratulations on your anniversary and thank you for 15 years of excellence in customer service, and here’s to many more!