Arnold, Guttman discuss energy industry during Smeal Executive Insights visit

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — John M. Arnold, chairman, CEO and owner of PPC Lubricants Inc., and Alan R. Guttman, CEO of Guttman Energy Inc., discussed the energy industry and its approach to decision-making and leadership as part of the Penn State Smeal College of Business Executive Insights session March 18.

Executive Insights is the college’s signature speaker series. Each session of the series features a moderated discussion in the Business Building in front of an audience of students, faculty and staff. Friday’s conversation with Charles H. Whiteman, the John and Becky Surma Dean of Smeal, covered a range of topics including risk management and volatility, the impacts of policy decisions on the energy industry, and the opportunities and challenges of leading privately held companies.

Arnold, a 1987 graduate of the Penn State Smeal MBA Program, and Guttman, a 1969 alumnus with a degree in finance, joined a list of more than 25 top business leaders who have participated in Executive Insights. A video of their session is available online. Some of highlights include:

Market volatility
Guttman: “Think about managing volatility when the price moves more in a day than you make, gross. So it requires a lot of supply chain knowledge and a lot of trading capabilities. … It requires trading capabilities, it requires research, and it requires a knowledge of what’s going on in the world. If somebody in Saudi Arabia is doing something, if China’s demand is up or down — all of that impacts the price in State College tomorrow, even though the physical product that would affect it isn’t going to be here for two years if it’s leaving Saudi Arabia today.”

A logistics-focused business
Arnold: “We are really in the logistics business. Bringing products to market, marketing them, handling the risk of carrying that inventory. It just happens to be petroleum.”

Managing risk
Guttman: "We’re selling a commodity. Our gasoline doesn’t smell better or taste better or work any better than anybody else’s, so we have to find a way to differentiate ourselves, and we do that by trying to add value and by trying to solve the customer’s problems mostly as it surrounds risk management.”

Culture
Arnold: “The corporate culture that we’ve tried to develop, which I try to lead, is one where you check your ego at the door, and we all come together, and the best ideas rule — it doesn’t matter who thinks of it — and you try to create a culture and atmosphere where people feel safe in being able to contribute and give their ideas. Nobody is smarter than all of us, that’s what I tell our people. It’s a matter of working together." 

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Last Updated March 24, 2016