Wills takes helm at SMO Energy

Joe Wills, president of SMO Energy, stands outside of the company’s offices in La Plata. He succeeds John Combs, who retired July 1.

The Wills Group recently appointed Joe Wills as president of SMO Energy, provider of heating fuel, propane and HVAC equipment to Southern Maryland, Prince George’s and Anne Arundel Counties. Wills succeeds John Combs who retired July 1.

Wills’ appointment begins the fourth generation of family leadership within The Wills Group. Headquartered in La Plata, the group is the parent company of SMO Energy, Dash In Food Stores, Splash In ECO Car Wash, SMO Motor Fuels and operates Potomac Energy Holdings in a joint venture with Motiva Enterprises LLC.

Wills brings a range of experience from across the organization into his new role. For the past year he served as vice president of SMO Energy.

“That was special and unique for me because it gave me the opportunity to work with John Combs,” Wills said. “John Combs was the president of SMO Energy. He had been with our company for 41 years. So, the past year, being able to work with him and have him impart all of his knowledge of industry, of culture, of people, was a special year for me. And I’ve got big shoes to fill.”

Wills said he also held previous positions with the company as area manager for SMO Motor Fuels and oversaw relationships with “about 35” Shell gas stations, and ran the pricing and logistics department for retail marketing.

Wills said the company’s focus on its customers, employees and growth is what guides it.

“What really does guide us is our pursuit of customer centricity, employee centricity and growth,” Wills said. “We do have these wonderful relationships with 30,000-plus customers in the Southern Maryland region and they put their trust in us to take care of their home comfort needs and we are deeply committed to being there for them when they need us.”

SMO Energy has approximately 175 employees to help ensure its customers’ needs are satisfied. The company hires and trains delivery drivers, service technicians, installation technicians, delivery and service dispatchers, and client care agents who handle the phone calls from customers, according to Wills.

“To deliver a great customer experience, or an outstanding customer experience, you’ve got to have your employees that are fully engaged and that are receiving the training that they need to be able to effectively do their jobs,” Wills said. “So training is something that is very important to us.”

SMO Energy has a dedicated full-time trainer on staff, Wills said. Technicians receive live training on the company’s equipment in the Shymansky Institute, a training facility located at SMO Energy’s offices in La Plata.

Wills said he also recognizes the importance of feedback and encourages it from the company’s customers and employees.

“I am a firm believer in feedback. So getting feedback, good and bad, from customers and employees helps us to make decisions on improvements where applicable,” he said.

“When you think about our business, we’re entering people’s homes,” Wills said. “And so when we’re entering people’s homes, we want to enter their home, fix whatever issues they’re having and leave their home in the same way as we went in. And we want that to be a positive experience.

“And we’re also committed to always getting better around the customer and employee experiences because we know that’s what can differentiate us.”

Wills said SMO Energy also provides support to The Wills Group’s community engagement program. That program helps fulfill the basic needs of people in the communities the company serves, focusing on the support of safe and healthy homes and elimination of childhood hunger.

“We’ve been active in our communities for the longest time, dating back to 1926,” he said.

“On the safe and healthy homes side, within SMO Energy, we do have our SMO Cares program,” Wills said. “And in 2016 alone, we assisted over 650 families across Southern Maryland.” The SMO Cares program provides energy assistance, including free or reduced cost equipment and repairs, to eligible customers.

Wills said the company will be looking at and testing opportunities to determine how the company can grow and effectively solve its customers’ problems, as well as explore ways new technology can be used to improve customer engagement.

“We want to look for different ways to get better for our customers. We want to look for different services to provide for our customers,” Wills said.