Kawartha Lakes’ British Empire Fuels combines legacy with innovation

by Andrew Seale   |   November 08, 2022   |   Share this:  

For 80 years, family-run British Empire Fuels has reliably kept the residents and cottagers of Kawartha Lakes and Trent Lakes warm in the winter and cool in the summer. They’ve established themselves as a go-to for HVAC installation and repair,  as well as propane and fuel oil delivery. “People need you, no matter what the economy does…,” says Tim Groen, the General Manager of British Empire Fuels.  they still want to be warm and they still want to be cool.” 

However, there’s a downside to being in an ever-so-reliable industry: comfort quickly becomes an invisible given to daily life. “Nobody thinks about HVAC or heating and cooling until their systems won't work,” says Groen. “And then they want immediate action because it’s an emergency.” 


For a business like British Empire Fuels, he says it doesn’t make sense to pump marketing dollars into advertisements. “Your company name just falls on deaf ears.” 


Rather, the opportunity lies in improving the customer experience. “When the emergency happens, we want to make the experience quick and painless for (our) customers,” he says. Part of that means increasing the company's digital visibility through tools like Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This ensures British Empire Fuels’ website shows up high in Google rankings when someone pulls out their phone in their furnace room and starts searching for help. But, the other part is ensuring the experience of getting their HVAC serviced is also positive.  


That was the opportunity Groen zeroed in on when he started working with Digital Main Street, a program which combines grants and one-to-one support from the Province of Ontario alongside partners to help main street businesses strengthen their online capabilities and plan for the digital future. 


 Groen says tapping into the $2,500 Digital Transformation Grant from Digital Main Street helped the business purchase Sales Builder Pro, HVAC proposal software which helps translate a complex situation with an HVAC system and translate it into clear language that allows the salesperson to quickly create an accurate, instant quote at the customer’s table. “It makes it that much easier for customers to choose to do business with us.”  


Groen says the business had been researching the software for a while. “It was on our wishlist,” he says. “The grant was the final push to getting us off our comfortable seats and taking the next leap towards that new software.” 


Working with Digital Main Street helped Groen look into more ways to improve the experience for both customers and employees. “With the grant money comes that information pipeline,” adds Groen. “I get the updates from Digital Main Street and I was on a webinar yesterday on cybersecurity (presented by DMS, TABIA and MasterCard) and that was a bonus – you just get more ideas.” 


For Groen, it always comes down to how British Empire Fuels can improve the customer experience. “The main focus is always how can we do this better,” says Groen. “And it’s amazing when you listen to customers.”  

About Digital Main Street

Digital Main Street was created by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) with direct support from the City of Toronto. DMS is also supported by a group of strategic business partners, including Google, Mastercard, Shopify, Microsoft, Facebook, Intuit QuickBooks, Square, Yellow Pages and Lightspeed.

Continued investment from the Province of Ontario, through the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade (MEDJCT) has allowed the ongoing expansion the Digital Main Street Platform in order to support more businesses going digital across Ontario.

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