Inside PDI's Drive to Grow
A global, unified technology firm positions for industry change
PDI has caught the merger bug in a big way. Two years ago, the enterprise-management software company had about 200 employees in Temple, Texas. Today, it is an international conglomerate with more than 400 employees spread across 14 offices around the world.
While PDI has experienced organic growth in the past two years, its acquisition of six tech-focused convenience and petroleum companies over the past year are the main drivers behind its transformation.
The acquisitions and the competencies the companies bring include:
- Intellifuel and its fuel management and logistics solutions.
- Pinnacle Corp.’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) assets.
- KLS Technologies, a scan-data collection company.
- DataMax Group and its back-office software and fuel services.
- Germany-based Lomosoft and its wholesale logistics and fuel supply-chain tools.
- Firestream Worldwide, a provider of end-to-end software for downstream and midstream jobbers, lubricant suppliers and propane marketers.
PDI’s accelerated transformation also reflects its efforts to keep up with a fast-changing industry. “We have to change in order to stay relevant and serve the market. If we’re stagnant but the market’s changing, then we’re going to become irrelevant,” said Jimmy Frangis, CEO of PDI, to CSP magazine in an exclusive interview at the 2017 PDI Users Conference in San Antonio.
This includes helping retailers meet consumers’ growing interest in foodservice. While 73% of consumers make gasoline purchases at c-stores, 62% are buying food, according to Technomic’s Q1 2017 C-Store MarketBrief, powered by Ignite. And PDI has tried to upgrade its capabilities to help its customers better respond to local, state and federal regulatory pressures, from harsh tobacco restrictions to intricate menu-labeling laws and the outside EMV (Europay, Mastercard and Visa) liability deadline.
Frangis and his team are also using the company’s growth to work with a wider range of consumers. Previously known as a software solution provider for multisite convenience and fuel retailers in the United States, PDI has seen its growth allow it to target retailers of any size anywhere in the world.
“We believe there’s an opportunity for a company to serve this market globally, really take a leadership position and serve the market better,” he said.
In September, PDI introduced its new, unified face to about 1,000 customers and other industry players during its Users Conference. While attendees discussed topics ranging from foodservice best practices to tax and finance tools over the four days, perhaps the biggest topic of discussion was PDI’s transformation to a global software provider and its new capabilities.
Some of the recently added executive team took time during the conference to talk through the new solutions their experience is bringing to the company.
Take Glenn Turner, formerly CEO of Firestream Worldwide and now PDI’s senior vice president and general manager of wholesale and logistics. Turner will spearhead efforts to develop more solutions to simplify fuel supply-chain management.
“If you’re selling propane or heating oil in the service of providing home heat, that is now a capability that’s under the PDI roof that you can apply to your businesses,” Turner said at the Users Conference general session, referring to the company’s Firestream product line and others from acquired companies such as Lomosoft and Intellifuel. Current capabilities include degree-day forecasting for order management, budget billing for collecting payments and inventory optimization.
While PDI already had a wholesale suite of products, the addition of Firestream also allowed the company to expand its wholesale and logistics capabilities. “That whole fuel supply chain is a great opportunity, and a number of our retail customers have that need, which is why we wanted to add that capability,” he said.
PDI also brought on Drew Mize, formerly president of Pinnacle, as senior vice president and general manager of retail. He will continue the company’s collaboration with industry associations and lead the integration of the ERP assets acquired from Pinnacle. While PDI has been involved with organizations such as NACS and the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America for years, Mize will bring a new level of involvement by participating in the government advocacy efforts of these groups and more. Important issues include outside EMV, tobacco regulations and menu restrictions.
To help operators tackle new menu-labeling regulations, PDI offers item-management and waste-tracking tools as part of the retail arm of its enterprise software, and it recently added nutrition facts data into the pricebook because of the upcoming menu-labeling laws. It also provides ideal cost and margin reporting so retailers can analyze their foodservice business and improve it over time.
But growing so quickly poses risks. PDI brought on Chris Berry as its chief technical officer in part to help unify the disparate teams across more than 50 countries that now make up the company. Frangis cited Berry’s experience with team building at People Admin, where she led the integration of three acquisitions before joining PDI.
One way she aims to keep the company unified is by embracing its newfound diversity.
“We might have a team in Thailand working on the traditional PDI Enterprise solution that was before worked on by just the team in Temple,” Berry said as an example. “If you get diversity and more of that groupthink on these solutions, you’re going to get a different, and I think potentially better, outcome than if you just keep doing it the same way that it’s always been done.”
The company is also working to unify its employees by bringing each brand under one holistic PDI brand, which has been updated to encompass the company’s recent acquisitions.
Though he could not give more details, Frangis said to expect more acquisitions in the future as the company aims to expand its global reach.
“If there’s a business that’s aligned to our strategy and helps us achieve our vision,” he said, “then I would expect we’d want to continue to pursue those.”