Stephen Hightower II
Chief Operations Officer, Hightowers Petroleum Company
Hightowers Petroleum’s commitment to elevating its workforce comes naturally, says Stephen Hightower II, Chief Operating Officer. A corporate camaraderie fueled by three generations of determination, integrity and excellence continues to fire up the growing energy solutions enterprise headquartered in Middletown.
Hightower’s father, Stephen “Steve” Hightower, founded the company in 1984, continuing an entrepreneurial legacy that began in 1956 with grandfather Yudell Hightower’s establishment of the family’s cornerstone business. Today, Hightowers Petroleum is known nationwide and increasingly throughout the world for its customer service, creative fuel distribution model and expert handling of upstream and downstream issues.
“We are a family business first,” says Hightower. “So, whether it’s our customers, our suppliers or our people, we treat everybody like family. Our people answer our phones with a smile. Although we would save money and time if we were automated, we think it’s important to have someone with a warm smile answering our phones. We roll out the red carpet for everyone, including our people.”
And the company expects a lot from its employees in return.
“We have high standards,” Hightower emphasizes. “We push a lot, but at the end of the day, if somebody needs a hug or is going through a difficult time personally, we’re always there for them.”
It’s Grandfather Hightower’s resonating can-do spirit that keeps the company pumped.
“He’s 85, and he still comes in every day, ready to work, making sure everything is 100 percent,” Hightower says. “To see that is truly a blessing that radiates throughout the business.”
Such a strong work ethic must be both modeled and taught.
“We focus on attitude. We have people with high-level degrees and people with no degrees who are self-taught,” Hightower says. “We’re looking for a strong work ethic first and foremost. Being in the fuel distribution business, there is a certain skill set that comes with that. We value that skill set, and we need it, but we also need to marry it with the Hightower way, and that involves, respect, integrity and a definite sense of team.
“We bring in people from all over the country, and my job is to maintain our core values and make sure they are communicated and demonstrated throughout the organization.”
Championing an organization’s human capital, no matter how many generations it has been in existence, takes listening with an open mind, Hightower says.
“You have to listen. You may have 30 years’ experience at something, but you must be open to what others with fewer years’ experience are saying. Give everyone a chance to have a voice. Take a collaborative approach. Keep the dialogue open and get as many voices at the table as possible.”