Industry Advocacy Needed

Fran Duskiewicz
Fran Duskiewicz
Fran Duskiewicz

Committee work and share groups allow c-store stakeholders to impart ideas and information for the betterment of everyone.

By Fran Duskiewicz

I worked for Nice N Easy for 30 years. For 20 of those years, it seemed as though I spent as much time on activities and projects outside of our company on things that benefited our company in a broader, more tangential way, than I did on my own responsibilities.

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We were involved in the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), New York Association of Convenience Stores (NYACS) and National Advisory Group (NAG). The company also participated in share groups, user groups, trade publication editorial boards and just about any industry initiative that we deemed worthy of our time and attention.

If I worked seven days a week it was because, at various times, I was maintaining two careers. And, I’m not unique in this regard—not by a longshot.

I worked for a man who honestly believed that a rising tide lifted all boats, that if the industry could marshal its forces to improve its image, technology, data mining and foodservice efforts, that all of us would benefit. He was correct. Industry cooperation has resulted in quantum leaps in all these areas, not to mention the legal battles won in the war against unfair credit card charges and practices.

NAG, NACS and state organizations have done a marvelous job staffing committees and project initiatives with smart, capable people from companies doing interesting and creative things. Share groups and study groups are bringing top executives from non-competing companies together to benchmark everything from sales growth to labor productivity. Some of the most interesting industry events are staged by trade journals and sponsored by our supply community.

Time away from the home office can become significant and often burdensome. And the competition for share of retailer attention only seems to be growing more intense. So, how do we manage this?

To be perfectly honest, there were times that I had to bow out of committee work and projects. Nice N Easy needed me more and that was made crystal clear to me quite often. And many times we heard the message that it wasn’t our job to tell everyone what we were doing, no matter how proud of it we were. Still, when the request was made directly to Nice N Easy Founder John MacDougall, more often than not, we were committed to be involved in another industry project or committee. But, there was a caveat—we were required to come back with something we heard or saw that would benefit Nice N Easy.

We HAD to show that Nice N Easy benefited in some way by our involvement, even if we simply learned something interesting by networking at a cocktail party or during a meeting break. Often, before we left for industry meetings, we would create a list of questions we were supposed to get answers for, and we really did try to find them because we had to report back to John what we learned. Yes, he did read our reports.

As much as our senior staff enjoyed our share group, we were always questioned if we believed we were getting back as much as we were contributing. Our answer to that was always a resolute “yes,” because some of the best and most enduring friendships we ever made within the industry came from our share group. Still, John constantly needed proof of value.

I never hesitated to explain that the decision I made to stop counting food inventory every week, and to use food purchases as cost of foodservice goods sold didn’t come from my fertile imagination, but from talking to two folks from Wawa and Sheetz at a PCATS meeting.

Our inventory turn reports made much more sense to everyone when I created the ‘Days on Hand’ metric for on-hand inventory. Why have 21 days of cigarette inventory on hand when you get weekly deliveries? What if the days on hand of a department are more than your credit terms?  It’s a wonderful metric. I had to admit I got it from Loring Perez when he was chief financial officer at Spectrum Stores and they were in our share group.

So, you don’t need to be the Sphinx when involved in industry committee work or share groups, nor do you need to be “the smartest person in the room.” Be prepared to share whatever you can, but remember that you are surrounded by the best and brightest of our industry and you should always take advantage of that opportunity.

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