2011 Thorntons Inc.
The Late Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Inc., once said, “A lot of companies have chosen to downgrade customer service. We chose a different path. Our belief was that if we kept putting great products and great service in front of customers, they would continue to open their wallets.”
Thorntons Inc. is the kind of company of which Jobs would proud.
While the convenience store industry has experienced quite a bit of merger and acquisition activity over the past two decades, Thorntons has gained a reputation as a special company that cares about its employees, customers and the communities it serves. Even during the recessionary climate of the past two years, the Louisville, Ky. chain has never missed an opportunity to delight its customers, honor its employ- ees and grow the business.
For its hard work, outstanding customer service and its commitment to retailing excellence, Convenience Store Decisions named Thorntons Inc. the 2011 Convenience Store Chain of the Year.
Thorntons is a most deserving win- ner. The chain operates 165 stores and exhibits outstanding leadership that begins with President and CEO Matt Thornton. The family-owned business, co-founded in 1971 by Matt’s father James Thornton, is also celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
Today, the company operates 165 stores and distributes petroleum products through its wholly-owned Thornton Transportation Co., in addition to seven car washes, a fuel terminal and several ethanol blending facilities, a commissary in Louisville that manufactures and distributes fresh foods to 44 stores daily, and a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise that manages 32 locations.
“As a company, Thortons is focused on being the best–the best employer to our team members who offer the best service to our customers in the best stores in the industry,” said Matt Thornton. “We are extremely honored to receive the Chain of the Year award because it offers recognition of the hard work everyone in the company puts forth every day. It’s a total team effort and I’m proud each and every team member that helped us earn this achievement.”
Culture of Convenience
During our due diligence phase in selecting this year ’s award winner, the one thing that stuck out both in talking with the folks from Thorntons and others in the industry is the contagious culture the company has created internally that quite literally permeates out to the customers it serves.
As the business grows, Thorntons is spending a great deal of time on becoming an employer of choice throughout its five Midwestern states. As the company has grown, it has also matured in key operating areas like recruiting and retaining top employees.
“Over the years we began to hold ourselves to a higher level of leadership meaning that we recognized that we had to have our employees’ interest at hand at all times and dedicate a good amount of time toward developing the leaders of tomorrow,” said Tony Harris, Thorntons’ vice president of operations, who has been with the company for 17 years. “As a result, we have from gone from a top-down organization to a bottom-up focus on our frontline team members. It is very much our belief that if we serve our team members the right way, they in turn will serve our customers well.”
As part of this strategy, Thorntons has instituted a comprehensive hiring process that includes the addition of regional human resources managers that oversee employee relations. “Historically, when we had a leader that wanted to make staffing changes, they had the liberty to do that without seeking an opinion from others,” Harris said. “They weren’t doing their part to develop a team so we weren’t getting great results. Today, we take a team approach to make sure everyone is doing their part in the development process to turnout great employees.”