By Fran Duskiewicz
This past June marked my 30th anniversary in the convenience industry, so it’s not surprising that many memories are tied to my tenure at Nice N Easy.
Here are a few pertinent (and impertinent) observations. I put them in bullet form so one or more can be easily extracted for framing.
• Most of my work days at Nice N Easy ended with John MacDougall at my office door singing in his basso profundo, “If you got the time……” and off we’d go to share a few brews. I calculate there were more than 16,000 of them we downed, almost always discussing business—what needed to be fixed and what we needed to think about for the future. John freely admitted that most decisions affecting Nice N Easy were made in our favorite watering hole in Canastota, N.Y.—Graziano’s.
I was always amazed by how his first beer was already gone before I could finish pouring mine into a glass. Once he decided that we should drink wine instead—it was somehow heathier. That ended when I showed a propensity to become argumentative, get loud and wave my arms. It’s those times I miss most. Not the wine part, the sharing a few beers and ideas part.
• Having a senior staff strategy retreat at a winery is a wonderful idea. Doing wine tasting and enjoying a blow-out dinner with many bottles of fine wine the night before the strategy planning meeting itself is NOT a good idea.
• I have noticed that, as men progress through the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) committee ranks, they develop an allergy to wearing socks as well as an appreciation for horrible Italian loafers.
• I’ve always wondered if I was the only one who felt more comfortable on stage in front of hundreds of people than chatting with individuals at a cocktail party.
MORE ODDS AND ENDS
• Share groups are wonderful things. Long-term, valuable working relationships are formed and enjoyed for years. Most CEOs believe their company shares more and derives too little compared to others within the group. That feeling is not shared by their staff members, who usually form productive, long lasting relationships with the share group.
• Any company that believes it is too good or too big to become actively involved in NACS or state organizations is fooling itself and also reaping the benefits earned by others. Nice N Easy was always involved in industry initiatives at all levels and benefitted tenfold from that involvement. If a company is paranoid it will lose good people by serving on committees, it really risks stunting its professional growth and will probably lose them to a more enlightened company anyway.
• Our industry keeps people young. You have to be aware of what’s going on in pop culture and what young people are into to stay relevant as a business. If you can’t get past your own baby boomer preferences, or if you’re a technophobe, then turn off the lights. My experience indicates that most of us DO keep up, however, and that’s what keeps us hip, happening dudes and dudettes.
• Buying a new sports car is fun. Trying to get out of it in a dignified manner, without doing a barrel roll, isn’t as much fun.
• One of the highlights of my NACS career was introducing Walter Zimmerman to much of the industry at the State of the Industry meeting. So was reading his bio to the audience and trying to explain Chaos Theory. By the time he finished his presentation and people picked their jaws up off the tables, they understood Chaos Theory much better.
• We dedicated the 8th hole at John MacDougall’s country club in his memory late this past June. John was cremated, so there is no gravesite to visit. However, the 8th hole tee is easily accessible from the road, so when I feel a real need to communicate with The Chief, there’s a tangible place to go—with nice Adirondack chairs.
•I never expected what happened to me at Nice N Easy and within the industry to happen. My original plan was to be a really good English teacher, then a principal and then, maybe, a school superintendent. I cannot imagine how that could have been better than my experiences these past 30 years.
• Finally, I know that the convenience industry has the smartest, most creative, most dedicated, hard working people in the world. Yes, that’s gratuitous, but I really do mean it.