The faces of acclaimed Americans have been replaced by some who aren’t so recognizable, but are heroic nevertheless.
By Jim Callahan
I saw the recent presidential debates and I’m left very troubled, with an emptiness and fear for our country.
I watch as Republicans and Democrats hurl insults, spout half-truths, and make outlandish accusations and campaign promises that will be nearly impossible to keep. I know. You ask: why is this year any different from past races?
But I’m left to wonder…where have all our heroes gone?
Did they finally disappear after the last rifle bullet felled Kennedy in 1963? Or was it almost two decades later when the Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrated over the Cape Canaveral coastline?
Heroes used to be Henry Ford, Garrett Morgan, Thomas Edison and Severo Ochoa, who was awarded the 1959 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering an enzyme that enables the synthesis of RNA.
Heroes used to be Babe Ruth, Walter Payton, Roberto Clemente and Wilma Rudolph, who overcame polio to become the first American woman to win three gold medals in the 1960 Olympics.
Heroes used to be Pablo Picasso, Sidney Poitier, Nina Simone and Woody Guthrie, who championed the leftist folk music community during the Depression.
LOOKING AT C-STORES
Actually, heroes haven’t gone anywhere; they just aren’t who they used to be. Even in the business world where success is firmly tethered to the bottom line, some corporate leaders make news for doing something noteworthy. To celebrate an excellent year in 2015, CEO Jeff Hildebrand gave his entire company staff huge bonuses—$100,000 to each of his 1,381 workers. He could have given gift cards or frozen turkeys, but chose to go the extra mile that most consider extraordinary.
Heroes can come in all shapes and sizes.
For example, the convenience store industry has produced a large number of leaders who over time have gained heroic reputations. Look no further than Chester Cadieux, the patriarch of QuickTrip Corp. The co-founder of the Tulsa, Okla.-based c-store chain passed away recently at 84.
Since establishing the company in 1958, QuikTrip’s president and CEO, was responsibility for creating a corporate culture that developed employees, cultivated customer loyalty and inspired competitors to provide patrons more value for their dollar.
Of course, not every hero in the c-store industry is in position to influence corporate policy. Some can only follow it. I wonder how many single mothers are among our industry ranks—those who arrange for babysitters the night before and call the same babysitters to help out because a manager needed help with a double shift.
Single mothers who balance work and family are heroes in my book.
Or how about the college student who works at night in a c-store, only to go to school all day afterward so he can ensure himself a solid career. Is that heroic? Anymore it is.
COMPANIES OF NOTE
It’s possible to learn the skills needed to run a successful company – yet at the same time, it’s vital to take care of one’s employees. Strong business leaders encourage their employees to fulfill their professional ambitions and even ask them to examine and communicate problems at their company so things can improve.
Other convenience store operations seek to improve the lives of employees by providing excellent salaries, stellar benefits and even education opportunities. Companies such as Kwik Trip Inc. are doing all of those things.
Even companies can elevate to hero status by breaking with the status quo.
When violence broke out last year in Ferguson, Mo., many convenience stores refused to close because operators felt an obligation to serve their customers.
Take comfort in the fact that in the industry in which we work, there are heroes at the very top. There are many more at every lower rung, working every day, putting their best foot forward despite the obstacles in front of them.
They’re all heroes. You just might not have recognized them yet.
Jim Callahan has more than 40 years of experience as a convenience store and petroleum marketer. His Convenience Store Solutions blog appears regularly on CSDecisions.com. He can be reached at (678)485-4773 or via e-mail at [email protected].