YEO Annual Conference Kicks Off in Massachusetts

Peter Tedeschi, candidate for Massachusetts 9th Congressional District and formerly the CEO of Tedeschi Food Stores spoke on the role of family businesses in the c-store industry.

Two-day event includes store tours, educational sessions and networking opportunities for young executive members in the convenience store industry.

The Young Executives Organization (YEO)’s fifth Annual Conference kicked off on Wednesday, May 16 in Massachusetts.

Hosted by Westborough, Mass.-based Cumberland Farms, the two-day event includes an all-star agenda of speakers, store tours and interactive demonstrations at Cumberland Farms’ commissary and distribution center.

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John Lofstock, executive director of the National Advisory Group (NAG) welcomed the more than 70 attendees from 40 c-store chains to the conference Monday morning.

“There is a huge demand for young executive leadership in the industry and there was a big demand to offer them a group to call their own,” Lofstock said, as he explained how YEO has grown since the first meeting five years ago.

For the second straight year, the day before the conference, YEO members had the option to participate in a team-building event with Habitat for Humanity. YEO members worked to construct three playhouses with Habitat’s for Humanity’s Operation Playhouse, which builds playhouses for children of military veterans in Massachusetts. After the build members participated in a dedication and presentation of the treehouses to the families.

On Wednesday, May 16, John McMahon, chief human resources officer, Cumberland Farms, began the educational sessions by speaking on company culture and what it takes to create changes.

When considering your current culture, McMahon said to consider what it feels like when you work in an organization. “What does it feel like when things go well and not well? How will people react?”

John McMahon, chief human resources officer, Cumberland Farms, began the educational sessions by speaking on company culture and what it takes to create changes.

While many corporations say their people are what matters most, it’s important to walk the talk. “You have to live it and get people to believe it to differentiate in competitive ranks,” he said.

McMahon outlined what it takes to create a leadership mindset and a culture of accountability for the team, while also showing that you have their backs.

Enhancing Strategic Thinking
Jill Johnson, president of Johnson Consulting, spoke on enhancing strategic thinking for young professionals, including how to effectively communicate new ideas to leadership.

She urged young executives to consider what the older generation has done to make the business survive to this point, and to include that information when building a case for why and how an idea is a good financial investment.

“What do the leaders base their decisions on? What do they focus on as they say no to decisions? The more you understand that, the more you are in a position to take that great idea and frame your presentation to touch on the ideas they care about, the pain points that keep them up at night and frame the decision in a way that makes sense,” Johnson said.

Perfecting Foodservice
John Schaninger, president and CEO of The Schaninger Group, who previously spent 38 years with QuickChek spoke on the top focus areas for great foodservice programs.

One of the first and most important considerations is to determine why you want to sell food. When it comes to choosing a daypart, Schaninger recommends starting with breakfast. “Breakfast is incredibly important. It’s repetitive and you can get the customers to return every day. It’s easy to execute,” he said.

Schaninger explained that owners and senior management must be the drivers of the food program for it to be successful and all levels in the support center and store need to be engaged. It’s also important to stay informed about the food trends that are developing in order to be ready for the consumer demands of tomorrow.

Family Business & Politics
Peter Tedeschi, candidate for Massachusetts 9th Congressional District and formerly the CEO of Tedeschi Food Stores spoke on the role of family businesses in the c-store industry.

He explained how his grandfather began the business by driving into town and purchasing a range of foods to bring back and sell out of his truck. The business evolved over the years into supermarkets and then convenience stores. Tedeschi also spoke about his own experiences in a family business.

He outlined the importance of working with government representatives to help them understand the impact of rules and regulations on convenience stores.

“Politics and retail are a lot alike. They are both about people,” he said.

Effective Communication
Linda McKenna, principal with Convenience Store Coaches Inc., spoke on some of the problems facing managers and district managers today and how communicating effectively can be a common issue.

While more Millennials today want feedback, effectively communicating messages is essential.

“Talking is not communication. Communication is information given, received and understood,” she said.

McKenna explained the difference between managing and leading, and how to create a coaching spirit. Coaching involves leading from a position where you are seeing the good in people and have a desire to help others grow. She offered tips for coaching and communicating using questions as well as active listening.

The afternoon concluded with a tour of Cumberland Farm’s distribution center, foodservice commissary and test convenience store, followed by an offsite dinner and networking event at Skybokx restaurant.

The conference continues on May 17 with an educational session and a tour of convenience stores in the Boston market.