The c-store industry is, and will continue to be, a people business. As such, you cannot overlook the many values gained by making frequent visits to your No. 1 and No. 2 assets — your employees and your c-stores. It’s here where the magic happens, and it’s here where your success as a company is determined.
Through the many years I’ve been associated with c-stores and truck stops, the visits that stand out most are the planned visits from our Big Oil partners. We would spend hours getting the stores in near-pristine shape, only to have our partners not show up. I’m going to estimate about half of their “planned” visits never took place, and this was often a blow to employee morale. Store employees, both management and staff, would be dressed in their best uniforms and prepared for an inspection that never came. In fairness, many of the missed visits were not intentional; however, the damage was done. Feelings were hurt, and each subsequent planned visit was taken less seriously.
Great companies like Sheetz and Wawa invest a lot of capital in store visits and do a great job of developing a relationship with local stores. There is nothing that makes employees feel more valued than when an executive from headquarters stops by to offer a word of encouragement and knows each employee by name, especially when that executive’s last name is Sheetz. Regardless of your last name, every corporate leader needs to make an effort to visit stores and learn their employees by name.
When done successfully, greeting employees and visiting customers is critically important. These visits are equally important for examining the overall condition of the store and evaluating each store’s performance. Visiting stores on a regular schedule will give you a good understanding of your assets and helps you make more informed decisions about how to invest capital. It gives you a big-picture look at what you’re doing well and where you need to improve.
Preparing for Success
C-store employees, much like in athletics, are a team. And when the team is working together, great things will happen.
Knowledge, determination and skill are also required to play the game, but it’s to no avail if you can’t traverse those final yards necessary to deliver those points on the scoreboard.
Are you delivering for your customers?
Are you playing the game the way your business plan was drawn up?
Review your scheme and your team. Assess your Red Zone (profit) proficiency and determine your weaknesses, whether they reside in management, in your employees, inventory control processes, marketing, curb appeal, foodservice, etc.
Once they’re identified, address them one by one because, unlike in football and other sports, a losing c-store team does not get to return for many seasons.
Money earned is a winning feeling. Lost sales spurred by poor service or bad merchandising is a lowly feeling.
This elusive success might be tied to the coaching staff that observed a very small crack in its opponent’s defense and waited for the right moment to capitalize. Maybe it’s simply the team captain that gives the impassioned speech in the huddle to rally his teammates, driving them to increase their output.
No matter; just make sure someone steps up.
Jim Callahan has more than 40 years of experience as a convenience store and petroleum marketer. His Convenience Store Solutions blog appears regularly on CStoreDecisions.com. He can be reached at (678) 485-4773 or via e-mail at [email protected]