Just one year ago, I sat down at my desk in my office to write the April 2020 Editor’s Memo and tried to wrap my head around the impact of COVID-19. There were still naysayers that predicted the virus was nothing more than a bad flu, while others spouted doomsday scenarios.
Through it all, the convenience store industry, as it has during every challenge we have collectively faced, kept its head down, its lights on, doors open and shelves stocked as much as possible.
Last April I wrote, “It is safe to say these past weeks have been among the most difficult and emotional that any of us can remember in our lifetimes. The impact of the coronavirus outbreak has been felt by individuals and families, companies and communities, across the country and around the world.”
A year later, the same can be said. It’s hard to imagine the hard work you have done to keep business running smoothly and employees motivated to provide the outstanding service your customers expect. As always, the industry has handled these challenges with skilled expertise and, honestly, I expected nothing less.
Hard Work & Service
As most of you who know me realize, I’ve been in this industry in some capacity since the day I was born. My father operated a fuel business in New York from 1959 to 1987. After joining the military, I went to work as a merchandiser for Dairy Mart and ultimately moved over to the editorial side in 1996, where I have essentially spent my whole career.
As a child, I remember checking oil and washing windows. I remember my father dealing with the fuel supply disruptions in the 1970s, and I remember the challenges he faced running a small business. And I also remember how, even back then, he always talked about service. Some 45 years ago, he told me every chance he could that hard work and service were the keys to success.
I think about this a lot throughout these unique and difficult times, especially as I talk to retailers across the country. They often tell me about their experiences, what they are doing to overcome challenges and where they are struggling. The stories are all uplifting because I love to hear the fight you guys have in you. Even during a pandemic, finding success in this madness is personal.
You have often heard that there is no magic wand when it comes to success in retail. But I’m not sure I believe that anymore. I honestly think my father, in his own quiet way, handed me the magic wand when he taught me how to work hard and provide great service. That has proved to be a winning formula. More importantly, it’s timeless and can be handed down from generation to generation.
As a child, I took that message as gospel and carried it throughout my career, both in the military and after, and it’s a message I instill in my children almost every day. Honestly, if my kids hear me say, “Hard work is its own reward” one more time, they may revolt. But they are athletes and competitive, and I know there are times where they want to take it easy or even quit, but they hear my voice in their heads quoting former professional baseball player Derek Jeter: “There may be people that have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do.”
So, a year into this pandemic, with much hope on the horizon, I hope you can take a minute to appreciate all you have accomplished in your role of getting our country through a really difficult period in history.
A year ago, we were desperate for a magical solution to end the pandemic, but once again we found out that hard work, staying focused, sticking together and a service culture got us through dark times. As the light begins to shine on the amazing work you have done the past year, be proud of all that you have accomplished.