The eighth annual Young Executives Organization Conference (YEO) kicked off at Nouria Energy in Worcester, Mass., on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022, drawing young executives and next-generation leaders for two days of networking, educational sessions and convenience store tours.
John Lofstock, executive director of the National Advisory Group (NAG), welcomed attendees to the event.
“I am very proud of the growth and response we are getting for YEO,” Lofstock said. “As the convenience store and petroleum industry continues to evolve, training the leaders of tomorrow is more important than ever before. To help young executives have a group that is solely focused on exchanging personal experiences with peers in their age group, the National Advisory Group (NAG) is proud to be investing in the future of YEO.”
“I’d like to thank Nouria for hosting this event,” added YEO Board Chairman Kalen Frese, director of merchandising and foodservice, Warrenton Oil. Co. “I’ve been coming (to YEO) since 2018. It’s by far my favorite associate group.”
Frese advised new attendees to take advantage of the networking opportunities and get to know the other attendees.
Joe Hamza, chief operating officer, Nouria Energy, shared an overview of Nouria and an outlook for the chain.
“We’re extremely honored to have you here today,” Hamza told attendees. “I want to thank John Petersen, John Lofstock and the CSD team for putting on this one-of-a-kind event in the industry.”
Hamza said he enjoyed seeing the industry’s next-generation leaders all in one place.
“Today’s leaders are driven by more than just the bottom line,” he said. “They are driven by a heightened sense of purpose, by equity, justice and community.”
Igniting Your Brand
In a session titled, “Perfecting Your Retail Brand,” Ernie Harker, president, Ernburn Brands, shared key takeaways on taking c-store branding to the next level.
“I help organizations find their brand as fast as possible,” said Harker. “Not a brand that is just different. … Today brands need to elevate above differentiation to engagement.”
Harker shared examples of how branding can go wrong, and the four steps needed for brand development.
Tech Approach to Labor
In a session titled, “Integrating Technology into Labor Management,” Jeff Carpenter, director of education and training for Cliff’s Local Market, discussed how technology can aid retailers in today’s challenging labor market.
Carpenter shared a number of technological initiatives Cliff’s Local Market has implemented over the past year and how they benefited the chain.
He walked attendees through the store-inspection tool the chain uses through its partnership with MeazureUp. The company also implemented monthly online manager meetings to keep its teams up-to-date on information, while also keeping the meetings engaging with gamification and other fun activities. He shared recommendations for polling software to help get real-time feedback in meetings.
Carpenter also discussed changes Cliff’s made in using technology for enhanced networking security and consistency, as well as switching to IP phones, which made for easier routing of calls for stores and employees, thousands in savings and an enhanced customer experience.
Additionally, Carpenter spoke about using technology as part of the application and onboarding process and how this helped streamline the hiring process at Cliff’s.
Leadership & Breakouts
In a workshop titled, “Building Leadership, Management and Accountability Systems,” Tom Bandy, founder and CEO, BandyWorks, shared insights on company culture and defining and implementing accountability.
Attendees broke into groups to discuss accountability strengths at their stores and the biggest needs when it comes to store manager development.
In the afternoon, attendees selected a breakout session to attend. Topics included foodservice, technology and labor management.
Attendees enjoyed lunch on-site at Nouria. The day concluded with a dinner at the Mercantile.
Attendees had the option to arrive at the conference a day early to participate in a Habitat for Humanity Operation Playhouse team building project, creating playhouses for the families of veterans.
The YEO Conference is sponsored by Apter Industries, Hunt Brothers Pizza, Reynolds, Cardlytics, McLane, Paragon Solutions, Quantum Services, Republic Brands and Upside.
The YEO conference continues Sept. 9 with more educational sessions and a tour of local convenience stores. To learn more about YEO, visit YEOConference.com.