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7-Eleven CEO Talks About Change

DENTON, Texas -- In the business world, paying attention to customers is key, 7-Eleven President and CEO Joe DePinto told University of North Texas students on Sept 28. He spoke with students from the College of Business as part of the school's Distinguished Speaker Series, reports the Denton Record-Chronicle.

"Listening to customers led to an industry," DePinto said, recounting the tale of a customer who told company founder Joe Thompson that he should sell ice, milk and eggs in addition to its services as an ice house. "Without customers, you don't have a business."

When DePinto started with 7-Eleven in 2005, the company needed to cut its debt, increase its efficiency and learn what customers needed, according to the news outlet. To do so, DePinto sought employee input and visited stores. "We got closer to the customer," he said. DePinto noted that it was difficult to change the culture of the business after so many years in operation, and such change can be painful and slow. One change he implemented was servant leadership. "It was a big undertaking," DePinto stated. "But it's paid back significantly."

Further change came four years ago at the start of the recession. To increase profits, 7-Eleven launched a number of value products under its private label, which also gave customers the less-expensive options they needed. Despite the struggles, corporate America is learning about its inefficiencies and 7-Eleven now offers a more streamlined shopping experience, according to the report.

Today, DePinto is focused on the rapid development of technology and how it changes consumer behavior. He advised the students not to get caught off-guard by change.

"My No. 1 worry is that as fast as our company is changing, we are not changing faster than the external environment," DePinto said. "In this world you have to keep up with the pace of change."

Dallas-based 7-Eleven currently has approximately 48,000 stores in 16 countries.

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