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Are You Changing Fast Enough?


There are two types of soldiers on the battlefield: the quick and the dead. The same goes for business. You’re either moving forward or backward, but you are never standing still.

As the saying goes, “The future is something you create, not something that happens to you.” So, the question you have to ask yourself is this: Are you creating your future or are you sitting passively letting the future create you? In this context, the future is defined as your competitors, customers, marketplace and trends.

Change isn’t an issue of “will you” or "won’t you” — organizations have to change to stay alive; otherwise they’ll go the way of the dinosaur. The issue is will you change on your terms or be forced to change on your competitor’s terms. Being forced to change on your competitor’s terms is usually competitive suicide.

Any way you look at it, every organization is eventually going to spend money on change. The only questions are: when, how much, and will there be anything to show for it?

Current Realities

There are approximately 152,794 convenience stores today. In 1984, there were 85,300 convenience stores. That’s a 56-percent increase over the past 31 years. Back in 1984, you probably weren’t worried about losing business to dollar stores (26,572) or drugstores (41,799) because they didn’t sell the same products and target the same customers as you.

And if increased competition isn’t enough to deal with, there’s declining fuel volume, tobacco sales and gross profit margins, and rising operating costs: PCI, EMV, health care.

That’s a lot of change, isn’t it?

Customers have also changed because technology has ushered in the era of bigger, faster and cheaper. Customers today are more knowledgeable and demanding, with multiple options available either at the intersection where your store is located, or a mere click away on their smartphones.

Sometimes, though, the more things change, the more they stay the same. For example, a recent convenience industry survey reported that the top five decision influencers when deciding to choose a convenience store are:

  • Convenient location (cited by 83 percent of respondents)
  • Clean (83 percent)
  • Fast (81 percent)
  • Organized (76 percent)
  • Safe (74 percent)

Food and beverages came in at 69 percent, and décor and atmosphere at 51 percent. So if you don’t have a robust foodservice program or a shiny, new 4,000-square-foot store, there’s no excuse for not focusing on and excelling at categories Nos. 2-5.

Take Action

When it comes to change, stop being afraid of what could go wrong and think of what can go right. Change in and of itself is neither good nor bad; rather it is our perception of change that determines how we react to it.

Test new things at your stores: programs, concepts, profit centers, services, etc. In today’s highly competitive, light-speed marketplace, you simply can’t test enough. Turn your store into a learning lab. Keep testing new things until something sticks. Test fast, test often, fail fast and implement what is working … fast. In case you didn’t notice, the operative word here is fast.

You have to pick up the pace before you get run over by a faster competitor. Change and speed need to become hardwired into your organization’s DNA. When this happens, you’ve created a competitive advantage. The goal is to get out in front of and stay ahead of the change curve.

Out in front means you’re in control of your destiny. Being caught behind the change curve means you’re playing by the market leaders’ rules — not where you want to be. If you fail to recognize or react quickly to change, you’re already dead; your obituary just hasn’t been written yet.

What matters most is what you’re going to do next. Take action. Let me end with another saying: “Knowledge is power.” That saying is completely wrong. Knowledge is only power if it is put to use. In the end, all that matters is action!

Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News for the Single Store Owner.

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