Behind the Scenes at The Pantry

Everyone has some part of their job that they dislike doing. As part of CSNews’ Day in the Life series, editors go inside a company and shadow select employees for the day. By doing this, we can share with the industry not only a lot about one company, its culture and the job responsibilities, but how each individual views his or her role -- both the good and bad.
Here, the subjects from this year’s Day in the Life series at The Pantry weigh in on their jobs, the company, and more. Click each subject's name below to read more.
Complete coverage of the Day in the Life visit is available in the Sept. 6, issue of CSNews, and online in our In Print section.
CSNews: What would you say are some of the challenges you face?
Ursini: Within the field, the majority of the people in sales operations haven’t been [to the corporate support center]. They don’t know how we operate, and so they can feel as if they are on an island out there. My challenge is to break down those barriers, making them feel that we are here to understand them. … And [have my team] understand [the impact on stores] if you don’t return a phone call, or keep a store on hold when they are trying to serve guests.
CSNews: What do you like and dislike about your job?
Ursini:  I love being involved in the smallest little details, like picking the lid for our Fusion cups. I love it because it will impact 1,644 stores. I love getting in front of a group of district sales managers and talking about what’s coming up and answering questions.
But I do miss being in the field sometimes. I miss the nitty-gritty of it and the midnight phone calls. The good news is, I do get to roll my sleeves up and get involved. If we test something, I'll test things in the stores rather than the lab, so I don’t lose touch. That’s my biggest concern: if I lose touch with my sales operations, then I’ve completely lost my usefulness to them.
CSNews: What have been some of your accomplishments in your current role?
Ursini: We just finished a point-of-sale (POS) rollout, which was really exciting. It was for PCI compliance. We’ve really gone from the Stone Age to the space age with technology. First we needed to get the wide-area network out. A few years ago we were on dialup, and last year we completed the rollout to all stores and the POS rollout.
CSNews: What are some of the lessons you’ve learned at The Pantry?
Ursini: I’ve learned the importance of making and building relationships. It was never my strong suit before this role. I'm the face of the corporate support center. If I’m not giving stores the whole story, I’m doing an injustice to them. 
I’ve also learned to go into things with the proper perspective. We have to prioritize things in the field and not over commit. We come up with incredible ideas and have to get them out there, but have to do it in a way with the best chance for success.
CSNews: What is your opinion of The Pantry’s new mantra of “fast, friendly, clean?”
Ursini: Terry [Marks, CEO] started talking about an operating framework, and in the past we hadn't really done that. Terry came in and talked about a vision and growth strategy, and by breaking it down into what we’re trying to do, people are really getting on board. 
Now we’re at a time in the company where everyone is on the same page with what we’re trying to do. We have a clear vision of where and what we want to be when we grow up. We’re a big company and it’s easy to rest on our laurels, but that won’t get us to where we want to be. Look at all the companies that refused to change and look at where they are now. We have to go back to the basics. We can ask the store associates to do a million things, but it has to come back to fast, friendly, clean.
CSNews: What skills are required for your position?
Ursini: People skills, time management and organization to keep it all straight. Also good communication skills, sometimes to communicate what may not be popular at that time, and why we’re doing it. You can't be a “Wizard of Oz” manager behind a curtain.
CSNews: Who are your mentors here?
Ursini: Brad Williams, [senior vice president of operations support]. I’ve worked for or with him for the better part of five years. He has always looked out or me, pointed me in the right way. Brad has taught me so much about this business, I could fill a book with what he’s told me. 
CSNews: What are your career goals?
Ursini: I’d love to stay in the operations department. We have five divisions and I’d love to be a division vice president of the company, but that’s a distant goal for me. Now, I enjoy building this department. I want to find new ways to help the stores out and the district sales managers succeed, and mentor the folks on my team to reach their goals as well. 
CSNews: What do you like and dislike about your job?
Hood: I’m a highly competitive person, so I love the daily challenge of supporting our sales operations customers to achieve their goals. At the end of the day, we face a lot of problems. It’s inherit in maintenance, when we get phone calls or emails, it’s problems. I get great satisfaction digging into a problem and working with a technician or a vendor to resolve the problem and communicate that to our customer.
My biggest dislike is that there are times when it becomes a challenge, with that number of vendors and work orders, to have everyone work for our customers. They have to share that same critical philosophy to get work done quickly and professionally, and it doesn’t always happen.
CSNews: What makes The Pantry a good employer?
Hood: I think it’s a very dynamic environment here. I love the people who I work with; I consider many of them my extended family. Over time, you develop an esprit de corps where you have that friendship and special bond with them.
CSNews: What is your opinion of The Pantry’s changes under its new leadership?
Hood: They are necessary and outstanding. They have done a fantastic job, and have a laser-sharp focus on what we have to do and where we are going, without losing sight on the foundation of the business.  It has reenergized everyone at this point.
CSNews: What skills are required for your position?
Hood: A background in maintenance and construction is vital to the position. Another inherent requirement is that you care -- that at the end of the day, you really care about what you are doing for the internal sales operations customers. Whenever someone involves me in an escalation item, I don’t let go until it’s done. Having had an operations background, I understand when a gas dispenser or walk-in cooler is down, it has a huge impact to the store team, and we’re here solely because what they are doing in the field.
A competitive and coaching approach [is also required]. People who work on the team need at times to be reminded, motivated, trained and encouraged to support [our overall strategy], and they all play an integral role at the end of the day to be fast, friendly and clean. 
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