Character Counts

Last month we at Convenience Store News learned something about success in convenience store retailing. It had nothing to do with college degrees or the latest trend in marketing. We learned how important character can be to success in business, and in retaining the respect and loyalty of colleagues.

Of course, we, along with the rest of the world, had already received a striking lesson in the importance of character in the hours and days following the attack on the World Trade Center in New York. Firefighters, police officers, rescue workers and ordinary citizens reached out to one another in a manner characterized by kindness, courage, consistency and determination, all of which surely define character.

Weeks later, while at the NACS Show in Las Vegas in October, we inducted new members into the Convenience Store Industry Hall of Fame, and we benefited from a second lesson on character. Bob Robertson, former CEO of White Hen Pantry, was the 2001 retailer inductee. When we asked his old business partners, colleagues and friends to tell us about Bob, they painted a portrait of a person whose life defines the meaning of character, and illustrates how character can equal success.

"He's the most honest person I know," said Doug Fritsch, who first worked for Robertson in 1974 as an assistant grocery manager at Jewel Food Stores, and who is now vice president, franchise operations at Clark Retail Enterprises Inc., which purchased the White Hen Pantry chain last year. "Bob has the highest integrity, both in his work life and his personal life."

Robertson, who is currently enjoying retirement with his wife Pat, also possesses another quality that helped White Hen succeed: vision. Robertson always had a great knack for figuring out what customers want and the fortitude to stand firmly by his ideas.

Be sure to read more about Robertson in our cover story in the upcoming December issue of Convenience Store News.

White Hen Pantry continues to flourish as a member of the Clark Retail Enterprises family, having benefited from decades of Robertson's strength and vision. To catch a glimpse of a chain and its leaders in the very early stages of a new life, take a look at this issue's cover story. Senior Editor John Lofstock talked at length with Scott Stevens and Andy Weber about their vision for Eagan, Minn.-based Roundtree Markets Inc., an investment group that manages three convenience store subsidiaries.

Stevens and Weber recognize the need for a clear vision. "Employees have to believe in management and believe in the company's strategic direction so they can go to work everyday confident in their abilities and with a clear understanding of what their objective is," Stevens said. See "Branching Out," Page 16.

The stories of vision, confidence and integrity reinforce what we've been espousing lately: that the c-store industry, despite the difficult economy at the moment, continues to thrive. They are also uplifting, an antidote to the nightly news these days.
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