A Day In The Life Of District Leader Paul Carideo

8/15/2011

District leader may be a bit of a misnomer when it comes to Paul Carideo's job title. District guide may be a better alternative. As district leader for 12 stores in Middlesex County, N.J., Carideo believes in working with his team of Quick Chek employees to find solutions, not giving them the answers.

"When people call, you shouldn't always give them the answers. You should guide them to the answers, probe them to think," he explained, as Convenience Store News shadowed him during a particularly hot Monday in mid-July. "I don't want to do their job for them."

This style of leading has paid off. During his tenure as district leader, two other current district leaders learned the ropes from him as store leaders, as did two former district leaders. And the number of current store leaders is too many to count — including Angelo Perito, store leader at the 53rd Street Quick Chek, who CSNews also shadowed for this report (see page 32).

Carideo has experience behind him. As a 17-year-old, he rode his bicycle to his first Quick Chek job at a store in Parsippany, N.J. He spent the summer bagging ice, packing out groceries, facing the store and putting the newspapers together. When fall came, he left for college in Florida, returning to New Jersey two years later when he transferred to Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison. Through it all, he worked part time for the convenience store operator.

Despite his father's push to apply for desk jobs after earning his undergraduate degree, Carideo took a position with Quick Chek as assistant manager. Three months later, he was promoted to store leader, moving up to district leader in 1981. (Carideo recently returned to school and earned his master's in business administration from Kean University in Union, N.J.)

Now, as he marks 36 years with the company — 30 as district leader — it would be hard to imagine him anywhere else, let alone behind a desk. As if he needed any proof that he chose the right career path, Carideo has won several awards over the years. But he doesn't take all the credit. "When a district leader wins something, it's really the team that won," he said. "One person is the leader of the team, but it is really how the team performs for that leader."

As the leader, Carideo spends most of his time visiting the stores in his district, hitting at least two and sometimes three a day. He goes to his office in Quick Chek's corporate headquarters once a week and spends countless hours at home reading reports, sending out e-mails and writing to-do lists.

He is big on to-do lists, he jokingly admits, and has three different ones going at any given time. "One of the most important parts [of my job] is the to-do list," he said. "If you are not organized in this job, you will work nine days a week."

But in all seriousness, those lists help ensure nothing falls through the cracks. For example, when meeting with Sandy, the store leader at a Quick Chek in Middlesex, N.J., Carideo's list included finding out how the store was handling the recent transfer of a long-time employee. In another store in Edison, N.J., Carideo's list included discussing the frozen-food case with the store leader Ken.

When not making the rounds, Carideo dedicates a lot of time to putting together and reviewing weekly, monthly and quarterly reports. Every Sunday, he sends out a weekly report for all 12 of his stores. These reports indicate how the store performed in every category, such as coffee and customer count, for example. He expects the store leaders and department managers to review the data and take note of any changes (up or down) and, if a category is down, to think of a way to reverse the numbers.

"I expect them not to just read the reports, but read and react," he explained, adding that Quick Chek is not a company that just scans reports. "We use them and if you use them to the best of your ability, you will have a better business."

He added that another key component to being a district leader is making sure that his team is taking care of the customers. Part of that is ensuring all employees are properly trained.

All new hires, Carideo explained, need to attend an eight-hour training class at corporate, known as the "Quick Chek Experience" (for more on this class, see page 22), and complete Web-based training (WBT). The WBT consists of 12 modules covering such topics as loss prevention, safety, tobacco, robbery and coffee. Each employee needs to achieve a score of 90 on the test given at the end of each module. Carideo tracks the training and if an employee does not complete this training after one month of hire, he sends a gentle reminder to the store leader.

Carideo also takes his turn in front of the classroom. Each district leader teaches training classes on a rotating basis, averaging about once every other month. "District leaders can teach real-life experience," he added.

Noting that Quick Chek likes to promote from within, he said part and parcel to training is being aware of each employee's goals. "Knowing everyone's goal is important. Not every store leader wants to become a district leader," he explained. "It is up to the district leader and the store leader to help their employees hit their goals."

During CSNews' visit, Carideo's approach leading his district really came to life during that day's service beverage manager meeting. A main topic of the meeting was Quick Chek's new Bunn ThermoFresh coffee pots, which replaced the traditional glass coffee pots and are designed to keep the coffee fresher and hotter longer.

The company takes pride in its coffee program and all stores are directed to keep the hot beverages at a certain temperature. Demonstrating how he encourages his team members to think, Carideo asked the 12 employees in attendance for suggestions on maintaining that temperature. In addition, the team members practiced the proper technique for checking the temperature.

From e-mails and reports, to store visits and meetings, it's all in a day's work for Carideo.

"Everything we do and everything I do is tied to the customer," Carideo said. "The bottom line is how the customer is being treated. Our employees make the difference against our competitors."

And who knows, maybe in another 30 years, CSNews will be shadowing another Carideo for a day. His son Ryan, once a mechanic, switched gears and is following in his father's footsteps. He has been with Quick Chek for about five years and is currently a store leader in Hamilton, N.J.

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