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A Day In The Life Of Senior Category Manager Bill Tencza

To fully understand and appreciate what Bill Tencza does, one "day in the life" is not nearly enough. A week in the life would be much more fruitful since that's how the Quick Chek senior category manager, a 22-year veteran of the company, formulates his schedule.

He starts his day by commuting from his Jersey Shore home to Quick Chek's headquarters in Whitehouse Station, N.J. Tencza makes that drive at the painstakingly early time of 4:30 a.m. Barring traffic mishaps, he arrives at the office at 5:30 a.m. For the next half-hour, Tencza sets up a game plan for his day. He then pumps some iron at the gym across the street from 6 to 7:30 a.m. and arrives back at his office at 8 a.m.

After that, Tencza's schedule varies widely. For instance, on Monday mornings, he reviews the previous week's sales. "We also look at margins and gross profit dollars. You want to see where you are vs. the prior year, and vs. the budget," he said. "If any sales number is off in relation to candy, snacks, beverages, beer or energy [bars and drinks], I have to see what caused it. We have a senior team meeting at 10 a.m. and an internal marketing team meeting on Mondays at 1 p.m., where I need to talk about what happened."

Monday afternoon entails answering the e-mails and voicemails he received. He responds to any correspondence from Quick Chek stores and district leaders first. Once that task is completed, Tencza responds to communications from vendors and new vendors trying to set up appointments.

On Tuesdays, he handles various projects from 8 to 10 a.m. and then spends the remainder of the day in meetings. At 10 a.m., he attends a store layout meeting when the engineering department presents designs for any new store or retail location to be remodeled. "Every category manager has to sign off and approve his or her section," said Tencza. "Because once the layout is begun, you can't go back and fix anything."

Sales meetings are conducted every Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. Attendance is mandatory for most every member of the Quick Chek staff. One main highlight of that meeting is the Quick Chek Minute, when one representative from every area talks briefly about his/ her department. The presentation is designed to make everyone in the company aware of what other employees are working on at a given time.

At 2:30 p.m., Tencza attends a marketing meeting, which includes the entire marketing team, all district leaders and senior operations management. All vendor products, programs and promotions are presented at this meeting. At times, the meeting can run well over two hours. "That meeting is really important because everyone is helping to make a decision about what products will go into our stores," he noted.

Wednesdays and Thursdays are chock full of vendor meetings. Tencza tries not to schedule more than three vendor meetings per day. Depending on the week, both days also include computer-assisted ordering meetings and a meeting between Tencza and his boss, John Schaninger, when the former tells the latter everything he's been working on. "One great thing about Quick Chek is they let us run our categories," Tencza said. "You don't have 15 people looking over your shoulder at all times. If you hit your numbers, you will do great here."

Fridays is when Tencza leaves his schedule open so he gets time to complete any outstanding projects. "We're a lean group," he said. "We have six category managers. Some of our competitors have more. So you need to be excellent at multi-tasking to be successful."


Convenience Store News spent the day with Tencza on a Wednesday and was allowed special access while he conducted vendor meetings. That day, he met with Paula Meissner, senior planning manager for candy manufacturer Mars Inc., followed by Bill Breneiser, vice president of S&E Sales Associates Inc., which represents several ConAgra brands.

Tencza was ready for his meetings, armed with a half-filled cup of water to his left and his Quick Chek-branded binder open when Meissner walked into the door. He told Meissner how well M&M's Pretzel sold last year in Quick Chek stores, and that he's searching for the next red-hot chocolate seller.

"Twix Coconut has been a hot seller this year," Meissner responded, as she pulled out a box of the product for Tencza to check out. "We've really received great feedback on that. We have another [big product launch] coming."

One possible fly in the ointment was the uncertainty about the 2011-2012 National Football League season. Next month, Snickers is promoting its NFL king-size floorstand to coincide with the beginning of football season. Despite labor uncertainty at the time, Meissner said Mars was going ahead with its plans for the football season, as well as even bigger promotions for February's Super Bowl.

During Tencza's meeting with Breneiser, the success of Slim Jim, David Sunflower Seeds and Andy Capp's were among the things discussed. New packaging for 5-Hour Energy drinks was also talked about in length after Tencza mentioned the success Quick Chek stores had selling the product.


Tencza's role with Quick Chek is crucial. Although he certainly receives plenty of advice from vendor partners, he ultimately makes the decision on many of the products sold in Quick Chek stores. However, Tencza said he has been well groomed for the job, and cites his experience as his greatest asset.

"I didn't just walk into this job," he said. "I started as an assistant manager at a store. I was in that role for eight months and then ran a store for a little more than a year and a half. That experience has helped me a great deal," he said.

To help determine the right product mix for Quick Chek stores, Tencza tells vendors he has scan data and they should "give me your best stuff." With two children, he said he also watches TV shows on channels like MTV all of the time, so he knows what products are out there.

"I'm good at picking the items that sell well. I always remember advice I received, that 'if you are [on the fence] about whether to stock an item, try it.' If you stock 10 items and nine of them sell well, you have a pretty good track record," he added. "Vendors also help us sell items well. They want us to do well with their products. They are told to present everything, but they know me and how I work. If they have eight flavors of a product, but only two will be top-sellers, [I say] let's just stock those two."

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