NACS Leadership Forum Concludes with Focus on People

MIAMI -- More than 250 of the top retail and supplier leaders in the convenience store industry met at this year's NACS Leadership Forum, making it the premier gathering of top level thought-leaders in the industry.

After two days of intense focus on the future of the c-store industry, with such eminent guest speakers as 7-Eleven's Joe DePinto, Alon USA's Jeff Morris, and Dave Carpenter of J.D. Carpenter Cos., the Leadership Forum ended Friday with a session focused on people.

Dr. Neeli Bendapudi, Ph.D., professor of marketing at The Ohio State University, and moderator of the three-day conference, put it best as when she noted: "Culture eats strategy for breakfast. Execution only gets you so far without good people."

Bendapudi then introduced Frank Gleeson, retail director at Ireland's largest gas station and convenience store operator, Topaz Energy Group, and Louis Sheetz, executive vice president of marketing at Altoona, Pa.-based Sheetz.

Gleeson acknowledged that his company's biggest challenge was combing three cultures from three acquired companies (Shell, Fareplay and StatOil) into one, Topaz. Since the company's motto was "That's Better," it became clear that in order to provide better service to customers and better returns to shareholders, the company had to also recruit better people.

Gleeson talked about the Irish retailer's continuous improvement culture and how everyone is managed and coached against key performance indices. "It's all about engagement -- with your customers and your employees," said the director.

Topaz was recognized as one of the Top 10 Best Places to Work in Ireland, partly because of its sustained focus on doing things right and communicating, even over-communicating, with its team members. Sheetz shared his company's numerous best employer awards and noted that "if you treat people like they make a different, then they will make a difference."

He also shared CEO Stan Sheetz' vision that everyone who works for Sheetz should be a part owner. Thus, every employee is enrolled in Sheetz' employee stock ownership program (ESOP) after one year employment. "Goodies" or incentives offered to employees total about a third of Sheetz' percentage of net income, said Louis Sheetz, breaking out such benefits as ESOP (2.2 percent), recognition parties and events (2.6 percent), profit sharing/401k match (4.4 percent), DC/Sheetz Kitchen bonus (2.9 percent), support staff bonus (10.1 percent), and store bonus (11 percent).

The Leadership Forum ended with a question-and-answer session with PepsiCo CEO Indra Noovi. NACS CEO Hank Armour moderated the session which touched on her personal career achievements, the importance of having mentors, and the development of Pepsi's culture of Performance with Purpose.


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