Outgoing Casey’s CEO Robert Myers Reflects
ANKENY, Iowa — When it comes to 10-year performance, there are few in the convenience store industry — or in Standard & Poor’s 500 index, for that matter — that could match Casey’s General Stores Inc., which has seen its stock price increase more than fivefold over the past decade.
At the helm during this entire time, steering the Ankeny-based convenience store chain’s continuous growth, has been Robert J. Myers, the company’s chairman and CEO, who will retire on April 30 at the age of 69. He will leave behind quite a legacy for incoming Casey’s CEO and current President and Chief Operating Officer Terry Handley to follow.
In a recent interview with Convenience Store News, Myers reflected on how Casey’s has evolved over the course of his time as chief executive. Same-store sales at the chain have been tremendous across the board, and Myers pointed to the retailer’s foodservice operations, 24-hour store conversions and strong pizza-delivery sales as just some of the things the 1,900-plus convenience store operator is doing well at this time.
Although Myers told CSNews he certainly didn’t pick his retirement date based on the performance of the company, he says it’s nice to be able to exit when things are good.
“I also fully recognize that not one individual is responsible for the great performance of this company. This is a collective effort,” he emphasized. “There are gifted individuals here that all have the same ideology regarding where we want to take the company, what we want to do and how we want to do it. I’m fully confident our success will continue.”
Myers has viewed his chief job as CEO as creating an environment that empowers others to succeed at what they are good at doing. Success has involved getting staff — all the way down to the store managers and associates — to buy into the company’s philosophy, and enhancing the quality of leadership at every level of the company.
“That has paid back in ways that are indescribable,” he said.
Case in point: The next leader to take the helm will be Handley, a long-time Casey’s employee. Myers said he’s known Handley for many years and the two constantly talk, with the current CEO learning plenty from the COO, and vice versa.
“We often go out for a 25-minute walk every morning. In the winter months, we get a brisk walk in at our [Ankeny] complex. In the summer months, we get really busy and it can be tougher,” Myers said. “There is a great exchange of information along those walks.”
AN UNEXPECTED POSITION
Myers never anticipated being at the helm of Casey’s.
After serving as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army for 22 years, he retired at the age of 41. When he found out that Casey’s was about to build a new corporate headquarters, a friend encouraged him to apply for a job there. He knew the convenience store chain well as he grew up in the same Iowa neighborhood as Don Lamberti, who founded Casey’s in 1968.
“My goal was to simply make enough money to offset my military retired pay vs. the active duty pay,” Myers told CSNews of his decision to join the Casey’s organization on Jan. 1, 1989 as corporate headquarters facility manager.
From that initial facility manager position, Myers began rising through the ranks. He was promoted to vice president of property support in 1992; senior vice president/chief operating officer in 2003 with a promotion to president/chief operating officer soon after that. In September 2006, he assumed the top position of president and CEO.
“I never expected to be CEO. I wanted to be low key,” revealed Myers. “But as time went on, I took on more and more. I also had the organizational background and skills that I acquired in the military that allowed me to do a bunch of different things.”
When asked to share his all-time best Casey’s moment, Myers said there have been so many great moments in his 27-plus-year career that he can’t narrow it down to just one.
“This has been a great company for such a long time. My task was to make it even a little bit better, which I think we have,” he said. “We are a company that cares about the communities that we are in. It is important for us to give back to those communities. We do so in many ways.”
Casey’s is also a company that maintains high standards for its level of performance, and Myers, who will stay on as chairman, is confident the full potential of the company will be reached.
“I think our shareholders have to be pleased with what we are doing and how we are doing it. Likewise, I believe all of our many customers are satisfied with how we are doing our work as well,” he said. “If we can take care of the employees, they will take care of customers and shareholders.”
For our full interview with Robert J. Myers, look in the March issue of Convenience Store News.