Outgoing NACS Chairman Frank Gleeson Drives Global Issues Home
ATLANTA — Over the past year, Frank Gleeson has been asked many times to pick his favorite day of his tenure as NACS chairman. Aside from his daughter's wedding nearly three weeks ago, the Aramark executive always points to Aug. 8. That's when he attended the NACS Executive Leadership Program at Cornell University.
It was the first time he'd been back to the Ithaca, N.Y., school since attending the program in 2003 — a trip that changed the course of his career.
"In 2003, I learned the difference between being a manager and being a leader," Gleeson shared during the Oct. 2 NACS Show general session. That program, he added, "transformed my leadership journey."
During his visit to Cornell this summer, Gleeson saw the next generation of convenience channel leaders and it "made me feel good about our industry," he said.
As he prepares to hand the NACS chair reins over to incoming chair Julia Jackowski of Casey's General Stores Inc., Gleeson left the industry with some words of advice: Stay on top of issues whether they are in your neighborhood or halfway around the world.
He highlighted three key issues to watch:
1. Sustainability. According to Gleeson, sustainability is about aligning your best business practices with consumer preferences. For example, reducing the use of plastic in convenience stores. He cautioned, though, that sustainability goes even further. "It goes beyond plastic in our industry. It goes to the heart of our industry: fuel," he said.
2. Leadership. The industry knows the challenges of hiring, training and retaining good employees. He advised showgoers to think about how they can "make their crew motivated, make their crew productive, and make their crew a winning team."
3. Innovation. The industry — and the world — is changing, but the rate at which it is moving "is staggering," he noted. While innovation usually brings to mind technology, he said, "In the U.S. it is about finding different ways to please your customers." Innovation is also about motivating your crew to be their best, he added.
The key, he said, "is to be brave, have the conviction to do it, and never give up the fight."
Gleeson, president and CEO of Aramark Northern Europe, was the first European-based chairman of NACS in the association's 57-year history. In a nod to his Irish roots, he raised a Guinness and offered a toast before taking his final bow.
"Luck is the opportunity that comes along only and if you are prepared for it," he said.
The 2019 NACS Show is taking place Oct. 1-4 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.