A Passion For Serving

Maverik's Lean Mean Delivery Machine provides the support structure for serving customers

Getting ready to interview Tim Taylor, vice president of a department with the unusual title of Lean Mean Delivery Machine, CSNews' editors were half expecting to find a grizzled Marine drill sergeant heading up what most other retailers would call their distribution and logistics department.

Instead, CSNews found Taylor to be a soft-spoken, but incredibly enthusiastic leader with a lifetime of experience in retailing, spanning diverse disciplines at store level and field management to senior merchandising and operations positions.

Lean Mean Delivery Machine conjures images of an elite fighting force — and in many respects, it does share some characteristics of a lean mean fighting unit. "Efficient. Effective. Aggressive. And can be counted on to deliver day in, day out," said Taylor, as he described the mission of his department, which does much more than just distribute products to Maverik's 250 stores.

According to Taylor, Maverik's Chief Adventure Guide (President) Mike Call came up with the catchy and illustrative name. Lean Mean Delivery Machine is charged with providing the expertise and systems that enable the Maverik organization to focus on and fulfill the company's "Customer Fanatic" vision. As part of that mission, Taylor's team handles sourcing, negotiations with vendors, and collaborating on the merchandising and promotion plans with the Customer Segment Teams.

"Our job is to first gain an understanding of customers' needs from our Customer Segment Teams. Then, to source and negotiate for them so we can lower our cost of goods and perform all the downstream functions to get the right items for the right plan in the right quantities at the right time to the stores," said Taylor. "With the ultimate goal of thrilling our customers."

Taylor started in the retail business at the age of 16, working for the Albertson's supermarket chain. After nine years there, he followed three of his supermarket colleagues who told him about an employee-friendly convenience store chain then based in Afton, Wyo., that had a great culture and environment, as well as vast opportunities for growth. When Taylor joined Maverik as an area supervisor overseeing a group of stores in eastern Wyoming and Montana, the convenience store chain operated only 67 stores. Maverik is almost four times that size today.

From there, Taylor took on a number of regional supervisory positions before coming to headquarters to take on the role of centralizing all retail gas pricing decisions at the chain. "I remember even then, Maverik was an innovator," he said. "We stopped accepting bank charge cards and went cash only so that we could pass the savings on to our customers and offer the lowest price on gasoline. That move really drove the needle on our fuel business."

That bold move enabled Maverik to grow its gas business and establish itself as a price leader in its market, so when the retailer eventually returned to accepting bank cards, consumers still shopped Maverik first for gas.

Taylor then took his leadership skills to the merchandising side of the business. As director of merchandising, he started centralizing and building a category management team. "We were better able to leverage Maverik's size and volume, and it helped us become known as a value leader for our store offering," Taylor said.

Around that time (the early 1990s), Maverik also began putting ovens in all its stores to make their own fresh bread and breakfast pastries. "We had a vision that the traditional c-store categories of tobacco and beer were at risk," said Taylor. "So, we started making fresh sandwiches in the stores using our own bread and luncheon meats from Core-Mark."

The retailer's commitment to foodservice is huge. By the mid-1990s, Maverik was selling hoagies and a proprietary hot breakfast sandwich program. "If you ask customers what we are known for, they'll say best price on fuel, fresh food in stores, great deals and friendly people," said Taylor. "Because I'm from operations, I've had the opportunity to directly serve our customers. I appreciate what it takes to help stores succeed in their role and how to get the systems in place to be more efficient."

Taylor's lean mean team includes Tracey Stevens, executive director of procurement. "The procurement managers work hand-in-hand with the customer segment managers," explained Taylor. "Being customer-centric requires a company to work in a matrix fashion. Everything's interdependent."

Scott Larson is the central warehouse performance manager. "Scott works with our central warehouse — Core-Mark's Salt Lake facility — to make sure we have as many of the efficiencies as possible, as if that warehouse was ours."

DSD Performance Manager Mark Keller focuses on execution with all Maverik's direct-store delivery vendors. "His challenge is getting the knowledge and vision we have to all the different vendors," noted Taylor. The Lean Mean Delivery Machine has improved gross margin return on inventory (GMROI) for the company since its establishment.

This past spring, Maverik introduced a suggestive ordering system from PDI Inc. to assist with inventory management. "The system takes into account several factors that a store couldn't keep track of and partners that knowledge with the unique knowledge that each store manager has about his or her store to determine the optimum order quantity," explained Taylor, who said the system was rolled out in May for tobacco and cigarettes. "That's a category with a high inventory value, where we can save so much as we optimize the inventory in cigarettes."

Taylor, who has spent 27 years with Maverik, said his favorite part of the job is visiting stores. "I always come away from store visits with a huge list of opportunities for us to improve our role in supporting the stores. I also love to visit peer companies. It opens your mind and gives me so many ideas for how we can get better."

Taylor, who has four children and six grandchildren, shared advice on how young people can succeed at Maverik. "I'd say they'd have to have a passion for understanding how customers think, work and shop, and how they get their needs fulfilled. You just have to enjoy people. You can work in our stores and be very successful and help Maverik be successful as well."

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