A People Person
Any Corner Store customer who happens to bump into Zone Manager Tonjalia Green on a summer afternoon is unlikely to realize that the 32-year veteran of the convenience store industry has already worked a long day, often leaving her house before 5 a.m. The self-described “people person” has a way of projecting positivity to customers and employees alike as she travels from store to store.
“I like working with people and developing them to their full potential, and I’m a talker,” Green said. “I enjoy this business. I enjoy the customers.”
With full profit and loss responsibility for the operation of 74 Corner Store locations, Green has plenty of customers to enjoy. Seven area managers report to her on behalf of a work team made up of approximately 675 employees, but Green doesn’t rely only on secondhand information about the status of her stores that span from southeast Houston to southern Louisiana. On an average day, she is on the road visiting multiple locations.
“I try to talk to everyone at every store,” said Green. She spends a lot of time listening as well, to learn what she can do to help the store and what employees need to be able to do their jobs better and more efficiently.
Green isn’t just focused on numbers and the bottom line. “I like to make sure everybody’s happy and they’re enjoying their work environment,” she added. “If there’s something I can do to change that and make that a positive environment, then that’s what I’m there for.”
Green’s expertise comes from her longtime experience in positions ranging from an entry-level customer service representative to her current role. While she started out as a cashier for Diamond Shamrock, which was later acquired by CST Brands predecessor Valero Energy, she began training for management almost immediately.
“I didn’t start out thinking it would be a career for me,” she recalled. “But once I got into management, I saw that I had a lot to offer, and things just worked out that way.”
Today, the advancement process is slower but more thorough. Corner Store’s 90-day training program for managers focuses on on-the-job training as well as in-office modules, and covers everything from profit/loss statements to the company’s food programs.
At the same time, there’s room for less structured development. Green is known for mentoring store employees at multiple levels and doing what she can to cultivate their potential, whether that means encouraging them to train for the next level of store management or putting together a development plan that will help them become an area manager. She also organizes fun team-building activities like bowling outings for the people who report directly to her.
“We often do activities where we have to count on each other to win. That brings the team closer together and breaks the monotony of them being out in the field so much,” said Green, one of this year’s Convenience Store News Top Women in Convenience honorees in the Mentors category. “We tend to talk a lot about business. My guys talk about what they’re each doing within their areas.”
STANDARDS & SUPPORT
While she works hard to support those who work under her, Green doesn’t cut corners when it comes to performance. All employees are expected to meet her high standards and if they come up short, she rolls up her sleeves and helps them get to where they need to be.
“I am easy to work with, but I hold people accountable,” she said. “I love them and they would tell you I am there for them, but they will also tell you that you need to be doing everything you are supposed to do.”
One of the biggest challenges Green faces is recruiting the right people who will live up to the expectations of a Corner Store employee. In an industry with lots of competition, it takes extra effort to find people who are capable of acting as the face of the company when interacting with customers.
Customer service is key for Green, as is Corner Store’s food program. She keeps herself up-to-date on training so that she can personally walk employees through the process if they need to work on making a particular product. Details matter, down to the shine of doughnut glaze that appeals to customers, but Green also believes that “you can tell if food is cooked with love” and that it will bring people back again and again.
“When you enjoy what you’re doing, you’re happy there,” she said. “If [employees] are happy, then we have happy customers. It kind of goes hand in hand.”
Even when she’s not on the clock, Green is often still hard at work. She volunteers regularly for the Miracle League at the Langham Creek Family YMCA of Greater Houston, a sports program for children with disabilities, and has recruited some of her employees to join her. She also puts in time for the YMCA Duncan Dragons swim team and the Seabrook Lucky Trail Marathon, a benefit for The Bridge shelter for battered women.
When she’s not helping others, Green focuses on self-improvement through a commitment to a nutritious diet and exercise, which was sparked by her struggle with diabetes. This lifestyle change and the ensuing positive results prompted Corner Store to name her a Wellness Warrior for its health initiative.
Though she doesn’t consider herself a runner, she intended to cross the finish line at the Corner Store Country Run 5K race in Katy, Texas, on July 25.
While Green is happy in her current role at Corner Store, she is excited to take on any new opportunities that might arise and become more of an asset to the company.
“I really enjoy what I do every day and I’m excited to do more,” she said. “My goal is to contribute to success as much as I can.”