Smooth Operations

Kum & Go’s COO Mark Hasting presides over a changing corporate culture

Kum & Go has a diverse mix of long-tenured associates and those who bring a fresh perspective to the convenience store chain after serving other companies. Chief Operating Officer Mark Hasting can definitely be categorized in the latter group.

Hasting, who joined Kum & Go in November, previously served in leadership positions at Starbucks Corp. and Target Corp. Today, he calls upon his vast retail experience to help lead the operations team of the West Des Moines-based convenience store operator.

“After 25 years in the retail industry, I landed my dream job when given the opportunity to work for Kum & Go,” he told CSNews. “I get to work for a young and growing organization, and I have the opportunity to help define and develop its organizational processes.”

Hasting oversaw stores, districts and regions for Target before serving as the mass merchandiser’s vice president of operations. Needing a change, he shifted to Starbucks, where he was named a regional vice president and was responsible for about 500 stores.

The COO was drawn to Kum & Go after meeting with the senior leadership team and learning the strategies and vision of the organization. Hasting also appreciated the backgrounds of his fellow associates and the direction the c-store chain is heading in.

“Within the c-store space, we want to be something different; something better. A place you would be proud to be seen in,” he said.

Hasting was especially excited about working for Kum & Go when he first walked into one of the chain’s new 5,000-square-foot stores, which the company refers to as its “5K” model.

“My first thought was, ‘Wow,’” he recalled.

As COO, Hasting, a married father of three sons, reports directly to CEO Kyle Krause. Direct reports to Hasting include Kum & Go’s vice president of fuels, vice president of facilities, vice president of quality, and the operations team, which includes three division vice presidents. Three other associates who handle procurement, QSR (quick-service restaurant) operations, labor and other tasks also work under his guidance.

“Operations, in my opinion, is the heart and soul of any organization,” said Hasting. He referenced a favorite adage of Kum & Go co-founder Bill Krause: “I’d rather have one customer shop us 1,000 times vs. 1,000 customers shopping with us only once.”

Specifically, Hasting is focused on finding ways to enhance the customer experience, while simplifying associates’ jobs. “I believe our customer engagement will never exceed our associate engagement,” he said. “We want our associates to have engaging conversations and connections with their customers on a daily basis. By anticipating the customer’s needs and personalizing their visit, associates can directly enhance the in-store experience.”

For example, associates are encouraged to get to know customers by learning what they like to smoke and how often. “Instead of being reactive, we want to be proactive; have a customer’s tobacco product ready, maybe even before they walk into the store. It’s a differentiator for us,” Hasting said.

Fuel consumption has dropped since its peak in 2007, as vehicles have become more efficient and consumers travel less often due to a weak economy. Hasting frequently monitors the c-store retailer’s data to see where fuel sales are increasing and decreasing in an effort to perhaps implement key learnings in other markets.

“As we test different strategies, we look for ways to optimize results and extend that success across other markets,” the operations executive explained.

NEVER A TYPICAL DAY

With so many varied job functions, Hasting never has a typical day at the office. That’s one of the things he loves most about operations. He often arrives at the Store Support Center at 7 a.m. and leaves by 6:30 p.m. Bright and early every Monday morning, he attends a staff meeting with other members of senior management that typically lasts from 7 a.m. until 10:30 a.m.

Also on Monday morning, the COO meets with his direct reports for a group discussion on topics that include personnel updates, quarterly goals and other metrics that are important to Kum & Go’s business. At the same time, Hasting’s direct reports update him on the status of their respective to-do lists. Finally, the group discusses the most pressing issues facing the organization at the time, with topics ranging from people issues and customer concerns to new initiatives rolling out in the near future. “We’ll list two or three issues up on the board and spend an hour or two working through them,” he said.

Later in the day, Hasting has his one-on-one with Krause. “I have four or five topics to discuss,” he said. “Our conversations often go in different directions because we get off track by talking about our personal lives and common interests. We also talk often about Kum & Go’s talent, which is the lifeblood of this organization.”

On Tuesdays through Fridays, Hasting often spends two days a week making store visits. He tries to visit six or seven stores a day, spending 30 to 45 minutes at each location. Considering Kum & Go operates in 11 states, he racks up several miles on the road.

“In those store visits, I spend most of the time talking to our associates,” he said. “I ask them what they’re most proud of. What issues or concerns do they have? And what’s the essence of the store? When you walk in, do you feel a positive energy? Is it a welcoming environment?”

If he experiences a store that feels “flat,” Hasting said he challenges the associates there to make Kum & Go a fun place to be. “Our stores should not only represent a clean and friendly place to shop, but they should also be a fun place to work,” he noted.

Throughout the week, Hasting also schedules time to meet with his direct reports on a one-on-one basis, where he encourages candid and open discussion.

CULTURE CHANGE

As for long-term goals, Hasting is at the forefront of what he calls an “evolving culture.”

“Bill Krause was an iconic entrepreneur,” he said. “Our organization is fast-paced and we have an abundance of new ideas. We want associates to feel empowered in their work.”

Kum & Go has several programs in place to recognize associates when they do something well. For example, an “Associate of the Week” is honored with a VIP parking spot every Tuesday. The company also recognizes associates’ employment anniversaries and success stories during monthly “Cake Breaks” hosted by the CEO.

“I’d love to see more pats on the back for a job well done ” Hasting said. “As an organization we need to recognize what a positive impact that has on the associate.”

He acknowledged Kum & Go’s new 5K design will continue to evolve and change based on customer feedback and operational data. “Although we don’t know what the new design will look like five years from now I can promise that it will be relevant and inviting for our customers ” Hasting said. “We’re also working hard to create a consistent brand experience throughout all of our stores. When you drive by a Kum & Go store customers will see a consistent look consistent feel and consistent shopping experience.”

On a more micro basis the c-store operator is looking into the possibility of selling compressed natural gas at its fueling stations.

Perhaps these topics will be among those Hasting and other members of Kum & Go’s senior staff discuss during an off-site one-week strategic planning session to be held in September.

“This will be my first strategic planning session with the company ” he said. “I look forward to helping set the direction of Kum & Go for the next five to 10 years.”

X
This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds