A Trip Down Memory Lane With Bill Douglass

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A Trip Down Memory Lane With Bill Douglass

By Linda Lisanti, Convenience Store News - 11/09/2011

SHERMAN, Texas -- Bill Douglass, CEO of Douglass Distributing Co. and a long-time industry champion, was inducted into the Convenience Store News Industry Hall of Fame in 2008 before a packed house of some of the top names in convenience.

Douglass got his start in the industry at just 16 years old, working at an Esso service station. On July 1, 1981, he fulfilled his dream of becoming an entrepreneur when he bought out an Exxon-branded distributorship in Sherman, Texas, that included six service stations, some rural commercial accounts, as well as an Exxon transport division, tank wagon division, lubricants division, and a tires, batteries and accessories division. With that, Douglass Distributing was born.

Today, the company distributes 130,000,000 gallons of fuel annually, while its retail division owns and operates 15 Lone Star Food Stores and employs more than 200 team members. Douglass, who served as the 2004-2005 NACS chairman and has testified numerous times in Washington, D.C., on behalf of the convenience industry, remains very involved.

In honor of the Hall of Fame's 25th anniversary, CSNews took a trip down memory lane with Douglass, reflecting on his Hall of Fame induction, industry memories and more.

What did it mean to you to be inducted into the Convenience Store News Hall of Fame?
It was a very humbling experience since the industry has many deserving contributors.

What do you remember most about being inducted?
The quality occasion created by CSNews, and the generous remarks about character and service.

What would you say has had the greatest positive impact on the industry in the last 25 years?
The media development around the [retailer] member and supplier participation through the National Association of Convenience Stores' (NACS) activities.

What has had the greatest negative impact on the industry in the last 25 years?
The credit card companies' dictates on fees (gouging) and cost avoidance. Example: retailer funding for the credit card companies; PCI compliance issues.

How has your business evolved over the last 25 years?
We have moved from a pure petroleum supplier with stations, to a diversified retail supplier with services.

What is the most remarkable thing you've experienced, seen or learned while in the industry?
The generous and supportive nature of our suppliers, media, associations, share groups and non-direct competitors.

If you were to jump into the convenience store business today, what would be your greatest concern, and what would you see as your greatest opportunity?
My concern would be government regulations -- EPA, FDA, OSHA, ADA, etc. [I see] opportunity in the sophisticated business equipment, computer hardware and software available to become customer centric and really efficient.

What do you foresee for the industry, and your company, over the next 25 years?
Our company today has more options than at any other time in its history. We can vertically or horizontally expand into associated businesses like warehouse distribution, car wash supplier, fast-food company, drugstore, bakery, sign company, petroleum terminals, joint ventures, rollups, and master limited partnerships (MLPs). In essence, this is a scale business in which size matters, so the winners will generally be bigger.

To read "A Trip Down Memory Lane With Chester Cadieux," click here.

To read "A Trip Down Memory Lane With Steve Stephens," click here.