Cultivating c-store careers – convenience store decisions

A native of Washington, D.C., Gaskins said he has heard from many in the industry who were surprised to hear he had opted this past June to leave Rutter’s, where he had earned a reputation for helping develop several modern service programs as part of his responsibilities as chief customer officer at Rutter’s—which itself is now generating attention among other progressive c-store chains.

“It was a very difficult decision to make. (President & CEO) Scott Hartman is a strong mentor to me personally and professionally,” said Gaskins. “Scott gave me an opportunity to help drive Rutter’s brand to new heights, and the Rutter’s family will always be special. The culture was dynamic, and I am forever appreciative of the opportunity I had to lead the brand.”

During his tenure at Rutter’s, Gaskins spearheaded the VIP tier of the Rutter’s Rewards loyalty program to capture more information on consumer segments, buying behaviors and category affinities. Other achievements included helping raise Rutter’s to new digital heights by expanding its advertising mix to encompass social media, mobile, cable, television and radio. He also helped revamp the store branding and remodels to help achieve record company growth.

All of his talents made Gaskins a great get for Yesway. Thomas Trkla is the founding member, chairman and CEO of Brookwood Financial, parent company to Yesway, where he also serves as chairman and CEO. Trkla directs all aspects of Brookwood’s and Yesway’s businesses, including managing operations, shaping and setting the company’s culture.

Brookwood, a Massachusetts-based private equity investment firm specializing in acquiring and managing value-add commercial real estate and related businesses, launched Yesway with the acquisition of Country Stores, a 10-store portfolio in western Iowa, in December 2015. Now the convenience chain has grown—mainly through acquisition—to at least 150 sites.

“We have seen quite a few (convenience) retailers now achieving ‘Best Places to Work’ status, either in their states or national,” said Schaninger. “This reflects a true commitment to the team members, and typically encompasses encouragement to personal growth, reward and recognition. As we focus more on developing teams, we are able to keep those individuals within the industry.”

“Working at Yesway provides a solid career foundation within the c-store industry that can be translated to other industries as well,” said Trkla. “Our careers and training teach social skills, personal accountability and salesmanship. In addition, as one continues to grow within the organization, he or she will build financial acumen and leadership skills.

John Matthews is president and CEO of Gray Cat Enterprises, a planning and marketing services firm. About 20 years ago, Matthews was vice president of marketing for White Hen Pantry, a successful c-store chain that was breaking new ground in foodservice and other service segments at a time when much of the industry was treading heavily to make a profit.

“I’ll admit, when I first looked at joining the c-store industry in 1997 I was skeptical. Then, I started to understand the complexity of the business and became fascinated. Coming from the quick-service restaurant industry, the c-store industry presented a tremendous opportunity to expand my scale, scope and skill set,” said Matthews. “From dealing with 4,000 SKU’s; to categories that reach every customer segment including age-restricted products; the dynamics of gasoline as a driver in the industry; interfacing with the biggest brands in America like Coke, Pepsi, R.J. Reynolds, Philip Morris, Anheuser-Busch, etc.; and customer traffic volumes that dwarf the QSR industry. It provided me the opportunity to expand beyond marketing to merchandising, real estate management, facilities management, etc. to become a better-rounded executive.”

“The biggest challenge has been grasping the nuances of the various lines of business—distribution, supply, commercial, retail, wholesale—and how they operate together yet individually. Also, understanding the metrics and important terminology and how those impact the HR world, has been critical to getting more comfortable in my role here.”

“We converted our 401K plan to a safe harbor plan while rolling out a unique initiative to increase our 401K participation, which has been very successful. Recently, we rolled out our new team member assistance fund called Tri Star Cares. This fund was created to provide financial support for our team members who are facing personal or family hardship as a result of a catastrophic event,” said Cox. “Finally, our new performance management program creates a culture of continuous feedback and recognition by introducing a platform by which the team members receive consistent, on-going feedback throughout the year, as opposed to a once-a-year evaluation.”

Convenience store retailers need to cultivate this talent in order to survive and hopefully prosper,”said Matthews. “The new store designs that now accommodate foodservice require that companies find the appropriate talent to manage these migrations. In some cases, the talent can come from within. In many cases, it has to be brought in from other industries.”