Above the Fray

PC&F's Hirbod speaks of winning ConocoPhillips bid, strategies for success

By 
Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

PHOENIX -- To successfully corner the bid on ConocoPhillips' 600-strong network a year and a half agoa surprising twist in the ongoing saga of the major oil's selloffSam Hirbod had to stand above 2,200 other proposals. Speaking before about 250 attendees at CSP's annual Convenience Retailing University conference, Hirbod, president and CEO of Pacific Convenience & Fuels, San Ramon, Calif., described his edge in that successful 2008 acquisition as having an "understanding of what ConocoPhillips needs were" and having the "merits" necessary to secure the deal.

In reviewing [image-nocss] the Houston-based oil company's numbers, he found growth targets for its retail assets to be under 24% on an annual basis, noting how the corporation set its goals in January and reviewed them the following year. "We thought, why is it that with that many stores you don't have a better number?" Hirbod said. "The best systems [assess results] on a monthly, daily...and sometimes hourly [basis]."

Hirbod, who opened his first store 13 years ago, also outlined several mantras that he pushes internally to develop a culture of excellence and growth. The list began with identifying opportunities. He said the industry today has to go beyond simple upgrades of paint, wallpaper and a few gondolas. He suggested a "complete refresh," with an inside-out approach that takes advantage of today's economics.

"Capital [investments] pay back faster than ever before," he said, noting how contractors today are bidding at the lowest prices in recent memory. In addition, "great deals" can be found in areas such as car-wash upgrades, freezer and cooler technology, and outside lightingthe payback of which can be less than eight months.

Other internal mandates for Hirbod include the following:
Simplify the process. He advised retailers get to the lowest denominator of any problem, streamline routines and define purposes. He added that every system must have checks and balances, so as not to allow any single individual the opportunity to undermine the operation. Remove the drama. He told retailers not to get "lost in emotional layers" and to push away negativity. Create and innovate. Emphasizing the need to encourage creativity, he said that every person in the operation can be creative if allowed. The keys are to remove preconception and know the facts from all sides. Execute. Retailers must develop well-planned roadmaps with timetables and deadlines, he said. Ultimately, c-store retailers have to rethink their business and understand their value in the overall scheme of things. "We are 4% of the GDP [gross domestic product]," he said. "We make a difference."Click hereto view a CSP TV segment on Hirbod.Andclick here to read more about Pacific Convenience & Fuelsfrom the January issue of CSP magazine.

Angel Abcede, CSP/Winsight By Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP
View More Articles By Angel Abcede