Bowers Sets the Tone for CST Brands

How the CEO led a clean break from Valero Energy Corp.

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

Kim Bowers Sets the Tone for CST Brands and its Convenience Stores

CST Brands CEO Kim Bowers

SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- A clean break--that’s what Kim Bowers wanted for CST Brands after it was spun off from Valero Energy Corp. in 2013. To that end, the president and CEO of CST enacted a few well-chosen cultural changes to bring the new company into its own.

When the company officially went public last May, Bowers instituted a less formal dress code of jeans and a company shirt, throwing in the option for men to have facial hair. (It had been deemed against corporate values because workers at Valero’s refineries were not allowed facial hair for safety reasons.)

So even though CST’s offices share the same campus as Valero, Bowers wanted the vibe at CST to be more relaxed, from opening up the offices to allow more fluid brainstorming to casual attire. “And I like wearing jeans, so it was also self-serving,” Bowers told CSP Daily News in an exclusive interview.

To unify this burgeoning culture, Bowers, 49, mandated “Corner Store Time,” a required two days of work at the stores annually for all administrative employees (five for leadership staff), with bonuses tied to their completion. And in the fashion of retailer Nordstrom, she also holds entire departments accountable. If one person doesn’t do their time, no one gets their bonuses, initiating a sense of group responsibility.

The plan has helped open up discussions from the top down, allowing even entry-level cashiers access to top-level brass.

Bowers is also reviewing store-level incentives, recognition and community activities, both creating and initiating new ideas to connect at all levels.

It’s a way to create the kind of culture needed at Corner Stores, especially those without the space for expanded foodservice or in areas that compete with top-notch retailers. “The challenge is corner by corner vs. store format,” she said. “As long as we continue to give great customer service [we can compete], even if we’re not in the bright, shiny boxes.” 

Click here for CSP Magazine's complete coverage of CST Brand’s first six months as an independent convenience store retailer.

Angel Abcede, CSP/Winsight By Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP
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