How Kwik Trip Retains Execs During a Transition

Kwik Trip

LACROSSE, Wis. -- The last time Kwik Trip Inc. had turnover on its senior management team was in 2013, when Bob Thorud, vice president of operations, died after battling cancer. Some of the LaCrosse, Wis.-based company’s vice presidents have been there for 25 years, according to Director of Corporate Communications John McHugh, who is involved with the cultural elements related to hiring and training. The company has been able to maintain high executive retention despite having acquired more than 200 stores in the past four years. That's not exactly the norm, considering only 45% of surveyed companies were able to successfully retain employees during a transition, such as a merger or acquisition, according to PwC's 2017 M&A Integration Survey Report.

That loyalty starts at the top. “When a leader treats you with respect, humility and compassion, you never want to leave,” says McHugh, referring to Kwik Trip’s owner and CEO, Don Zietlow. Check out how he cultivates allegiance and retains talent through the tumultuous realities of mergers and acquisitions.

Remain accessible

Kwik Trip CEO Don Zietlow

Zietlow, above right, uses every email to start a conversation about employee satisfaction. In his signature line, he says, “Thank you for all that you do,” and “Is there anything I can do for you?” These two sentences help employees view Zietlow as a servant leader, McHugh says.

  • Only 33% of surveyed companies who underwent transformational deals reported high employee morale.

Give workers perspective

Kwik Trip employee

To show employees they are part of something meaningful amid the daily challenges of growth, Kwik Trip creates a weekly newsletter and shares it with all its workers. The correspondence includes some of the nearly 1,000 tales of guest appreciation the company receives each year, helping team members realize the effect they have on their customers’ lives, according to a recent story in The Des Moines Register.

  • In 2017, 11% fewer companies reported significant success keeping employees during a transition, compared to 2010.

Treat workers as equals

Kwik Trip Don Zietlow

Zietlow has gained a reputation for putting his co-workers first, McHugh says. He doesn’t even have a reserved parking spot in the c-store chain’s headquarters. “He parks where all of us park, and sometimes that means the back of the lot,” McHugh says.

  • 45%: Amount of surveyed companies who were successful in retaining employees during a transition, such as a merger or acquisition, according to PwC’s 2017 M&A Integration Survey Report