Not Your Average Joe

CSP honors 7-Eleven's Joe DePinto as 2011 Retail Leader of the Year

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

Joe DePinto

CHICAGO -- Chicago is Joe DePinto's kind of town. It's where he grew up, in suburban Des Plaines, Ill. And with a rendering of the city's broad-shouldered skyline as a backdrop, the president and CEO of 7-Eleven accepted the award for CSP magazine's Retail Leader of the Year earlier this month before about 400 industry leaders, spouses and supplier partners.

The 48-year-old son of a working, middle-class family accepted the award on behalf of his wife, family, friends and the management, field staff and franchisees that make up the 8,800 7-Eleven c-stores here in North America.

Before a sea of suits and gowns, chandeliers above and the presence of beloved family and revered colleagues, DePinto described feeling overwhelmed, as if "energy" was pulled out of him. "I'm truly honored for such a special recognition," he said after the cocktail reception and dinner at the Four Seasons downtown. "It's humbling."

The presentation portion of the evening kicked off with Sonja Hubbard, CEO of Texarkana, Texas-based E-Z Mart Stores Inc., taking the role of M.C. and describing the supplier-sponsored cruise that brought her husband Bob Hubbard and Joe and Ingrid DePinto together.

Sonja Hubbard and Ingrid DePinto hit it off right away and instead of sitting at assigned tables, the ladies moved placement cards around so the two couples could have that first dinner together.

She described the passion Joe DePinto brings to the industry, as seen in 7-Eleven's effort to garner 1.3 million signatures towards card-swipe fee reform. But Hubbard also noted the amiable, approachable DePinto, where "there are no secrets with Joe."

That genuine openness puts people at ease and helps build trust, said executives quoted in the evening's video tribute. Time and again, people would refer to DePinto's Midwestern values of fairness, sincerity and do-unto-others mindset.

"He has empathy for people," said Darren Rebelez, COO for 7-Eleven. "He takes the success of our franchisees personally."

That desire to help has its best manifestation in the culture change DePinto initiated, basically dismantling what was once a top-down management style. Since joining the team in late 2005, DePinto has "turned the pyramid upside down," where corporate staff exists to support employees and franchisees in the field. Based on his own military background and its focus on team building, DePinto developed a strategic plan for change; created processes, metrics and incentives designed to enforce the new team-building values; and lead transformations that influenced everything from merchandise mix to store growth.

The evening took a family turn when DePinto's four young sons, John, Nick, Joey and Danny, took the stage. The eldest, John, dressed in the white uniform of his father's alma mater, the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., said he had always admired his father, even as a little boy wanting to fit into dad's oversized fatigues.

"He talks about service and leading with character," John DePinto told the audience about his father. "And that resonated with me."

When it came time for the honoree to take the stage, Joe DePinto turned the spotlight back to his family, 7-Eleven and the industry itself. He acknowledged and praised his executive team inclusive of Rebelez; Stan Reynolds, the company's CFO; Jesus Delgado-Jenkins, marketing and logistics; Dave Fenton, general counsel; Chris Tanco, international vice president; and Krystin Mitchell with human resources.

He also featured the leadership within 7-Eleven's national franchise organization, Bruce Maples and Dennis Lane. DePinto also tipped his hat to the chain's founders, the Thompson family—a representative of whom was in the audience—for the concept of selling milk, bread and eggs off of the dock of an ice house. Finally, DePinto had everyone in the room affiliated with 7-Eleven stand and be recognized.

"To quote [basketball great] Michael Jordan: Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence make champions," DePinto said. "Tonight, I feel like a champion."

Click here to watch a video honoring Joe DePinto as CSP's Retail Leader of the Year.

And see Related Content below for CSP Daily News coverage of previous CSP Retail Leader of the Year honorees.

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