Keep Striving to Be Great

Jim Bursch, Senior Vice President, Group Publisher & Editorial Director, CSP

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Good is the enemy of great. That phrase, introduced to us by Jim Collins in his book “Good to Great,” has been etched into my brain over the past 16 years at CSP. Even before Jim Collins’ book, we spent a great deal of time establishing a culture of excellence. No matter how well things are going, we need to continually keep our intensity and focus and not settle for good. Encouraging a constant flow of new-product ideas, plus always working to stay relevant and execute at a high level, has permeated our culture no matter how we are doing or how the economy is performing. In fact, it was when the economy was the most challenging that we invested the most and made our boldest moves, while our competitors hunkered down and cutback. This culture has served us well over the years, just as it does today and will in the future.

As I’m writing this column, the stock market has hit an all-time high, and employment and real estate seem to be on the upswing. We’re all starting to feel pretty good about where we are, and the future’s looking bright. It’s sometimes easy when things are going well to forget about the challenging business economy we just came through or think about what might be around the corner. We may get a little too comfortable and take our foot off the gas—but complacency can come with a heavy price.

I recently attended the NACS Leadership conference in Miami, where the theme was “Vision for the Future.”Beginning the conference were two forward-thinking retail executives: IgalZamir, president of MAPCO; and Chris Baldwin, senior vice president of HessCorp. Both talked about the reality of today’s retail environment.

Some of our industry’s top challenges include the continual blurring of channels in the consumer’s eyes; decreasing fuel volumes; overall c-store visits being down, and non-convenience up; a strong reliance on the blue-collar shopper; and increased competition from QSRs, drug and dollar stores. Zamir also shared the results of a research study his company conducted, which found that 51% of consumers believe all c-stores are the same or don’t differentiate. Such challenges reinforce the need to stay relevant and keep up with today’s fast-paced retail world.

If there is one thing we can count on, it’s that nothing can be taken for granted in today’s business environment. It’s no longer good enough to just keep up—you need to remain relevant and stay a step ahead of your competition. The pace of change is happening so fast that flourishing requires owners and senior executives to do whatever it takes to get on and stay on the right track, and see opportunities where others don’t. This is never more evident than in the c-store channel, underscored in our cover story starting on p. 44.

Having weathered the worst economy since the Great Depression better than most retail channels, our industry is seeing things heating up once again in a perfect storm of opportunity for those in a position to upgrade and grow. While many headlines have focused on M&A activity, it’s the ground-up, organic growth that is catching the eye of CSP and others in the industry.

As our story details, the best-in-class chains are on a record pace of building new offerings, often outside their previous retail boundaries. Some are investing big in areas that most would say are already saturated. However, these business leaders view such markets through a different lens. Where many see saturation, they see old, tired assets that are under serving their markets. So they come in with bold new formats and absorb market share from established operators that may have gotten a little complacent or are simply unable to take advantage of the opportunity.

If you want to thrive today or in the future, you need to distinguish your company and take advantage of the perfect storm of opportunity Greg Parker talks about in this issue. We need to keep the pedal down, think big, be aggressive and bold, and create a new paradigm. Whether that means upgrading stores or building ground-ups, hiring college grads or taking your foodservice offering to a new level, seize this opportunity to broaden your consumer appeal and create a better shopper experience.

Let’s strive to be great, not just good enough, or we’ll be left behind.

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