SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Corral seven industry icons and two dozen up-and-coming retailers to talk about leadership, and they’ll spend more time talking about everyone else in the organization than anyone in any corner office.
And appropriately so.
Such was the sentiment at the Next Gen Leadership Forum, a special session at Winsight’s Outlook Leadership Conference, held this week in Scottsdale, Ariz. Attendees spent the majority of the time discussing how to hire right, train well and empower those hires to excel, emphasizing dogged diligence in the quest to build the best team.
Read on for four big lessons on how to build a team and lead them to success.
Icons (left to right) Gus Olympidis, president and CEO, Family Express Corp; Louie Sheetz, retired CMO, current board of directors , Sheetz, Inc.; Barry Yost, franchise owner, 7-Eleven; Iris Yost, franchise owner, 7-Eleven; Joseph Petrowski, senior adviser and executive committee member, Yesway; Steve Loehr, vice president, operations support, Kwik Trip
1. Surround yourself with honest contrarians
Why do Iris and Barry Yost, 7-Eleven franchisees in Las Vegas, work so well as business partners? “We hardly agree on anything,” said Iris. Their differing perspectives help them come to balanced, well-vetted decisions.
When it comes to building a strong team, hire to your weaknesses. Likewise, seek out at least one person in your professional life who will keep you accountable, who will be completely honest with you in ways that others may not.
2. Avoid warm bodies
For every one store associate Family Express Corp. hires, it screens 49 others. The company tirelessly seeks out people who have a seemingly “genetic disposition” for genuine friendliness, said Gus Olympidis, president and CEO of the Valparaiso, Ind.-based chain.
So how do you quickly fill an open spot when the hiring and training process is so arduous? Hire not to the staff level you need, but to your turnover level, said Ieva Grimm, president of c-store consultancy Synerge and moderator of the session. That will help you avoid making a desperate hire.
And if you make a wrong hire? Joseph Petrowski, senior adviser and executive committee member of Yesway, West Des Moines, Iowa, summed it up: “If you can’t change the people, change the people.”
3. Lead beyond your company
“Usually the first thing we ask a potential coworker is, ‘Tell us about your last random act of kindness,’ ” said Steve Loehr, vice president of operations support for La Crosse, Wis.-based Kwik Trip. “We’ve passed up many very qualified people but we felt they didn’t fit the Kwik Trip culture.”
That focus on kindness should permeate well beyond the confines of your company. Find ways to use your leadership position to give back to the community in meaningful ways. It’s an attribute critical to any leader in any industry—but particularly the c-store industry, where a supportive community is such an integral player to your success.
4. Go beyond table stakes
“If you’re playing poker and you just ante up every time, you’ll lose your money,” said Joey Hobson, executive director of category management for Maverik, North Salt Lake, Utah. “You have to get outside of the pack, go beyond table stakes.”
Successful leaders will lean in to risk and fear and incentivize others to do the same.
To learn about the waiting list for next year's Outlook Leadership Conference Next Gen Leadership Forum, email Winsight's Jacob Winsor.