DePinto in for the Long Term

New 7-Eleven leader to focus on fresh food, leadership, item-by-item management

DALLAS -- Joseph DePinto is a wanted man. Earlier this year, the then 7-Eleven vice president of operations was courted by videogame and entertainment-software retailer GameStop Corp. to help the company grow. And during his eight months with the Grapevine, Texas-based company, the chain more than doubled its retail sites, from about 2,000 to more than 4,200, with the acquisition of its peer Electronics Boutique Corp.

This month, he was wooed back to 7-Eleven by new owner Seven-Eleven Japan Co. to lead the chain into its third turn as a privately owned [image-nocss] company. They approached me. I know the organization, I know the team, and I know their systems and processes. And the fact that I headed up the operations for several years for them made me a pretty good candidate, someone to come in and take 7-Eleven to the next level, DePinto told CSP Daily News in an exclusive interview.

I'm looking forward to getting back together with a great group of folks who know the business well, he said. And we're looking forward to the challenges.

One of those challenges will be determining just what is required to take one of the most well-known brands in the country to the next level, and DePinto said the answer may be to stay the course.

The next level is to take our strategy, which is our retailer initiative, and continue to build that within the culture of 7-Eleven, said DePinto, who talks as if he never left the company in March. Our approach is item-by-item management, which is focusing on the customer and the products that our customers want. [It's] making sure that we're meeting those needs on a daily basis, because those needs can change frequently. We're going to continue to focus in on that message and spend a lot of time on execution.

More specific goals include improving foodservice and empowering employees at all levels. 7-Eleven is focused on growing our fresh-food business, DePinto said. Fresh foods in important to us, as is item-by-item management, and we're going to focus on that and we're going to execute in those areas.

As to empowering employees, he added, We're going to spend a lot of time building the strength of our bench within 7-Eleven. I'm a big believer in leadership at all levels of the organization, and to do that, you've got to have a strong bench; you've got to have good people at all levels. And we're going to focus on that, making sure that we bring into the organization or develop from within the organization leaders at all levels.

DePinto said he believes those goals will be a bit easier to achieve now that 7-Eleven is a privately held company after Seven-Eleven Japan purchased the company from shareholders earlier this month. At a private company, I think you can be a little more focused on your strategy and do the things that need to be done over the short- to intermediate-term to prepare yourself for long-term success. Whereas at a public company, you have that constant pressure [to perform] quarter to quarter, said DePinto, who has served on the management teams of both public (PepsiCo, GameStop) and private (Thornton Oil) companies. All this at just age 43. 7-Eleven's approach is going to be one in which we build and execute for the long-term rather than focus in on the short-term or quarter-to-quarter numbers.

His first order of business, however, will be to evaluate the Dallas-based company's leadership team. And based on his three previous years with the company, he does not anticipate much change. We've got a great management team, he said. I'll take some time once I get in there and assess the situation. I'll spend times with the folks and make the necessary changes if they need to be made. I don't anticipate any right now, but if changes need to be made to strengthen what we're trying to do, we'll do that.

Overall, DePinto, who will report to Toshifumi Suzuki, chairman and CEO of Seven-Eleven Japan Co., is looking forward to making a difference at the 5,800-store chain. 7-Eleven is a great company, so I'm looking forward to getting in there and having the positive impact that I know we can have.