Talking 'Bout My Generation

Mitch Morrison, Vice President of Retailer Relations

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Are you baby boomers thinking about the future, about who’s going to navigate the business you started and/or have guided for the past several decades? (Disclaimer: As one born in 1964, I am officially one of you.)

A few months ago I wrote that our industry is undergoing a sea change, that a wave of new investors and financial vehicles, most notably master limited partnerships (MLPs), were spurring a surge in fresh capital that promises to create a new list of top 20 operators in our channel in the next three to five years. Already, we’re seeing companies such as Lehigh Gas, Energy Transfer Partners and Northern Tier having an appetite for convenience acquisition.

There is another part of that story, and that is us—or, more precisely, our age. We’re of course growing older, even though my mentor and longtime CSP president Paul Reuter is fond of saying that today’s 60 is yesterday’s 40. While that may be true in mind and perhaps even in body, Father Time has a way of reminding us that it’s time to think about life after the final buzzer.

Our industry leadership is older, the majority in their 50s and 60s, with some producing effectively into their 70s and a few into their 80s. A harsh view would paint the c-store channel as ossifying. Yet our channel’s continued growth and ability to evolve says otherwise.

As much as we’re adapting our sets, we’re quietly remaking our management teams. And guess what? We’re getting younger. Folks such as Chester Cadieux, Carl Bolch Jr., Steve and Stan Sheetz, and Jay Ricker are entrusting the next genera­tion with the reins.

Less drastic, but equally if not more important, a new generation is being shep­herded through mid- and upper-mid-level ranks, overseeing key categories, market­ing, operations, regulations and more.

Today’s cover story reflects this spirit. Our newest and youngest editor, Melissa Vonder Haar, partnered with our most senior editor, Angel Abcede, in identifying some of the most exciting, gifted young leaders in our channel. (See story on p. 38.)

In a reflection of the times, this story is not a standalone. We are running a monthlong series of short profiles of our industry’s young leaders on CSP’s Facebook page ( CSPmagazine), and we are including several shorter stories on CSP Daily News, integrating both old and new media.

Especially interesting about the new generation of leaders are their values. Leadership doesn’t necessarily mean working the most hours. It’s about strik­ing a balance between work and family, between profession and avocation.

It’s about Erin Graziosi (nee Robinson) running marathons and planning for her first child.

It’s about Allison Moran brewing beer with her husband and watching Nickel­odeon with her kids.

It’s about Eric Rush working on an MBA while helping raise four kids.

As I write this, my wife, Leslie, and I are looking at high schools for our older son, Ari. And we recently attended a fourth-grade breakfast honoring our younger son, Daniel, and two classmates for finishing third among 124 teams in the New Jersey Stock Market Game.

The values we’re trying to instill in our kids—teamwork, faith, honesty, ambition and balance—are the values this genera­tion of leaders is bringing to your business.

Welcome to …

Last year we welcomed a new slate of columnists, representing the freshest and most insightful thinkers across the busi­ness categories that matter most to you: fuel, technology, land use, beverages and many more. We’re pleased to welcome a few more who will be contributing exclu­sively to CSP in 2013.

Dennis Folden: Many of you know Dennis through his many years of execu­tive service at Kum & Go. Dennis is one of the brightest leaders I know and a true statesman of our industry.

Kevin Higar: One of the most enter­taining presenters in foodservice, Kevin is director of research and consulting services for Technomic Inc. He also is an epicurean par excellence, traveling throughout the country in search of the most palate-pleasing trends.

We have other surprises in store, including insights from well-regarded foodservice directors. If you’d like to share your ideas with our readers, drop me a note at [email protected].

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