Things I Learned on the Way to the Convenience Store

The term “blessed” is trite but, in this case, true: My journey through the convenience store industry has seen me blessed with the friendships of so many special people. More than a few of them fit the mold reserved for greatness. I’d like to share some of the wonderful wisdom I’ve learned from them.

How fortuitous for a 20-year-old to learn an accuracy/discipline lesson from American Management Association controller, Bob Rand, where entire days were used to find the few pennies that kept one from balancing accounts receivable. Discipline is a true value.

Luke Perkins, owner of Lake Placid Hardware, took this fledgling bookkeeper aside and explained the importance of “let the nice feeling you get at the time you do a good deed be your payment and never expect anything beyond that.” This was much-needed advice that I continue to carry with me to this very day.

Convenience Store Hall of Famer Bob Seng had a most profound influence on my career. He was always willing to share his vast knowledge and caring manner with his employees and all who asked. He took great personal interest in all of us. The lesson? Invest in and encourage the next generation of leaders.

Reinhardt Oil founder Ned Dewey demonstrated an ability to control his company from many hundreds of miles away. His brilliance in this area has stayed with me for a lifetime. “If you listen, the numbers will talk to you,” he always said. What a gift.

Valley Oil’s co-owner, the late Paul Montana, was tough as nails. We had words only once. As president of his Valley Oil division, I made the mistake of taking him to task for allegedly calling my office manager out over a miniscule matter. He called me to his office and said, “If you ever talk to me like that again,” (I thought I knew what was coming next, but was mistaken), “I’ll sell the business.” Paul showed me respect. Neither the lesson nor the man have been forgotten.

Grace Under Adversity
The wonderful personal example of attitude and courage set by Carol Taylor, former owner of Taylor Mini Marts, still inspires me. Despite the early loss of her husband, six brothers, two sisters and some very serious illnesses along the way, Mrs. T’s attitude was always. I’m talking strong and gracious leadership by example.

Some 10 years ago, Green Oil’s Wyatt brothers and their management team took a chance on this old reprobate. They do a great job of allowing their team the freedom to grow and blossom, perhaps one reason the five member team is still intact.

So many blessings have come via my wife of 48 years, Sylvia, including gracious guidance consistently throughout the years. The greatest gift this award winning hospice nurse gave to me (aside from the children and grandchildren) however, has been in demonstrating sensitivity to others and her great determination. She has shown me the compassion and ability to give of herself daily.

These are but a few of the stand out lessons I’ve learned during this marvelous and still exciting journey I’ve taken to the convenience store. I sincerely hope your trip is as rewarding.

Jim Callahan has more than 40 years experience as a convenience store and petroleum marketer. His Convenience Store Solutions blog appears regularly on CSDecisions.com. He can be reached at (678) 485-4773 or via e-mail at jfcallahan502@msn.com.

css.php