Monday
Jul022012

Are You Ready for Change?

Our c-store industry continues to change and shift constantly, and today is going to be different than tomorrow. I see that many of the large c-store retailers have changed their store designs several times in the last year. There is nothing in life that doesn’t change. We just have to be ready to make the change, be excited about it and then commit to it! 

You see, not too long ago in our c-store heritage, a convenience store stocked the “emergency” products. Grocery-wise, you could get the little packets of aspirin, cold remedies, allergy medicine and others. You usually had a fountain machine that had four flavors on it. A couple boxes of peanut butter crackers and peanuts. Maybe you had some ice and a few donuts. You didn’t have much invested in your inside inventory and you weren’t too worried about your inside sales. The biggest reason you weren’t concerned about your inside sales was because gas made a profit. Boy, have the times changed! 

Today, c-stores keep getting bigger and bigger. You need as much space as you can get to be able to encourage your gas buyers outside to come in and spend money. This is the only profit center today in your business.  So then, the questions that I hear almost every day are, “What are the best products to carry in my store?” and “What has the most draw to get people inside my store and buying products?” 

I must ask a few questions first. Which customers are you going after? What time of the day is your store currently the busiest? Do you know your customer—male or female? Do you want to sell, make fresh in store, or order pre-made food? 

You need to understand what your business currently is, then you need to set the direction you want it to go and execute it. If you want more women in your store, you will need to clean the store better, stock more female-related items and clear the front counter for them to put their purses on. You better have fresh fruit and yogurt.  Think like a woman, and then ask female shoppers what they would like to see or buy. You have a lot of information coming into your store every day (customers!) and if you ask them what they want, you can start carrying what they need. Then, as store sales increase, you can increase your offering for your customers.

One of the biggest problems I see today is that c-store operators are trying to run their stores the same as they always have. Trouble is, business isn’t the same; people are not the same; traffic patterns are not always the same… Chances are, nothing is the same as when you started your business, and never will be again.

The future convenience store will have a drive thru, will be more food focused, and will offer a wide range of products that are fresher. Your future in retailing is changing… Are you ready for change??

 

Wednesday
Jun272012

Walking a Mile in His Shoes

By Michelle Marie Turner, Marketing Intern


Heart pounding, clock ticking, and thoughts racing, I awoke to an alarm clock reading 5 A.M. I immediately jumped out of bed and scrambled to get ready for my first Ride-Along at CarterEnergy Corporation. As the new Marketing Intern, I felt like I had already learned so much, but my first two weeks were spent fully in the corporate office. Experiencing what a Transport driver goes through on a daily basis was expected to be very enlightening and more importantly, an interesting way to start piecing together the different parts of Carter.

Prior to arriving, I knew I was scheduled for a Ride-Along with a driver named Jimmy, who had worked for Carter for almost 12 years. After the first two hours of our 12-hour shift, Jimmy entertained the idea that I might be a spy because I took many photos and asked so many unusual questions.

What did I learn during those 12 hours on the road?

Transport drivers work long shifts that require mental focus and physical labor. They must be aware of their surroundings at all times. It can be difficult to exhibit patience and understanding when weather, traffic, lines or other outside forces can impact your day. In the event that something does go wrong, learning from mistakes allows you to be proactive, rather than reactive, the next time it occurs.  

Jimmy’s attention to detail was displayed at many points throughout his lengthy shift, and that ability comes from his many years of experience in the field. There were several instances when we had to wait in long lines at the terminal to refuel the truck. During this time, Jimmy kept himself sharp by prioritizing his responsibilities for that day or planning our next trip to a customer site.

As Jimmy executed his daily instructions using the truck’s on-board technology system, I observed his regard for safety, not only in relation to himself when connecting heavy fuel hoses, but also with the transfer of fuel from the truck to the underground tanks at the store. Transferring fuel can be a very dangerous process, but our Carter drivers are well versed in the steps to protect themselves, and the environment, while making sure the fuel is delivered in a timely manner.

I utilized my time allotted to ask Jimmy questions about the way he conducts himself as a Transport driver. I noticed that he has good relationships with our retail customers, other drivers and CarterEnergy Associates. He presented himself in a professional manner and I was inspired by his sense of humor and outgoing personality. I was impressed by his knowledge of the petroleum business, both inside and out. His experiences, triumphs and challenges regarding his career and family life were different than my own, but his insight and wisdom taught me a lot. Some say that ignorance is bliss, but I believe that knowledge empowers. Jimmy’s honesty, integrity, and respect showed me even more about CarterEnergy’s culture and how it influences the day-to-day activities of every Carter Associate. 

 

“There is nothing we do commercially at CarterEnergy that is worthy of compromising the wellbeing of a human life or the environment.”

                ~Bryan Beaver, CEO, CarterEnergy Corporation

Friday
May112012

What’s Gonna Work? TEAMWORK!

My fifteen-month old daughter has been obsessed lately with “The Wonder Pets”, a cartoon on Nick Jr. which features a guinea pig, turtle and baby duckling who sneak out of their little schoolhouse to go on missions and save baby animals that are in trouble.  The big concept that helps them succeed in the end:  It takes TEAMWORK to get things done. 

When starting a big project, we often put the burden on ourselves to do all of the work, but without input from others, we can be so focused on one path that we don’t see the alligator looming off to the side, ready to snap us up at a moment’s notice. 

At CarterEnergy, we encourage everyone to engage people from all areas of our business when a new project begins.  We call these people “stakeholders” or “SME’s (Subject Matter Experts).  By getting these individuals involved at the beginning of the process, we are able to identify additional needs, potential problems and ensure we have a well-rounded plan of action that will not throw a wrench into other processes or systems.

“The Wonder Pets”, which airs on Nick Jr.We just recently planned, designed and launched CarterEnergy’s new-and-improved website, complete with an online customer self-help tool.  Just how many people were involved with this project?  The initial project team included A DOZEN individuals from a variety of disciplines (including Marketing, Retail Operations, Customer Experience, Dispatch, Logistics, Accounting, Administration, etc.).  But, during the five-month process, we also sought feedback from many other individuals throughout the company on a variety of matters.  And that was just for Phase One of the project!  Our second phase team consists of an additional ten members who are currently planning and identifying needs for additional functionality to further benefit our customers.  And we’re certain that additional players will become involved as we make future enhancements.

But planning and developing weren’t the only activities involved in a project of this scope.  It required the testing—and re-testing—of all capabilities after each critical change to functionality was made.  This part of the process put teamwork to the test—as things moved very quickly to ensure that successful resolutions were made that would also keep us on target with our launch date.  During this stage, we encountered issues that we didn’t foresee early on in our planning, but as a team, we were able to adjust accordingly.  After all, we would rather discover these snafus ourselves than have a customer experience them.

That being said, I want to remind you that you don’t have to be alone when you desire change.  You have the power to engage those around you (your staff, your family, your customers, your vendors and especially, your CarterEnergy representative) to help you see the full picture so that you can create a plan of action that will be successful in the long run.  As the Wonder Pets say:  “What’s gonna work?  TEAMWORK!”

Good luck!

Tuesday
Nov012011

The Bathroom: A DESTINATION at Your Local C-Store

I’m not one to spend a lot of time inside a convenience store, but one thing has been constant:  when I’m away from home and I gotta go, a convenience store bathroom is usually my best option.  Aside from gas, it’s what gets me in the store; it’s my primary DESTINATION.  Once I’ve finished, I am more likely to shop around to pick up a beverage or a snack—unless the bathroom facilities gave me the big case of the heebie-jeebies.

Now, to be honest, I’ve only been that grossed out by public bathrooms a couple of times, but that experience had me high-tailing out the door, without spending any money.  After all, if the bathroom is unsanitary, what about the stuff inside the store?  My perception of those locations drove my decision –and possibly future decisions—of whether or not to go there again.

Now that I have a child, clean restrooms are even more important to me.  I’m looking for restrooms with changing stations, mopped floors ( I have to put my diaper bag and car seat down, after all), and plenty of soap, among other things.  I want no chance of my baby getting anything but a new diaper during my visit there.  I’m sure other women, including mothers, share the same sentiment—and that can affect your in-store sales, as well as repeat visits.  Remember, word of mouth travels fast, especially among the mommy crowd. 

So back to the issue of a customer’s perception of your store…what kinds of things do visitors look for that leave a good impression of your store, other than what I’ve already mentioned? 

  • Freshly scrubbed toilets (inside and out)
  • Hands-free flushing, faucets, soap dispensers and dryers
  • Air freshener
  • No towels or tissues on the floor
  • No broken locks on the stall
  • Well lit and ventilated
  • Hand sanitizer
  •  Handicap bars and railings for elderly and disabled patrons 

Do your bathrooms measure up?  Are you cleaning them regularly and making repairs immediately?

Convenience Store Decisions magazine published a great article last year called “What Do Your Restrooms Say About You?”  It gives some great examples of how convenience stores have taken the topic of restroom sanitation and improved their own businesses—and stole competition from the restaurant down the street, another key competitor in this arena.

So help me out; make your store AND restroom a destination of choice for me and the other mommies out there—and increase your customer loyalty and sales at the same time!

Tuesday
May032011

It's Just Speculation.... 

Do farmers who produce lots of corn set the price? I think not.

Do cattle ranchers who produce lots of beef set the price? I think not.

Do companies who explore for and produce lots of oil set the price of oil or gasoline? The answer is obvious-NO. They produce it and sell it for the market price of the commodity just like farmers and ranchers.

So why do consumers assume oil companies set the price of oil? I think it is because American consumers don’t understand how the price of commodities are set. It may be a good idea to learn this.

Corn producers, beef producers and oil producers function exactly the same—they are “Price Takers”, not “Price Makers.” They produce the goods and sell them for what the market gives them each day. Some days corn is $2 a bushel; other days it’s $5, just like beef and oil. If supply and demand were the only factors in what we pay for commodities today, I wouldn’t be writing this.

Gas is high today due to high crude oil prices, which I believe are inflated because there is no governance over how financial institutions can play in the market where the commodities prices are created. President Obama says he’s going to address this; we’ll see. It won’t be popular with those who have tons of money. You see, they use that money to speculate on the price of commodities even though they never produce, buy or sell any.

To read more, click here:

http://boston.cbslocal.com/2011/04/11/curious-why-oil-gas-prices-are-rising-so-quickly/.

Call your elected officials in Washington and tell them you want this to change!

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