Planning for Strategic Growth
Greg Parker on his plans for the next decade and how he intends to become a multibillion-dollar company.
Like the classic double-edged sword, growth can impart strength or it can lead to a company’s demise. Companies that grow too quickly and without preserving their core values are vulnerable to failure. Branding messages and execution can become diluted. Company leaders can lose touch with key team members. These are key challenges when a company is in a major growth phase.
Smart growth involves planning and preparation, long before more stores are added to the company ledger sheet. There are nuts-and-bolts considerations related to financing, as well as big-picture questions about what it really means to be successful.
Preparing for Growth
One of the first steps is to get your finances in order. Consult with experts from a number of different financial institutions and get preapproved for financing. At Parker’s, we’re preparing for acquisitions of up to $100 million, which requires strategic planning and creative financing.
Unfortunately, there’s a perfect storm brewing in the c-store industry, one that threatens to knock many companies out of the running: the increasing cost of health care for salaried employees. At Parker’s, we expect it will cost our company nearly $1 million annually to fully comply with the Affordable Care Act. That’s certainly a bitter pill to swallow, and not every company will be able to absorb these extra health-care costs, especially when factoring the diminishing profits of gas and cigarettes.
The resulting fallout will bring opportunities to expanding companies. While we at Parker’s plan to build new stores, we will take a closer look at acquiring existing stores and chains on a case-by-case basis.
To be successful, we’ve established key performance indicators, or KPIs, for our business, and we review those numbers daily, weekly, monthly and annually to make sure we stay on track. Look at three-year averages for metrics such as gross profit per labor dollar and break-even cents per gallon to make sure your numbers are trending in the right direction.
I truly believe that when you make success measurable, you make it achievable. Set clear, measurable goals to ensure long-term success, particularly during an expansion. Establish a dashboard to measure success and monitor it often.
The Importance of Technology
Technology is key to succeeding in the 21st century marketplace and is a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to corporate growth.
I’m obsessed with technology and am proud to use the latest technology at the pump, at the cash register and in our communication with customers. It’s a tool that encourages customer loyalty and, in turn, helps forge an emotional connection with consumers.
Parker’s was the first c-store company to use LIFT technology to quantify the customer service experience at the point of sale and to enhance suggestive selling. We can make our customer service even better, thanks to this simple, easy-to-use technology. Since we started using LIFT, we’ve increased our suggestive selling by 5.5%.