Culture and Performance: The QT Way
Fresh-faced and exuding boyish charm, Chet Cadieux hardly looks much past his early adolescence. So it wasn’t a stretch when the conversation digressed to his ultimate fantasy.
“Someday, they’re going to come out with Triple Stuf Oreo. I’m just going to lie on my back like a submissive dog with a bag of them on my chest eating them.”
Mmmmmm. It’s the ultimate in indulgent, decadent, gut-expanding creamy fillings. I’m with you, Chet.
Let’s contrast that image with what customers see every moment of everyday at any of the 600 QuikTrip stores: an aerobic exercise of workers’ hands and feet, cleaning, stocking, supporting, retailing, pleasing.
The dual images—of fun and orchestrated frenzy—make up the two-sided coin that defines QT and its likable leader.
During our three-hour meeting, Cadieux is a medley of mannerisms. His countless hand gestures and facial expressions are instruments of a conductor with purpose. For all the whirling, if there is one word I would use for Chet it is this: present.
Throughout our meeting, he is focused and refreshingly undistracted(no texting, emailing, etc.). His thoughts are centered, his listening attentive. He is collegial and animated, and these qualities play out at the stores, where he easily banters with QT associates.
At the same time, as he discusses fuel algorithms, demographic analytics and consumer predictability, it takes little time to appreciate his impressive intelligence and ability to integrate complex data points into a cohesive strategy.
For all the acumen Cadieux offers and the wisdom he learned from his father, Chester, there is something that I almost missed that may be the most important ingredient in QT’s extraordinary success. Pride.
During a store visit, two employees, a man and woman in their early 20s, shared their QT experiences with me. The man told me of friends who worked for QT, one who within a few years had ascended to store manager, and how he was now being encouraged to apply for a job.
The woman smiled and quipped, “Girls really like a guy in red.”
So true. The QT polo shirt is a source of pride and attention, a measurement that the guy or gal is all right, is responsible, mature and knows how to balance fun with focus.
For all the great convenience companies I’ve seen and spent time with, I’ve never quite encountered one whose very brand rubs off on its associates and, likewise, whose associates rub off on the brand.
This extraordinary culture—the nearest kin of which may be Kwik Trip—plays out tangibly in the field. In market analysis, we found that a typical QuikTrip store will pump two to four times the fuel volume of a typical c-store. It’s massive volume, pure and simple.
Inside, a QT location generates at least twice the sales of most convenience stores. That is simply extraordinary on multiple fronts. Specifically, QT is not like Wawa, which is known for incredibly fresh-tasting hoagies. Nor is QT the main game in most towns in the way of a Casey’s, which marvelously serves many smaller communities.
At least two factors, in my opinion, make the QT store such a draw: people and extraordinary consistency.
I’ve already shared with you the people culture that penetrates every aspect of the QT brand, and you can read much more in our cover feature on p. 38. But there is also the incredible consistency: the fountain drinks that annually rank among the very best in flavor and freshness and variety; the attention to cleanliness, from the bathrooms to the roller grill and the coffee bar; and the ever present promise to continually improve.
When talking about foodservice, Cadieux is clear: “We’re not there yet. We’re getting better, but we’re still not there. We will get there. It may be in 10 years or 20 years, but we will get there.”
And that is the ethos of QuikTrip’s culture: a promise of continuous improvement and knowing that as good as we are today, there is room to be better tomorrow.