The Dangers of Complacency

By  Paul Reuter, Chairman emeritus and contributing editor

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A great part of my job is getting to  read our team’s interviews with  industry leaders, and sometimes do  interviews myself. I am always interested  in what I can personally learn and apply. 

Over the past few months, comments  from Wawa CEO Howard Stoeckel and  Kum & Go CEO Kyle Krause have stayed  with me. From Kyle: “Complacency is  the greatest threat to our channel.” And  when I met with Howard, I asked what  was one of his biggest concerns in his  more than a decade of running Wawa.  His reply: “Making sure we did not get  complacent.” 

Complacency is in the top 1% of  lookups and is the 73rd most popular  word on MerriamWebster.com. The  site’s definition: “self-satisfaction, especially  when accompanied by unawareness  of actual dangers or deficiencies.” 

So in an industry facing credit-card  fees, competitive channels, government  regulation and the need to understand  our recession-battered, ethnically  diverse customer base, how are we  doing? What can we grab hold of and  shake if indeed we think we suspect a  bit of complacency has crept into our  world? 

The competitive channels are getting  more newsworthy. Dollar General  now counts 10,000 stores; DG is in our  business in most categories and moving  aggressively into tobacco. Walgreens and  most of the other big drug chains are  getting into foodservice. These channel  blurrers use the word “convenience” in  their company purpose as if they really  mean it. 

Investigate a little deeper and it’s  obvious that Wawa or Kum & Go are  driven to take on the future. For example,  Kum & Go has been measuring customer  loyalty since 2008 through Satmetrix  Systems Inc. Customers were asked the  question, “How likely is it that you would  recommend Kum & Go to a friend or  colleague?” They ranked Kum & Go second,  just behind Trader Joe’s, but ahead  of Wegmans, Costco and Publix. 

At CSP’s Restaurant Leadership Conference  (RLC), Howard told the 1,500  attendees, “We now want to be viewed  as a restaurant that sells gas” and “My  dream is to become the most appetizing  convenience retailer.” (I am sure we will  see that in the new Wawa store design in  Florida this summer.) 

But maybe Kyle’s and Howard’s mentions  of complacency hit home for me  most when I was listening to Herman  Cain address our RLC audience on the  need to fix Washington, D.C. I thought,  “Hey, CSP gives to NACSPAC.” In fact,  I was asked to write a column for the  March NACS magazine in part to let  folks know that CSP is the first company  in our industry to institute a NACSPAC  voluntary payroll deduction plan. About  40% of our c-store team has enrolled. So  I figured we were done. Leave the fixing  to the fixers. 

Cain not only laid out why he thinks  D.C. is broken, but also told us how we  can do something about it. His message  was very clear and direct about what we  can do in addition to supporting a PAC.  As business leaders we have an opportunity—  and responsibility—to educate  those in our companies about the issues  that challenge our future and the views  of our elected officials on these issues. 

We have a tool that it seems almost  daily shocks us with its potency. Our  call to action is to use the Internet as one  of our top fix-it tools. Our voice can be  heard and our well-informed employees  can make a difference in D.C. 

So the message for me: I was complacent.  I thought, “Well, we have done our  part at CSP with NACSPAC support.” In  fact, we can do so much more. If government  regulation is one of our greatest  threats, then let’s rally on how we can  make that difference. Social media has  reorganized the Mideast; D.C. is a lot  closer, and it could be easier to do the  same there. (Some may argue it would  not be as easy.) 

So to those who want to take complacency  head on, I would like to tell you  about two learnings from a personalgrowth  seminar I attended. I heard  that if you conceive an idea, and if you  believe it, you will find a way to achieve  it. So if you conceive and believe, you  will achieve. And another reminder: In  all regards, we act the way we think.  So what do you think? Let me know  at preuter@cspnet.com.  

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