Finding Opportunity in Every Challenge

By  Mitch Morrison, Vice President & Group Editor

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The thrill of the young child’s voice permeated through his father’s goose bumps. After a year of fits and falls, the child shared the good news by phone in the earlyevening hours as his father finished his work day.

“Dad, I rode the bike. And I didn’t even fall, not once.”

The child is my younger son, Daniel. The two-wheeler is just the latest in what will, God willing, be a long, healthy life of turning challenges into opportunities.

That is, in essence, the message and metaphor of this month’s cover story. There may be no industry leader more gifted than Greg Parker in making and maximizing his opportunities. The story, by Angel Abcede, is rife with details, metrics and the keen analysis that places Parker’s chain among the industry’s top 1% in per-store profitability.

For me, however, the heart of the story is Greg’s blend of childlike curiosity and meticulous thinking. Parker’s c-stores are architecturally memorable, a gallery of unique designs, treatments and hues. No less important, Greg’s category assortment and management rank among the very best in our industry. There is a level of artistry that molds every store and every decision.

 It’s Greg’s inner artist that fascinates me, though. During a recent call, he spoke excitedly about a new pilot he was employing, one that simplified upselling at the checkout—a skill more prevalent among QSRs than in the convenience channel.

The technology is great, he effused, and has stoked inside sales by an impressive percentage. Greg was clearly impressed, but what caught me was the youthful energy of an adult who had finally found a solution to a longtime vexing problem. I was also intrigued by the level of his thinking. It was not enough that the device simplifies checkout upselling. Parker envisions the tool as another barometer to reward top-performing store clerks. Sell more at the checkout and receive a bonus.

But don’t let the thinking stop there: Am I scheduling my best cashiers at the most opportune hours of the day? Are there untapped evening opportunities that could be enhanced by different clerks? What about upselling during the morning rush: Does that endanger speed of transaction or is there a greater upside? What are the new bundling combinations that have yet to be tested? The beauty of Greg Parker is not only his intellectual curiosity but also his resolve to find the answers. What about you? What is your twowheeler test, your bicycle of fits and falls? And how do you respond when you fall?

For Greg, I suspect it’s the What’s Next question in his mind: how to continually make customers with already high expectations marvel over his next creation and to continually surprise and delight customers who patronize his current retail network. These questions are essential if one is to grow both personally and professionally. But there is an even more fundamental question, and that is this: Are you a thriver or a survivor? Do you view life as something to pass through or do you get excited by the challenges and, in fact, create your own challenges?

Those who seek to thrive take risks and abhor complacency. Theirs is a life’s journey bounded by curiosity’s continued questions and the rich appetite to find the answers. It’s a life excited by fueling what is next rather than waiting for “next” to happen.

This is the lesson of Greg Parker, and it is the message of Dean Durling, CSP’s Retailer Leader of the Year, who’ll be featured on next month’s cover. And it is the path of an irrepressible child determined to master a two-wheeler to begin his next journey. 

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