“John has taught me the folks in the store have the toughest job here,” Tamburro says, citing that new administrative employees often work in the stores to better understand the daily pressures involved. “This office is in full support of store operations. [If] a store manager calls here, they’re the priority, around the clock.”
More Mr. Nice Guy
Coming from that place of mutual respect and empathy, MacDougall is emphatic that the culture of “nice” be present in the stores in the same way he uses it as a guide in his business relationships.
It’s a caring mindset that would lead him to embrace the larger c-store community, as shown in MacDougall’s work in founding the New York Association of Convenience Stores (NYACS), Albany, N.Y. Along with industry colleagues Bob Seng and Dick Warrender, he helped found the association in 1986, spurred by legislation forcing c-stores to collect bottles for carbonated beverages in the state’s nickel deposit and redemption program. Avoiding the burden on stores to collect and store recyclables in their small spaces was ultimately a loss, but the effort did create a longstanding voice for the channel within the state. (Legislation expanded to bottled water in 2009, but the association was able to help block similar legislation for iced teas, sports drinks and flavored water.)
“John and other visionary leaders recognized that while existing organizations were serving grocery stores and petroleum marketers, there wasn’t one specific to c-stores,” says Jim Calvin, president of NYACS. “And in order to advance the interests of the industry, they would need to have their own association.”
But that’s not to say “nice” is the solution to every situation. Much of the time, mutual respect and civility rule both his everyday and more complicated creative processes, but things can go wrong.
“When we’ve been pretty clear about the direction and the goal and you spend time putting together plans and [people don’t] follow through, then the ‘N’ on my chest comes off,” MacDougall says, “because I want productivity. I’m not here to be your buddy. I will be your friend and drink a beer with you, but produce.”
(Editor’s note: If John MacDougall raises his index finger to you in frustration, you’re a “cooked goose.”)
“Obviously, John is more complex than just being nice,” says Jack Cushman, executive vice president of foodservice for Nice N Easy. “He’s demanding, he’s a visionary, he’s a perfectionist. But the thing that separates John is that after he talks to you, he leaves you with your dignity. He doesn’t berate you … or do anything to discourage you. He challenges you, but being challenged is motivating.”
And MacDougall has had to lead his team through tough battles, mostly waged against external forces. One of the more notable, of course, has been with local Native Americans. MacDougall even went to Congress to testify about the activity going on in his market.