A visit to BP’s ampm stores a few years ago convinced Simon that BP’s established ampm brand—and its decision to divest itself of stores in the Midwest—was an opportunity for Atlas to acquire stores for its own dealers, as well as operate more stores on its own.
In December 2007, Atlas forged an alliance with BP, rebranding five newly acquired stores to the ampm brand. In September last year, the company acquired 23 BP sites in Indiana, followed by the acquisition of 57 BP stores in the Chicago area.
“These are some big stores we’re talking about,” Simon said. “They’re top-notch locations. We’re putting a lot of effort into our infrastructure to operate our own stores.
“If I can’t run them well, I don’t want them,” he said. “That’s going to be a factor for us. We’re taking that leap and preparing ourselves to run them well. We made a decision to go into operations, but we’re going to do it the right way. I know nobody goes into convenience stores to do it the wrong way, but we’re putting all our effort into focusing on service.”
To help its dealers, store managers and other retailers on this front, Simon’s retail team launched Atlas University to provide ongoing training and development.
“We’re helping not just our own locations, we want to help the dealers,” Simon said. “Are they buying right for their stores? Are they pricing right? Are they looking at their numbers right? That’s all part of Atlas University, trying to create that environment that adds value to this business.”
Atlas retained 7 of the 23 Indiana stores to operate on its own, while the particulars on the 57 stores in Chicago are still being sifted.
“It’s not about how many stores you have, it’s about going through and doing it the right way,” Simon said. “I’m not worried about the growth, because the growth will come.
“Numbers don’t lead, they follow,” he said. “You have to have the business plan, the culture, the strategy and everything else in place. People always look at the numbers first, but the numbers follow. If we do all the right things, the growth will be there for us. We’ve always demonstrated that.”