By George Benson
Executive recruiting in the convenience store trade channel is a unique undertaking reserved for the brave at heart. Beyond the demand for process excellence and detail, there is a desire from hiring authorities that the candidates presented for consideration be million dollar producers in a multitude of varying disciplines.
This is not surprising, when one notes the high on-site destination experience now expected by mobile consumers. It’s a reverse domino effect. High expectations all round equal high performance and increased profitability. That is a great and glorious development that bodes well for the dynamic c-store industry.
The upshot is that today’s executive recruiter is deemed to be knowledgeable in all areas of c-store environs by both vendor and retailer groups alike and why not?
To recruit the million-dollar producing specialist you have to have an expansive knowledge of an industry now managed by a team of relative newcomers. The adaptive fuel executive of old is being replaced by a new breed in an array of specialized arenas previously alien to the c-store world.
The challenge for executive recruiters is to keep up with industry trends, innovations and therefore new talent streams and disciplines. Five years ago mid-management and upper level jobs in the sector revolved around a dozen traditional activities in the c-store, including tobacco, fountain, beer, candy, coffee, salty snacks, some breakfast bites, pre-packaged sandwiches and a roller grill to round it all off.
In today’s world, the foodservice offering alone is a giant revenue contributor teeming with dozens of novel extensions and job opportunities. A review of some recent QSR search assignments (that’s what executive recruiters call “jobs”) permeating the industry reveal position titles such as fresh food manager, menu development specialist, franchise branded food director and gourmet hot beverage offering coordinator, to name just a few.
The forecourt, as our English friends call the pump island area, is also exploding with an array of new job positions circling the dispensers. From loyalty managers to card payment specialists with RFID exposures to cell system integrators, environment designers and VP’s of market innovation. The list of hitherto unknown jobs seems to be taking over mainstream c-store America.
C-store recruiters better be on top of their game to professionally and accurately fill these positions. “Fast-paced and ever-changing” is one way to describe the new station and store world. No doubt there is a lot of experimentation in product, place, price, promotion and people going on at the moment.
But the people end of the equation is really intriguing because you can trend the direction of industry activity by measuring the open position descriptions and salaries offered.
For the executive c-store recruiter more vendor and retailer jobs on the market means that the industry is recovering fast from the recessionary flu. But there’s much more to the analysis than that.
The message we are getting is that the savvy supplier and retailer are dissecting their categories into smaller, more defined and efficient-based slices. As a result, the micro-segment specialist is outpacing the category manager, who themselves replaced the generalist.
The trends show us that foodservice franchising, payment loyalty systems, alternate fuels, space management and forecourt marketing are a few of the top trending jobs. These have emerged without displacing traditionals such as merchandising, wholesale, inventory management, operations and logistics.
Vendor supplier groups are very responsible for pushing the envelope with respect to footprint exploitation, and retailers, by and large, have been very receptive to test the limits of consumer purchasing behavioral responses.
Hence the executive recruiting challenges to occasionally move outside the c-store industry and search for top talent in other trade channels and industries. It’s very exciting, but most of all it is a glimpse into the future of our great industry and the step-up recruiting efforts needed to fill these new voids.
George Benson is a convenience store and petroleum retail veteran and currently serves as vice president of market strategies at H.L.T. Enterprises. He can be reached at (800) 470-4226.