It’s been quite a year for Valerie Conley.
On the heels of being named Nice N Easy Manager of The Year, she received a promotion to district manager, her former store in Carthage, N.Y. was honored as Retail Store of the Year by the Carthage Chamber of Commerce and she is about to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
Conley joined Nice N Easy five years ago after a 15-year career with Federal Express where she worked as a senior manager focused on making employees more productive. She is using this background to help with her present role.
“We’re currently in the implementation stage of a time motion study at Nice N Easy,” Conley said. “At each location we are conducting a workshop to help them build better schedules from the information we collected throughout the company.”
Path to Success
Conley joined Nice N Easy as an associate in the chain’s foodservice department, but within a couple of weeks she was promoted to store manager of the chain’s Star Lake, N.Y. location. Eighteen months later, Conley moved on to manage the Carthage unit, where she remained for three years. In December, she was honored as Manager of the Year for her work in 2008.
She credits her ability to lead others for helping her receive the honor. “Developing other people is one of the most rewarding parts for a manager—bringing out their strengths, bringing them together as a team, and then creating a vision and instilling that vision into them and watching it flower,” Conley said. “I don’t really know that it was me. I had a great group of people willing to listen to me and follow me, and together we were able to do tremendous things with the Carthage location.”
Moving On Up
In May, Conley was promoted to district manager. In addition to implementing the time motion study, she now oversees seven store locations.
As district manager, Conley’s goal has been to ensure employees have what they need to do the best possible job. “I’ve always felt my employees don’t work for me, I work for them. It’s my job to give them the knowledge and the tools they need to do their jobs,” she said.
To help store managers feel more supported, Conley has instituted weekly conference calls to help managers feel like part of a team that’s bigger than just their store.
Despite her recent promotion, Conley isn’t about to slow down. She currently is a full time student at the University of Phoenix and will be graduating with a business degree in January. Once she graduates, she plans to pursue a master’s degree also in business.
“Nice N Easy has been so supportive and has helped me fulfill a dream. For the longest time, I’ve wanted to go back to school and these folks made it possible, and they build some loyalty by helping me,” she said.
While she is now engaged in a completely different industry, Conley finds the work environment, particularly the focus on employees, to be similar to what she saw at FedEx.
“Both Nice N Easy and Federal Express are people companies where employees are involved and the management styles promote people’s ideas and job enrichment,” she said.
When it comes to leadership, Conley advises other managers to remember the power of putting people first. “You can learn from everyone, not just from mentors, but from the great ideas of your frontline people, who do the job everyday,” she said. “There is a lot of competition in this industry. It’s important that our people do a great job.”