The 2013 National Advisory Group (NAG) conference kicked off on Sunday, Sept. 15 at the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel in Nashville.
NAG is part of Harbor Communications and the Convenience Store Decisions Group. It is an association driven by retailers for retailers and is an organization committed to building profits and relationships. NAG is aimed at small to mid-size convenience chains and the executives that run them.
Monday, Sept. 16 included a full day of burning issue sessions as well as information exchanges. The Information Exchanges are the heart and soul of what makes NAG unique. During the information exchanges, attendees are placed into small groups of non-competing chains to discuss relevant business issues.
Neil Trautwein, vice president, employee benefits policy counsel, National Retail Federation, started off the burning issue sessions with a presentation on what retailers need to know about healthcare reform.
While the Obama Administration has announced a one-year delay of employer mandate and reporting requirements, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) continues moving forward and retailers need to be prepared. “Above all else, remember that a year is not that long. We may not be looking at Armageddon on Jan. 1, 2014, but it’s still close to us,” Trautwein warned.
Still many pieces of the ACA are barreling ahead in 2014, such as state-based health insurance exchanges, individual mandate, premium tax credits, Medicaid expansion, additional insurance market reforms, health insurance tax/other industry taxes, reinsurance fee.
Trautwein recommended using 2014 to build and test systems, in order to be prepared for 2015.
The Future of Tobacco
Bonnie Herzog, the managing director and senior beverage and tobacco analyst for Wells Fargo Securities LLC, spoke on the overall state of the tobacco category, including the future of e-cigarettes.
“We think consumption of e-cigs could surpass conventional cigs within the next decade,” she noted. “The combined profit pool (of cigarettes and e-cigarettes) could grow at a CARG of 7.2% over the next decade.”
Herzog noted that the e-cigarette category is currently highly fragmented, and Wells Fargo expects consolidation over time. Big tobacco is a fan of regulation, as regulation will likely make it more difficult to enter the category and those already entrenched will grow more successful. While e-cigs are currently unregulated in the U.S., introducing regulations on “other tobacco products” including e-cigs is a priority for the FDA. “We expect to hear something soon—likely in October 2013,” Herzog noted. She added it’s expected that online e-cig ordering could disappear.
“We don’t anticipate e-cig regulation will be any more onerous than regulation of conventional cigarettes. One of the biggest concerns we have is if e-cig regulation stiles innovation in the category,” she said.
Creating a Customer Service Culture
John Ranalletta, senior consultant for ADVISA spoke about Predictive Index (PI) a personality assessment that reveals what motivates people to action, to create a customer service culture.
Not only can the test assess which potential employees might be best suited to certain types of positions, allowing them to use their own natural behavior in the best way, but it also allows managers to understand how they might better relate their employees based on what motivates them.
“If we don’t change our own behaviors, we will likely not affect change,” noted Ranalletta. “Knowing an employee’s personality helps train them faster.”
The test measures employees on the spectrums of dominance, extroversion, patience and formality (or conforming to rules). Ranalletta noted that hiring managers should first understand the personality of the job they are trying to fill and then hire employees who exhibit those personalities and behaviors. But keeping the right employees is another part of the battle.
“More often than not, employees who quit don’t quit their jobs, they quit their managers,” he explained. The last step is to teach your managers to treat employees the way you want them to treat customers. Managers should also consider what motivates employees. Ranalletta noted risk adverse, task oriented employees, might feel stressed if more uncertain tasks where they don’t understand the expectations are forced upon them. Being a good manager— 99 out of 100 times—means changing what you do in order to fit your employees needs in order to motivate them to behave in a way that fits what you need them to do to be successful, Ranalletta explained.
On Tuesday, Sept. 17, the conference includes a session from Impact 21 Group, giving a competitive channel overview, from the current state of the c-store industry to what the competition is doing.
Brian Milne, energy editor and product manager for Schneider Electric/DTN Energy is also set to present on understanding the changing demand for fuels and alternative fuels.