The Simple Secrets of Getting Ahead in the C-Store Business

First, it is an established fact that getting ahead in the convenience store industry is much, much easier than in most any other industry. While we absolutely believe in the value of a good education–indeed many company’s help fund continuing education for their employees–our industry does not require a college degree.

Many managers and general managers worked their way up the ladder without a high school diploma, and most go back to get a GED & more.

I’ve been thinking about this subject matter for more than a year now, but it took a quote from William Feather, to get me started: "Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go" While I have never said it nearly that well, I’ve been preaching the premise for years. So let’s look at those "secrets of getting ahead." They are so overwhelmingly simple that you might have trouble believing them, but, let me ask, "What have you got to lose by keeping an open mind?" You will absolutely stand out from the crowd if you merely:

• Resist the urge to call in sick. This is a biggie and will immediately separate you from 75% of your co-workers. Yes, I know you genuinely don’t feel well some days and, tell the truth, a couple of hours later, most times at least, you are feeling just fine. I personally don’t want to take time off when I’m sick. Why? When busy I tend to forget how bad I feel. Discipline allows you to shine!

• Show up when you’re scheduled. And not one or 30 minutes later. You know it bugs the heck out of you when your shift replacement delays your carefully made plans.

• Show up with a good attitude and ready to work. Customers make choices every day about where they stop to buy gas, beer and cigarettes. They make these decisions as much on the basis of the person behind the counter as they do on price!

• Look and act the part. How really difficult is it to be bright, clean and looking sharp? When I say "act," that’s what I mean. The store and front counter is your stage. The customers are your audience and their smiles and compliments are your applause. You have an awesome opportunity to affect the way hundreds of people feel about the start or finish of their day every day!

• Do your share and a little more every day.

• Team players develop into team leaders. Simply put, be loyal to your paycheck, go the extra mile by doing things like volunteering to do the tough jobs. It makes the day go faster and you’ll like yourself better. Be a positive force and help lead others. Don’t turn a blind eye on a dishonest vendor or a cheating co-worker. Keep your integrity and honesty intact.

• Fight the urge to walk away when things are not going well. The c-store annals are full of stories of individuals who "stuck it out" through tough times and ended up in top management or even as owners of the business. Understand that your fellow workers feel the same as you. Every time one of them gives into discouragement and leaves, you are automatically elevated in management’s eyes. Stay the course. You’ll be glad you did.

• For goodness sake, give a notice if you find a better position. Giving notice once again separates you from the masses and, more importantly, in most cases it allows you to be rehired should another opportunity at the company arise. Having plans to return always keep your options open.

While I’ve said quite a bit, I have not said anything that resembles "difficult." We all have to work somewhere and convenience stores present an increasing and constantly improving opportunity for meaningful employment and advancement. In a difficult world, indeed, convenience stores are a veritable emergency room for workers and travelers.

Jim Callahan is marketing director for Geo. H. Green Oil Co. in Fairburn, Ga. His Convenience Solutions blog appears regularly on   


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