Keeping Your Cool in Turbulent Times

In order to change the outcome of a situation that plagues your operation, the quickest way to empower yourself is to take action as soon as possible.

By Jim Callahan.

Since the recession of 2009 hit, it has taken the skills of a tightrope walker to navigate the treacherous economic pitfalls to stay profitable. For those of us in the trenches, this is becoming more and more difficult to accomplish with every passing month.

While some stores may be facing overcrowding, examining the facility with a critical eye and objectivity can help you find a new solution to an existing problem.

But despite the financial difficulties many of our consumers (and companies) are facing, we must push on with new programs and value-added services that drive new business. One of the most important lessons I have learned through the years is that in order to keep your balance when times get rough, one must maintain a good sense of humor without losing perspective of how serious the situation can be. Once you can truly understand the bigger picture and begin to see that everyone has troubles, the sooner you will be able to develop solutions that will make you a better person and an even better retailer.

My best advice, though, is to analyze each troubling situation in a different way than you do now. When a
difficult situation arises, we all tend to wish our problems away. That is not going to help you achieve a balance. Owning up to the reality of the situation will help you achieve a true solution. If we could gain the wisdom to realize and appreciate how much worse things could be, we would surely feel a lot less troubled. Remember the quote from Persian poet Sa’di: “I was sad because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”

Taking Control
One of our leading multi-store dealers has a small, busy store, but he was afraid to reduce the number of items he offered for fear of losing sales. We got together with grocery supplier Eby-Brown last moth and walked the store several times before brainstorming for solutions. The results were fantastic as we were able to reduce the number of aisles from four to three and completely open up the store. This improved the image and spacing, making it much more shoppable without any real loss.

Using velocity reports we eliminated slow-moving items, such as cutting down three varieties of dog food to two, and did the same with canned goods, dish detergent, soaps and other grocery items, some of which had as many as eight choices.
Our collective thinking was that most people don’t shop for groceries at convenience stores anymore, but if they do, they would be willing to substitute Tide for Gain in a pinch.

We also brought in a space-saving upright ice cream freezer, eliminating the large reach-in unit that took up too much space, hung the sunglasses from elegant ceiling displays and carried out a host of other innovative actions that opened up floor space. This example shows that you can make a bad situation much better with a can-do attitude.

Perhaps my most recent example might inspire your creativity. I lost my brother Tom in May, and while we would have loved to keep him around much longer, my sisters and I got to see him a mere two weeks earlier when he was as vibrant and happy as ever. His love of life and his wonderful family are a constant reminder for me of how to approach things with an open mind and of how to recognize the good even in a bad situation.

Remember, keep grounded by your humility and sense of humor, but always be inspired by your dreams and enjoy life’s wild ride. It only comes once to each of us.

Jim Callahan has more than 40 years of experience as a convenience store and petroleum marketer. His Convenience Store Solutions blog appears regularly on He can be reached at (678) 485-4773 or via e-mail at


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