Inspiring a Solid Work Ethic

Consider this an open letter to the young men and women that work in our stores. If you want to advance, don’t let your bosses out work you.

By Jim Callahan.

Did you ever wonder how older co-workers keep going long after many of their younger cohorts seem to have worn down and out?  I’m talking about us bent-but-not-broken senior citizens who have seen it all, but still feel like we have a lot to prove.  Now, let’s get this straight, this isn’t a column aimed at taking the younger generation to task for a lax work ethic, but rather an opportunity for me to share some of the simple secrets of success I’ve acquired from my many, many, many….many, years of experience in this wonderful industry. This is, indeed, a “pay-it-forward” occasion.

The secret to success for employees in retail is all in their attitude. If you’re not familiar with Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market, you have to take a few minutes to learn about the special retail environment these young men have created by, of all things, tossing fish. (You can view a preview of the Pike Place Fish Market.)

In one of the videos, a young man working at the market came to work under the weather and, despite not feeling good, said with all of the enthusiasm he could muster, “I can do this.” He continued with a comment we should all live be. “We get to choose our attitude every day and today I’m going to be great.” With those words, that young man enlightened and furthered this old warrior’s education.

I hear so many healthy, young people constantly inform the world of how tired they are. To me, tired is a euphemism for bad attitude. Tired is an excuse that allows you to lack motivation. Some people never make the leap from tired to inspired, but I’m sure we all know some folks who have, and that’s who I’d like you to focus on for now.

Staying in the Game
I’ve related before that my mother worked 15 hours a day, seven days a week for more than 20 years and this when she was in her 50’s. As I recall, I was too tired to help her much back then. But now in my 70’s, 15 hour days are an absolute walk in the park. Eight hours sleep is nice, but six hours works just fine.

I am a firm believer that in order to be successful in this industry—and really anything you want to do in life—you have to maintain the right attitude. And if you are going to be successful at maintaining the right attitude you must be able to shut out tired and bring out inspired.  

Senior management continuously looks for people who are promotable—the executive leaders of tomorrow. This industry depends on finding them and training them, for they are the lifeblood and its future.  

Eleven years ago we hired a young lady who, like most young people, had some growing pains. I’d like to tell you that I immediately saw her enormous potential, but I really didn’t. She had to convince me over a period of time that she was inspired. Somewhere along the way, this young lady, Claudette, got the message and today she is a vital part of overseeing our busiest truck stop. She is as close to indispensable as you can get. She disciplines herself to put the job and her livelihood near the top of her priority list. I applaud her growth and hope to see more of it.

So, for folks looking to get ahead in the convenience store industry, be like the young man in the video, choose your attitude and tell yourself, “I can do this.”

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



  1. Great article Jim!  ATTITUDE is one of the key focuses here at The Center for Work Ethic Development. We say, “Stay enthusiastic. Positive people are in short supply and high demand!!” Check out the values and behaviors we’ve created to drive performance and productivity (key for convenience stores!).

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