NAG YEO Roundtable Kicks Off

Young executives in the c-store industry share insights and advice on overcoming the challenges of being a next generation leader.

On Monday, April 1, Convenience Store Decisions hosted the National Advisory Group’s (NAG) Young Executives Organization Roundtable in Rosemont, Ill.

The Young Executives Organization (YEO) is the convenience store industry’s only group focused exclusively on young and next generation executives age 40 and younger. The event marked the first solo YEO Event for an organization still growing.

Ben Jatlow, the vice president and general manager for High’s of Baltimore, and the board chairman of YEO, kicked off the meeting with a group discussion regarding the challenges unique to young executives in the convenience store industry, including the hurdles inherent in being a next generation leader in a family business.

Alex Olympidis, director of operations at Family Express Corp. noted he’s found it’s important to take it slow when implementing new ideas. “It’s tempting to want to impact change today, but let the organization move with you,” he said.

While the older generation can at times be resistant to change, Jeff Jones, chief operating officer of C.N. Brown Co., noted forming personal relationships with people—instead of just a business relationship—and listening to their concerns over a specific new direction can help ease a transition. Taking the time to explain the research and facts leading to the need for a change can help overcome any resistance and even bring people around to your team.

Human resources expert Mel Kleiman, of Kleiman HR, spoke with the group about best hiring practices, and how to ensure you have and continue to target the best employees on your team. Attendees shared information on their hiring and recruiting practices and what has worked for their companies.

Kleiman pointed out some of the mistakes c-stores make when it comes to hiring. The first he noted is underestimating the importance of their front-line employees. “If the person behind the counter doesn’t have a smile, the customer cares,” he warned. Other mistakes involve failing to have a clearly definite picture in mind of the qualities and abilities of your ideal employee. 

“In many cases the convenience store industry is never an industry of choice as far as where people aspire to work, but it is a great industry of opportunity, especially for people who are reliable and have strong customer service skills and a team focus. Convenience stores need to tailor that message—that it’s a great industry of opportunity. Why aren’t we sending that message?” noted Kleiman.

The young executives shared social media strategies and ideas, as well as ways of measuring success on social media. 

Attendees also spoke on strategies for maintaining a work/life balance and what that means as a young executive in today’s convenience store industry.

The next YEO event is set for the 2014 NAG conference, which takes place in San Antonio, Sept. 7-9. To register, or for more information about joining YEO, contact John Lofstock, NAG Executive Director, at or (201) 837-2177.





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