How Should a Leader Lead?
Whether you’re a c-store owner or a Fortune 500 CEO,
the best combination of leadership qualities, Gest says,
is a strong sense of optimism and a clear vision of
what’s possible. Also, strong leaders must be willing
to listen and learn. “A strong leader knows the differ-
ence between flip-flopping and allowing new infor-
mation to allow them to switch gears.”
Then, there’s the customer. All customers typically
want is to be greeted when they arrive and leave—and
to quickly find what they’re looking for. And, yes, per-
haps enjoy a little human interaction.
Gest recalls recently standing in line to check-in at
a hotel. When it was her turn to check in, the woman
at the front desk never greeted her or even lifted her
eyes from the keyboard to acknowledge her existence.
When Gest finally spoke up and said, “Excuse me,” the
woman coldly responded, without looking up: “Hold
on. I’ve got to finish what I’m doing.” Ouch.
Compare that to a recent c-store experience Gest had
when a vanilla cappuccino she received from a self-serve
machine came out looking more like water than coffee.
When she complained to the cashier, the employee not
only apologized, but made her a fresh cup and refused
to let her pay for it. “That was above and beyond—she
took responsibility and solved the problem.”
Keeping up with customers also means keeping up
with technology. The Starbucks app, for example, that
now allows customers to order and pay for their bev-
erages before they get to the stores—and skip the
line—can’t be ignored. “You are no longer just com-
peting with other c-stores when Starbucks is more
convenient than the convenience store,” she says.
Her best tip to c-store executives: Bring more of
yourself to what you’re doing each day. In an era where
technology sometimes seems to pull us apart, simple
human kindness—and a bit a humor—can be a beacon,
she says. “People are more drawn to other people when
we let ourselves shine.”
Gest will be shining onstage at NACS. But don’t
worry—she’s agreed not to paraglide in.
Bruce Horovitz, a freelance writer and marketing consultant, is a former USA Today marketing
reporter and Los Angeles Times marketing columnist. Horovitz, who also writes the monthly
“Endcap" trends column for NACS Magazine,
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
October 18, 2016 | 12: 30 to 1:45pm
Imagine a future where every employee at every level of
“How c-store employees
the 154,000-plus convenience store universe was
worthy of a Most Valuable Player award. Imagine a
future where everyone you interacted with, from truck
drivers and cashiers to sales reps and managers,
treated you like an MVP and owned their role with
passion and commitment. Now, imagine laughing and learning as Merit Gest kicks off our the
NACS Show and shares what’s possible for our future: MVPs everywhere!
treat each customer
who walks in the door
is absolutely critical.
There simply is no
substitute for positive,