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The convenience store industry is an ever-changing world and there are several ways to handle it. Operators can sit back, wait for change to come to them and then roll with the punches. Or, they can look change in the eyes and meet its challenges head on. Leaders take the second approach.
The theme of leadership was at the core of the 2014 American Wholesale Marketers Association (AWMA) Marketplace & Solutions Expo, held in Las Vegas in late February.
Speaking as someone who knows change well and rose up to face it, AWMA?s 2014 Chairman Mark Davenport detailed his decision-making process in selling his family-owned business. Davenport is division president of Core-Mark Carolina, a division of Core-Mark International Inc. However, he was president of J.T. Davenport & Sons, a family-owned convenience store supply company, until December 2012 when he sold the business to Core-Mark.
J.T. Davenport & Sons traced its history back 95 years to Davenport?s great-grandfather. The business was passed down from generation to generation, with his father eventually taking the helm. There came a point in time, though, when J.T. Davenport & Sons began exploring strategic opportunities ? both through acquiring smaller companies or being acquired itself.
?The family business was our lives ? you talked about it at dinner, you talked about it on vacation,? Davenport recalled, noting that he didn?t think his father was ready or wanted to sell the company. It wasn?t until Davenport took the reins in 1995 that company executives began considering a sale as a serious strategic move.
?I get asked this question every day, and I can say I have never regretted the decision,? he said. ?We took a 95-year-old business and turned it into a bigger, stronger business. It?s the circle of life.?
Making a critical decision such as selling a family-owned business ? in an industry known for family-owned businesses ? takes leadership. According to Tom Flick, a former National Football League quarterback and motivational speaker who took the stage during the AWMA event, one obstacle to leading is that most people do not see the distinction between leadership vs. management. Leadership, Flick said, is about creating vision and strategy, communicating that vision and strategy, motivating action, and creating systems that allow for growth, execution and new opportunities.
Fostering leadership is a key component of AWMA?s agenda. Accordingly, the association used this year?s expo to kick off its Women?s Leadership Initiative.
Debbie Robins, president of Century Distributors Inc., led the effort to establish this program after attending a CEO boot camp sponsored by American Express in the fall. According to Robins, the goal is to provide opportunities for women in the industry, inspire through guest speakers and learn from one another.