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LAS VEGAS -- The convenience store industry is an ever-changing world, and one person who knows a lot about change is Mark Davenport, the 2014 chairman of the American Wholesale Marketers Association (AWMA).
Davenport is the 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 family business to Core-Mark.
Speaking the AWMA Marketplace & Solutions Expo in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Davenport said J.T. Davenport & Sons traced its history back 95 years to his great-grandfather. The business was passed down from generation to generation, with his father eventually landing at 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," he 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.
In exploring a sale, they outlined several key aspects of a good partner: Is the potential buyer a good strategic fit? Is the potential buyer customer-oriented? "It wasn't just about the money," Davenport explained. "It needed to be the right opportunity for our employees and the right opportunity for our company to grow."
So far, the deal with Core-Mark is proving to be the right move, he said, adding that no employees -- except his father -- have lost their jobs as result of the sale.
"I get asked this question every day and I can say I have never regretted the decision," Davenport said. "We took a 95-year-old business and turned it into a bigger, stronger business. It's the circle of life."
Making such a critical decision as selling a family-owned business -- in an industry known for family-owned businesses -- takes leadership. According to Tom Flick, motivational speaker and former National Football League quarterback, there are three golden threads to leadership:
- Leadership is the name of the game.
- The speed of the leader determines the rate of the pack.
- Only applied knowledge is power.
As a guest speaker at the AWMA Marketplace & Solutions Expo, Flick said there are several questions industry leaders should ask themselves in today's changing world:
- What motivates you?
- How do you focus your energy?
- How do you get teammates to focus their energy?
- What is it that you do?
"Before you can become better leaders, you need to know the answers," he advised.
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.
"Management is defense; leadership is offense," he said.
The AWMA Marketplace & Solutions Expo -- AWMA's newly redesigned format for its annual convention -- kicked off Tuesday and continues at the Paris Las Vegas through Thursday. This year's revamped event includes a host of new features, including Marketplace Show Floor Seminars, the AWMA Knowledge Bar and the AWMA Women's Leadership Initiative kickoff breakfast program.