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YORK, Pa. — Convenience Store News 2014 Hall of Famer Scott Hartman has a lifetime of experience in the convenience store industry — from a young boy at the age of 12 changing price stickers, to his current role as CEO and president of York-based Rutter's Holdings Inc., parent to Rutter's Farm Stores. That makes him a perfect person to offer advice to up-and-coming retailers.
First, he said, you have to have the ability to hear lots of opinions, from team members and customers alike. Being able to sort through them and accept advice and criticism are important skills for anyone in the c-store business, he believes.
"What can be negative criticism can be turned into positive thoughts in how to improve your business," Hartman said. "Customers are very frank at times. I read every single piece of customer feedback we get. You read some and you are so proud, then you read others and you're not so proud. You have to soak that in and try to make a better company."
Hartman also urges his fellow retailers to establish both corporate and personal goals early on. These goals should typically be a reach, not an easy one to attain, he cautioned.
"It's a wonderful industry of entrepreneurs where people can find success in so many different ways. You don't have to think like all the rest. You can have your own way of doing things. I have seen so many people in the business find success doing it their way," he noted.
His final piece of advice: make it a family thing if you can.
Hartman and his wife Cathy have two children: daughter Sara, now a fourth-grade teacher in Brooklyn, N.Y., and son Chris, a food broker for Crossmark Inc. in Plano, Texas.
His children have, in some way, been involved in the industry from the time they were young — from visiting the stores, to meeting his friends within the industry, to working in the stores. Not unlike his experience growing up, according to Hartman.
"All of that has made it a lot more fun through the years. When you're at home as your children are growing up, they can talk about the business, learn about the business. They can enjoy the business with you and the fruits of the labor and the challenges,” he continued.
"My daughter has chosen the education field, but she has enjoyed NACS Shows through the years and we still talk about the business today. My son has done the same and here he is in the food industry," Hartman added. "You never know where that will take your children, but I think ours will say they had a lot of fun through the years with it."
Hartman himself is part of the third generation to run the family business, Rutter's Holdings Inc., which is comprised of Rutter's Farm Stores, Rutter's Dairy Inc. and M&G Realty.