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TULSA, Okla. -- QuikTrip Corp. CEO Chet Cadieux was named one of Tulsa's top 10 business leaders of the decade by the Tulsa World newspaper.
Cadieux, the son of QuikTrip founder Chester Cadieux, proved to have more than the family name going for him as he has continued the convenience store chain's rapid growth, particularly in promising markets outside the state, the newspaper noted.
Cadieux also served the community as chairman of the Tulsa Metro Chamber and solidified QuikTrip's reputation as a great place to work, the report stated.
In other QT news, Wichita division manager Mark Branham recently sat down with The Wichita Eagle to talk about the chain's success in the area. Branham will be moving at the end of January to run QuikTrip's St. Louis market, which has about twice as many stores. The division's personnel manager, Cari Spainhour, will replace him.
Here's what Branham had to say:
Wichita Eagle (WE): QuikTrip doesn't exist in Kansas outside of the Wichita and Kansas City areas. How come?
"It's easier to staff stores with a nucleus in the main city you're operating in, rather than sending people to Salina or Fort Scott…We run things a little different from most companies. We run an extra relief program, where if an employee has a sick day or vacation day, we fill that shift for them. They don't have to find their own person. The store manager doesn't have to fill that shift...If they aren't needed in a store, they are extra staff in a store depending on where we assign them."
WE: What is the company's market strategy?
"We like to dominate a market when we go there. We're here to serve a lot of customers in one market. Wichita's a great example. We have 37 stores for 450,000 to 500,000 people. It's kind of great when every time you turn around, you fall into a QuikTrip."
WE: How does QuikTrip deliver operational excellence?
"We hire the best people. Anybody can build the same store we build, sell the same products we have, but the one thing that sets QuikTrip apart from everybody else is our people. We pay our people better. They have good benefits. They don't have to worry about getting laid off. People like staying here. It's kind of a cultish-type thing. We get them in, and they don't want to leave. Wichita has the highest seniority of any division in the company, even Tulsa. We have one manager who has been in the same store for 20-plus years, the one at 13th and Maize. He knows that store, he knows everybody who comes in, and they all know him. That's another thing that sets QuikTrip apart."
WE: Does that mean you are getting a lot of applications these days?
"We do get a lot of applications in every week. Our quality is really good now and has been for the last year or so. But our turnover is remarkably low. Really, we are at all-time lows as far as people for hiring. We haven't hired anyone since July. That's low turnover when you average 10 people per store -- pretty incredible."
WE: What's your busiest store?
"Kellogg and Maize. Other than that, the store in Park City does well."
WE: What changes have worked?
"Our drink initiative with the bigger drink offerings; that's been very successful for us. Right now, if you get thirsty and want something to drink, you think QuikTrip. When you need gasoline, you think QuikTrip. Those programs are very successful. Our breakfast program has been very successful."
WE: How well has the big move into food worked?
"We didn't get into the gasoline business until the late '70s, and we're pretty good at selling gasoline right now. It's taken us a long time to get there. Our goal is to be as good at selling food as we are at selling gasoline. There are categories that are going away -- cigarettes is melting down -- but people are always hungry. If they think 'I'm hungry,' QuikTrip isn't the first place they think of. That's our goal: When you're hungry, you think QuikTrip...That's a very long-term thing. We hope that in 20 years we are as good at selling food as we are at selling gasoline."
WE: How did you get to be division manager?
"I've been with QuikTrip right at 20 years. I came to QT from another convenience store company. I left after 10 years, tired of the gasoline/convenience store business, and after 10 years wanted to do something different."
WE: So, how did you wind up in the same business?
"I left there because I was working seven days a week, 70 hours a week. So I came to QuikTrip looking for a fill-in job until I found something I liked -- this is in St. Louis -- and they had this night assistant manager. I got to work five days, 46 hours a week, and I could go home and nobody called me. And I made more money than I did at the other job. So I just forgot to leave."
WE: What is running the Wichita market like?
"Wichita [people] are very friendly, very giving. The Wichita market is just easy to get anywhere. I mean, you're 10 minutes from whatever you want. St. Louis is a bigger market. It took me 10 minutes just to get to the highway from the office. But the whole west side/east side battle, I have never figured it out. It's one of the craziest things ever. It's like two cities in one. Whatever you have on the east side, you have to have on the west side, and vice versa. And a lot of times you won't see people wanting to drive from one side to the other. For me, coming from a big city, you know it's 20 minutes from one side to the other. It's not that big of a deal."
WE: Do you [fore]see many more QuikTrip stores in Wichita?
"There will be a few on the edges, but what you'll see is not so much numbers growth, as location change. [We] may close a store here and rebuild it over there on a better corner. In the Wichita market, we've had more than 100 stores, but only 37 open...As a store grows out, traffic patterns change. We have to be where the traffic is, where the people are."
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