Off & Running
For Parkland USA President Doug Haugh, leadership means empowering people to recognize their strengths, and then putting them in a position to maximize those talents.
Since joining the Charleston, S.C.-based company in November 2017, he has put together a powerhouse team to grow Parkland USA’s retail business across four key regions of the country, and relaunch the On the Run brand as both a convenience store and forecourt brand.
“The opportunity to pull together such a talented team and to help them find ways of working together that leverage each of their strengths in new ways to continue elevating their capabilities is the most important responsibility I have, and certainly the most rewarding part of the job,” said Haugh, Convenience Store News’ 2022 Retailer Executive of the Year.
“Team first” is his motto and he’s quick to point out that although the Retailer Executive of the Year award has his name on it, the honor is really all about the work his team has done. Haugh’s goal is to nourish that sense of teamwork and get beyond just working well with one another to a place where there is a genuine sense of care and affection embedded across the team.
“My focus as a leader has always been to get people to be in a position to maximize their best talents. But it also takes a lot of coaching and mentoring to get people to recognize those strengths and weaknesses in themselves, and then also in their teammates. So, they can see how the pieces fit together and get the most out of each other,” he explained. “The impact and increase in productivity and outcomes, and just what you’re able to even try to do, it really changes people’s perspectives. Now, they’re aiming for the stars because they have so much confidence in the person to their left and the person to their right. If you can get that done, sky’s the limit."
A Skilled Apprentice
Haugh came to his current role with more than 25 years of experience working in the energy and technology fields. He previously served as president and chief strategy officer for Mansfield Energy Corp. in Gainesville, Ga., and was the co-founder of FuelQuest Inc., an enterprise cloud/SaaS provider with more than 750 clients in the retail and energy industries.
Although he’s been part of the industry for more than two decades, Haugh considers himself “still a bit of an apprentice in this business” and as such, he says being selected by his peers to receive the Retailer Executive of the Year award is a “humbling recognition” from an incredibly talented group of leaders that he looks up to.
Making the jump from serving retailers to being a retailer himself has been a big change, but one that he’s enjoying. “I’ve always been in the middle of retail, but it’s very different as an operator. It’s a lot of fun to have your hands in the actual store,” he said.
When Haugh began this journey in the fall of 2017, Parkland USA was a small subsidiary of Calgary, Canada-based Parkland Corp., the largest independent supplier and marketer of fuel and petroleum products in Canada and the Caribbean and a leading c-store operator there.
At the time, the U.S. business for Parkland was a small outpost operating as Farstad Oil in North Dakota with about 20 company-operated stores, a good dealer business, and three branches serving commercial customers with diesel and lubricants.
“Parkland had put a toe in the water in the U.S. to try to understand the market and figure out if it could be a growth frontier for them,” Haugh recalled. “We had a great local team with a strong competitive position in a small market, operated by long-term employees with a great connection to their local communities. We needed to improve safety, grow a professional sales team and improve the offering in the stores, but the foundation was solid and most of that team remains with Parkland, and many have progressed to senior roles as we have scaled up the company.”
Under Haugh’s leadership, Parkland USA has grown from 150 team members to nearly 3,000; from 20 company-operated stores to 212; and from three commercial branches to 52. Today, Parkland USA employs team members across 15 states in the retail c-store, commercial fuels, wholesale fuels, industrial fuels, propane, lubricants and marine businesses.
“While most of this growth was as a result of the 20 acquisitions we have closed in the last three-plus years, much of the revenue and earnings growth has been through organic growth, [which is] possible with a bigger platform run by a talented team,” Haugh noted.
He also pointed out that despite the rapid expansion, the company has maintained its cultural foundations and continued to build upon its corporate values of community, respect, integrity and safety. “Our commitment to our employees and local communities where we work, run stores and service customers has remained the cornerstone of how we do business,” he said.
Building a Retail Empire
From that one small outpost in North Dakota, Parkland USA has expanded over the past five years to now operate four Regional Operating Centers (ROCs): a Northern Tier ROC in Minot, N.D.; Rockies ROC in American Fork, Utah; Southeast ROC in Miami; and Pacific Northwest ROC in Nampa, Idaho. The selection of these markets was a methodical process, according to Haugh, noting that the first six months of his tenure with Parkland were spent working with his new team to lay out the strategy, gain board of directors approval and secure financing.
“A lot of people ask us why we’ve chosen to enter these markets and it’s simple in the end. Each of these markets has rapid population growth,” he explained. “We like markets where we’re going to have new customers, where we’ve got a growing population to service, and that are complicated from a supply standpoint.”
Miami, in particular, is “just exploding” with new residents and new companies coming into the market, Haugh said. “We really think Miami is a champion of the future. It’s the capital of the Caribbean, and we have a large retail business in the Caribbean with 790 sites. We see a lot of joint opportunities for training and the chance for our teams to learn from one another.”
Each ROC has roughly 50 company-operated stores currently, with the exception of Florida at 92 stores. Haugh has his sights set on having 100 to 200 company-operated stores in each of these markets in the near future. More stores mean a better return on investment.
“While we will look at new markets, we primarily want to deepen our investments in the markets where we have invested in the U.S. today, and continue to grow in those communities,” he said. “I think we can build incredible density in the markets we’re in. We’re having great success, and it allows the team to concentrate their efforts.”
A significant piece of this growth plan is the relaunch of the On the Run brand as both a convenience store and forecourt brand. On the Run was originally created by Mobil, one of the first oil companies to develop a c-store brand. “I still get some calls from those early creators of the brand who are just loving what we’re doing with it now and seeing it resurrected,” he shared.
Parkland Corp. announced in September 2020 that it had acquired the license for exclusive use of the On the Run trademark in the majority of U.S. states, and planned to expand the brand across the U.S. to create a unified North American convenience store brand. The company will buy the U.S. trademark outright in the next 12 months, according to Haugh.
Parkland Corp. already owns the trademark outright in Canada. In the Caribbean, the company licenses it from ExxonMobil. There are 800 On the Run stores across Canada, and about a third of the company’s Caribbean stores are On the Run branded at this time.
Parkland USA has begun the process of rolling out the On the Run brand to its 212 company-operated stores. “It’s become our central focus. We are building/remodeling/rebranding stores now across the U.S. and should have 30 to 40 done this year, with the rest completed over the next 24 months,” said Haugh, noting that he and his team have completely reimaged the brand. “We love the way the brand has turned out with the revitalization.”
Enhancing the In-Store Offer
In-store, there’s a big focus on expanding foodservice. Most of Parkland USA’s stores have hot food, but there’s been a need for an integrated program to bring standards to the offers. New On the Run stores feature consistent sub-brands, such as Bites On the Run.
Haugh is also bullish about Parkland Corp.’s recent acquisition of M&M Food Market, a major player in the take-home meal replacement space in Canada. He’s eager to utilize the M&M team’s award-winning chefs, recipes and decades of expertise in menu development.
“Building one of those teams from scratch is incredibly difficult. Now, we have one intact that’s done a fantastic job, and we’re taking that offering and adapting it for our stores — taking their retail food expertise, along with their position in the supply chain. It’s not only having great recipes, it’s also about can you secure your ingredients, can you get good pricing on it,” he said.
Other key areas of focus for Parkland USA are building a strong private label offer, which the On the Run brand hasn’t had to date; and leveraging the 3.5-million-member-strong loyalty platform that Parkland Corp. has built over the past few years.
“We’re excited to roll that out across the U.S. We have test stores launched, but the big effort comes over the next couple years to get the loyalty platform fully deployed,” Haugh said.
This is just one of the advantages of being part of the larger Parkland organization. He also feels fortunate to have a great leader and mentor in CEO Bob Espey, as well as a peer group on the corporate leadership team that has been incredibly supportive.
“From availability of capital to support in marketing to supply synergies with both Canada and the Caribbean, being part of Parkland makes us a much more capable company than we could ever be on our own. There is just no way I or the rest of the U.S. team could have ramped up at this incredible growth rate without their unwavering commitment and support,” he added.
Along with its company-operated stores, Parkland USA also has 445 dealers across the country, and Haugh is enthusiastic about extending the On the Run brand and its new in-store programs to those dealers. This is another key area of focus for the company.
He believes there’s “a lot of hunger” among the dealers for much deeper in-store support.
“The traditional relationship of just helping them with the forecourt, being a fuel brand, that will continue to be important, but it’s not enough to really help them drive their success,” he said. “So, we’re spending a lot of time helping them upgrade their stores.
“When we have winning programs and promos and merchandise strategies that are working in our business, we want to make sure our team is taking that into the dealer stores and helping them grow their business, grow their earnings, and be a more attractive outlet,” Haugh added.