Executives from Wawa and OXXO emphasize the importance of culture and servant leadership at NACS Leadership Forum
The NACS Leadership Forum opened yesterday with Wawa President and CEO Christopher Gheysens and OXXO CEO Eduardo Padilla sharing their brand and culture insights from their respective operations.
Gheysens emphasized the community connections behind Wawa’s corporate philosophy, from its founding more than 200 years ago first as an iron foundry, then textile factory, dairy farm and milk delivery, and eventually a convenience store in 1954.
As a privately owned company, Wawa has the ability, as Gheysens described, to have a long-term point of view rather than worrying about quarterly profit goals. This vision has come into play for the chain in recent years, as they branched beyond the Mid-Atlantic market and opening its first Florida store in 2012, with 60 more since then and plans for continued growth well into the next decade.
Front and center for the Wawa leadership is the relationship between the company and its associates, as well as the company and its customers. Wawa is in the unique position of being 44% owned by employees, through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan. That means the company’s 25,000 employees have a direct stake in the business, creating a fully engaged workforce. “It matters,” said Gheysens, when discussing the role that each individual employee plays in developing a culture that leads to customer satisfaction. “Don’t lead first, but serve first,” Gheysens said when describing Wawa’s culture of servant leadership. “When done right, it will filter down to customers.”
Wawa views community-building as a top priority in the coming years, to ensure that they are “more than just a convenience store.” Gheysens pointed out that this is especially important to Millennials, who expect the brands and retailers they support to be a part of the bigger picture, not just sell product.
Eduardo Padilla, CEO of OXXO, which operates more than 12,000 convenience stores, gas stations, grocery and drugstores throughout Mexico and Latin America, echoed many of the same values when it comes to serving its customer base.
With three new stores opening every day, OXXO is “an organization powered by its culture,” according to NACS President and CEO Henry Armour, who moderated the discussion. Padilla emphasized the importance of OXXO’s value proposition in everything the company does: “Every day, everywhere, every time, there is an OXXO near you.” The company’s goal is to serve eight basic consumer needs, including thirst, craving and hunger.
While OXXO excels in serving some of these areas, like thirst and craving, the company recognizes that they must continuously improve by fulfilling all facets of their value proposition and fulfillment of customer needs.
“The OXXO culture emphasizes the importance of finding the right person for the right position,” said Padilla. This in turn guides the company’s success in developing servant leaders, generating a culture of trust, and establishing an environment to foster empowerment and sense of purpose.
The NACS Leadership Forum is an annual, invite-only event, bringing together retailers and suppliers to provide thought leadership that is relevant to the convenience and fuel retailing industry, while strengthening existing relationships and building new business relationships. The event is taking place this week in Miami Beach. Stay tuned to NACS Daily this week and NACS Magazine for event coverage.