Prepare to Prosper or Prepare to Sell; Both Are Essentially the Same

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s most of you know my business is all about convenience stores and gas stations. In our businesses spring brings us to a point every year where we are ready for renewal. The winter slow months have finally passed and the car wash business is about to pick up with the arrival of pollen in the air.

This also is a good time to take a business inventory...not the merchandise kind, but a review of your business systems and the physical plant of your station. Here are some "spring into action" ideas I got from Darcee Santicloa and have incorporated into our action plan.

For The Store

Painting: A fresh coat of paint works wonders! Is the blue on your Chevron canopy faded to pastel? Is the red or yellow striping on your Shell station faded or peeling?

This is the time to touch up these little details. Then there's what Darcee considers "creative painting". Adding color can create customer's purchasing excitement. This may be as simple as directing your customers to your Grab and Go, or perhaps to draw attention to specific promotional displays. This is always an inexpensive solution.

Painting of graphics is one of a designer's tricks in creating an illusion of spaciousness. Also, a change of scenery for employees has been proven to create an increase in productivity. If budget permits, having a professional work out a schematic especially designed for your store is well worth the investment, however if this is not possible, browsing through the trade publications such as Convenience Store News, CSP or NPN with a keen eye for inspiration can be helpful in achieving your goal. For the sake of your customers, don't overlook the bathrooms. They should be as clean as a kitchen, if you want to keep your clientele.

Lighting: Having a well lit store and canopy is essential. New energy saving devices can cut your electric bill while giving you more light. Adding a few specialty fixtures in featured areas creates warmth and a sense of quality for your customers. A wide range of pricing for these fixtures is readily available in accommodating your needs. It's a quick way to give a modern update to a space. Consider the use of the vendor's neon signs against a dark back ground to add a little excitement to the ambiance. It gives you a free source of additional décor without giving up even one inch of floor or shelf space.

Floor Rearrangement: Rearranging shelving and cooler space from time to time is so important. Creating a new traffic pattern engages customer interest while providing longer store visits. It also helps to stimulate employee's interests as well. This also gives you a chance to clear out the windows so that people can see in and out. Clear the way to your high profit items, get the square footage producing your highest dollar.

Special Promotional Decorating: Take full advantage of this opportunity. It's all about creating excitement. Holidays give us an excuse to have fun with this and really go for it.

For The Employees

 

Employee Image: Providing new uniforms or uniform shirts is a great morale booster. Sometimes just a change of color or style modification is all that's needed. These days all brands offer clothing lines that can suit various needs: from shirts and ties with embroidered logos to golf shirts in a wide range of colors to T-Shirts with printed logos for "Casual Weekend" wear. A consistent image for your individual business is as important as the brand recognition at the pumps.

Employee Recognition and Incentives: It's easy to become complacent about our employees, after all we see them day after day. As owners we have to recognize that they are the backbone of the convenience store business and need to be recognized for their efforts. This is a great time to begin to develop some employee retention programs. Having "fun"contests is a good way to achieve this. Consider an extra bonus for the employee with the most sales of high end wine...Maybe a bottle to go and a couple of glasses, or the employee who gets the best free stuff from the vendors...

You get the idea. Here's one of our favorites: "Boss for a Day" . A contest using management created criteria for customer service personnel runs for a short period of time. Winner is determined by contest rules. He then switches places with the Manager; in which the employee becomes the manager for the day while the manager works employee's position. This fosters teamwork and an appreciation of each others positions. This creates a win-win situation.

Promotional Sales Leader: This idea is one of Darcee's and Bryan Chamber's favorites as well as one of mine. When putting together a special promotion, having a friendly competition among the staff or the staff of other branch stores is an added production achiever. Many options are available to managers as to what the prize and or award could be.

Customer Service: Providing a "paid" training session is extremely productive. In these economic times it's more important than ever to give exceptional customer service especially with your regulars. Having a staff show a special recognition to them means so much. When a customer was greeted by their name or having their customary purchase remembered they became loyal customers for a long time to the point of making special trips just to receive such treatment.

Employees need a refresher on company policies dealing with customer service. Again, there's added and updated data and manuals available to owners by our friends at Condevco and others for just this purpose. At Petro Business Services, we offer on site training or remote for your staff at a minimal charge. We also offer utility auditing to insure that you are paying the minimum legal amount for your utilities.

A little spring cleaning and a smile can renew your profitability and make new friends. Doing one or all of these "spring actions" can increase your profits or make buyers want your location over someone else's.

A primary area of expertise for Ari and of Petro Business Services, Inc is petroleum industry real estate. Our principal business is selling gas stations in Georgia. For more about us at www.TRCB.me/PBSGA

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