We pull off a lot of incredible feats with a relatively small staff of very talented people, including:
- An annual NACS Show for 25,000 attendees that is one of the 40 largest tradeshows in the country – and probably the most fun
- Superlative executive educational programs, tailored for leading convenience retailers, in partnership with world-renowned universities: Yale University, M.I.T., Cornell University, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and Northwestern’s Kellogg School
- Thought-leadership conferences in Europe, Asia and North America that empower participants to “look around the corner” of the retail landscape, as well as CEO Summits for leaders of the world’s largest convenience retailers in Latin America, Europe and North America
- A broad advocacy portfolio addressing critical issues such as fueling future mobility (convenience stores sell 80% of the fuel purchased ion the country), competitive payment platforms (convenience stores are 3% of the country’s GDP) and accurately positioning the industry as a socially responsible channel that supports and enhances the communities in which they do businesses
- Innovative research initiatives that allow leading retailers and suppliers to benchmark their financial performance, understand and take action against evolving consumer demands and explore emerging technologies that enable our members to lead in exploit critical business opportunities
- Community outreach campaigns and partnerships that celebrate our industry’s contributions in communities in recognizing first responders, supporting nutrition and fighting hunger, make communities safe by fighting human trafficking and creating a sustainable future
- First-class shared-services capabilities (in Marketing, IT, Finance, HR and Media) that power us to globally execute against our purpose, mission and core values
Most of all, we collectively support each other to build a positive culture that emphasizes cross-functional teams as well as our Wellness Committee, Make Us Great Committee and our ongoing Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Forum And yes, we do all of that with just 75 exceptional people!
It’s all about growing your professional and personal skill sets. We have a small staff, a commitment to great culture and low turnover. We focus on building teams and growing the people in those teams, cultivating a welcoming environment built for the long term. We have together built an organization where people feel comfortable and our numbers show that. As of February 2021, 42% of our staff have been at NACS at least 10 years. As a result of this success, the traditional view of career progression – often viewed through the lens of title progression and vertical advancement – is not common at NACS. What is common is the investment we make in our people to grow their skill sets and expand their capabilities and responsibilities.
NACS staff enjoy a unique and refreshing culture of transparency, collaboration and personal development that is unsurpassed in our industry. We reserve seats every year for staff members to attend our five executive education programs:
- NACS/Cornell University Executive Leadership Program
- NACS/Wharton School of Finance Financial Leadership Program
- NACS/Kellogg School of Management Marketing Leadership Program
- NACS/MIT Innovation Leadership Program
- NACS/Yale University Women’s Leadership Program
Additionally, we send team members to many other outside development and certificate programs to enhance and fine-tune their capabilities (e.g., Dale Carnegie, public speaking, IT and Digital Marketing certifications and conferences), as well as support their personal pursuit of furthering their education through our tuition reimbursement program. Employees are also encouraged to go on store/member visits, cross-train with other departments and have visibility into key strategic NACS initiatives.
While almost all the teammates referenced above have seen some degree of title progression, the titles were less important than their compensation growth that matched their professional development and progressive expansion of responsibilities beyond their initial portfolios—continually looking for ways to improve processes on their respective teams and overall at NACS. Importantly, recognition and advancement are not tied tightly to title progression. At NACS, we are committed to growing talent and paying for talent.
We have a long and impressive track record of promoting from within and enhancing skill development through vertical and diagonal promotions across departments. Here are some examples of impressive upward mobility in our organization:
- Of our 11 staff leaders only one was hired from the outside; all the rest rose up through the organization, including even our CEO, Henry Armour, who served as a retail committee member, joined the Board of Directors, advanced to the Executive Committee and became Chairman of the Board before becoming the Chief Executive Officer at NACS.
- Brian Kimmel, our Executive Vice President, COO & CFO, started as a staff accountant, left the organization and returned to ultimately lead our Finance and Internal Operations initiatives.
- Lyle Beckwith, our SVP of Government Relations, began with NACS as a staff lobbyist, left to represent NACS and others as Executive Director of Beverage Retailers Against Driving Drunk. He then returned to take the reins of our advocacy and grassroots efforts.
- Michael Davis, our VP of Member Services & International, was an outside consultant to NACS, and then joined our staff contributing in many different roles as he advanced to lead in his current capacity.
- Bob Hughes, our VP of Supplier Relations & Expositions, joined as a Director and has developed and advanced to now lead supplier membership and one of the most important events in the global retail landscape (the NACS Show).
- Jeff Lenard, our VP of Strategic Industry Initiatives, began his career as a Marketing Manager and now has his hand on the throttle of our industry’s most critical initiatives and priorities
- Stephanie Sikorski, our VP of Marketing, started as a Marketing Manager and has transformed branding and messaging platforms that define NACS to those we serve, as well as reimaging and relaunching the NACS Foundation and its five signature programs.
- John Eichberger, our Executive Director of The Fuels Institute, began as a staff lobbyist and is now a trusted expert in the rapidly accelerating future of mobility.
- Gray Taylor, our Executive Director of Conexxus, started as Vice President of Research, left the organization in 2010 to return several years later as NACS’s Payment Consultant, eventually assuming his current role at Conexxus where he has transformed the standards body into a world-class technology and payments advisory organization.
- Leigh Walls, our lead Director of Exhibit Sales & Services, began with NACS as a Manager and now coordinates and enables the greatest show on Earth (the NACS Show), managing 1,300 exhibitors in an expo of nearly half a million net square feet.
- Brendan Moyer, our Director of Web Strategy & Development, started as the Assistant Web Administrator after temping for NACS, and has had three promotions since starting full time. Now we leverage his analytical mind to develop customer-centric solutions that impact thousands of customers every day.
- Matt Morris, our Director of Computer & Network Operations, started off focused on network and server administration. Since then the addition responsibilities have been added to the role which now includes more of a focus on security along with database administration and process enhancements.
- Amy Ashley-Burke, our Director of Meetings & Convention Services, started in data entry before moving into the meetings department as a meetings department admin (with quite a few diagonal moves prior to her current position). She leads logistics for housing, transportation and registration at the NACS Show. Amy also serves as top logistic lead for our second largest event, the NACS State of the Industry Summit.
- Chris Rapanick, the Managing Director of NACS Research, started as a sales consultant for NACS’ CSX benchmarking service and has grown his role and influence in developing CSX and our State of the Industry enterprise. In the move to managing director, Chris assumed responsibility for the day-to-day operation of NACS Research and four direct reports.
- Anna Ready Blom, our Director of Government Relations, has significantly expanded her responsibilities by taking on supervisory responsibilities of the Political Engagement team, which includes the NACSPAC Manager and Grassroots Manager.
- Nicole Walbe, Director of Supplier Engagement, started as a Membership Manager in Supplier Relations in 2008. Over her 13 year tenure, Nicole continually demonstrated her ability create, sell and grow products and programs. She is now responsible for the strategic development, implementation and execution of member programs to generate non-Show revenue including Cool New Products 365, Convenience Catalyst and the Financial Membership Program.
- Leroy Kelsey, started as a Manager in Research, progressed to Research Director, and now leads the NACS shopper insights portfolio. He also supports the Research team with market analysis, business intelligence and custom consulting solutions for members.
- Doug Spencer, Director, NACS Solution Center, joined the NACS staff from a career position in financial analysis to spearhead Products & Services – and has flexed his skillset over 14 years in multiple roles/titles to fit the ever-changing needs of the ‘Solutions’ department and Member needs.
- Chris Blasinsky, Content Communications Strategist, started as the Communications Manager, became Managing Editor of NACS Magazine and Director of Editorial Projects on the Media team, and then moved to her current role on the Strategic Initiatives team.
- Laura Beck, Marketing Director, started as a Marketing Coordinator, left the organization and came back as Marketing Specialist. Laura now oversees the marketing strategy for signature events and programs including the NACS Show, Leadership Forum, HR Forum and our Industry Update Luncheons. Her role has continued to evolve in helping to standardize integrated marketing plans with organization-wide event debriefs, intake meetings and strategic plans.
- Greg Levitan, our Director of HR, began as a Research Coordinator and now applies his critical thinking, information insights and solution mindset to our people recruitment, retention and development.
- Jenna Collard joined NACS as Education Engagement Manager in March 2017 and became Director, Education Engagement in March 2018, picking up supervisory responsibilities for two Education colleagues.
- Stacey Dodge, our Advertising Director, hasn’t changed her title since joining NACS in 2010 but did expand her supervisory responsibilities for two salespeople and her responsibilities have increased every year as the Media Group has expanded their offerings and grown revenue to a $2.7 million advertising budget.
- Jayme Gough, our Research Manager, started as a Research Coordinator and has taken the lead for an industry wide compensation report that requires retailer outreach, insights and analytics which she presents on annually at the HR Forum. Jayme managed and executed the most recent update of the NACS Category Definitions and is the key contact for questions from NACS members. She develops content and assists with execution of the NACS State of the Industry Summit and writes multiple chapters of the State of the Industry Report. She also assists with Convenience Voices and helps to produce presentations for both retailers and suppliers.
- Alicia Landrum, our Controller, started as the Accounting Manager at NACS, managing the day-to-day accounting activities as well as completing the month-end close procedures. Since then, she has been promoted to Controller where she oversees the accounting department and the financial operations at NACS and its affiliates, directs the annual audit procedures, all while implementing improved accounting procedures to increase efficiency and strengthen controls.
- Jessica Hayman, our Exhibit Sales & Services Manager, started out as Exhibit & Member Services Coordinator and has continued to develop relationships with our supplier members and exhibitors, while delivering customer service and helping sell out the expo floor for the greatest show on earth (the NACS Show).
- Jeff McQuilkin, our Director of Exhibit Sales and Services began his career at NACS as a Sales Manager and now oversees exhibit sales for the NACS Show – one of the largest trade shows in all of North America.
- Katie Bohny started as NACSPAC Manager, has become a leader in the retail PAC world and has elevated the status and footprint of NACSPAC among industry peers in DC. She is now our NACSPAC Director.
While almost all the teammates referenced above have seen some degree of title progression, the titles came far more slowly and were less important than their compensation growth which matched their professional development and progressive expansion of responsibilities beyond their initial portfolios—continually looking for ways to improve processes on their respective teams and overall at NACS. Importantly, recognition and advancement are not tied tightly to title progression. At NACS, we are committed to growing talent and paying for talent.
We hugely value, invest in and are devoted to the constructive culture that we’ve built and work on every day at NACS. Almost everything we do requires broad, multi-department collaboration to ideate and execute creative initiatives that deliver compelling value to our members and our industry. What that requires is a relatively flat organizational structure that empowers teammates at different levels from all departments to constructively engage and support each other. Titles really don’t matter in such an organization. What matters is a culture of constructive behaviors that relishes divergent perspectives to craft well thought-out initiatives and then come together to execute them.
Monthly performance conversations (PCs) and annual Future Plan reviews between supervisors and direct reports deliver unique one-on-one opportunities to discuss cultural contributions and keep personal growth and professional development top of mind. In addition, annual “Quints” (5-person cross-functional team confidential discussions with the President & CEO) further allow opportunities to share ideas, insights and observations about NACS with the association’s leader.