Leaders Look to the Future—and Their Teams

The NACS Leadership Forum explored labor issues, corporate culture, digital strategies and more.

February 11, 2022

Henry Armour and Jimmy Haslam at the NACS Leadership Forum 2022

By Kim Stewart

MIAMI BEACH, Fla.—The NACS Leadership Forum returned to Miami Wednesday for the first time since 2020 for three days of networking and general sessions packed with insights into some top-of-mind challenges and opportunities for convenience retailers, from employee engagement to digital strategies to the consumer journey.

A highlight of the opening day of the invitation-only event was a Q&A with Henry Armour, NACS President and CEO, and Jimmy Haslam, chairman of The Pilot Company and co-owner of the Cleveland Browns NFL team and the Columbus Crew Major League Soccer team with his wife, Dee Haslam.

Following an introduction by Lonnie McQuirter, director of operations for 36 Lyn Refuel Station in Minneapolis, Armour and Haslam sat down for a wide-ranging conversation on everything from managing people to partnering with Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.

“I believe this is a great country if you work hard and get a little luck and have the right people around you,” Haslam said, as he shared how the business grew from a single gas station in Gate City, Virginia, that his father purchased to a sprawling network of about 700 travel centers across the U.S. and Canada. One piece of advice he’d give his younger self—and leaders in the room—is the importance of giving honest feedback to your teams instead of avoiding conflict.

“I think just being deadly honest, particularly on really critical issues, and then when there is a coachable moment, coach it right away—don't wait,” Haslam advised. “That's something I wish I'd learned a lot earlier in my career in terms of leadership.”

Thursday morning was all about labor. McKinsey & Company’s Alex Rodriguez, partner; and Aneliya Valkova, associate partner, dove into data indicating why employees choose to leave their jobs and what would make them stay in the session, “The Great Attrition: Facing the Labor Shortage Challenge.”

In “Build a Winning People Strategy,” Erin Pressley, NACS vice president, education and media, moderated a discussion among three HR executives from leading convenience retailers. The panel included Shelly Gibson, chief legal and people officer, Thorntons; Seth Kamen, vice president of talent management, EG America; and Jamie Landis, vice president of team member experience, The Pilot Company.

Lori Stillman, NACS vice president of research, presented the first session of the afternoon in “Showing Up When It Matters Most: The Role of Digital in Convenience Retail.” Stillman outlined why it’s important that retailers pay attention to their digital listings just as they do their physical properties.

Rounding out Thursday afternoon, Ben Kipfer, chief operating officer, Choice Market, and Raghu Mahadevan, chief digital officer, 7-Eleven, shared how their respective companies approach customer needs in “Meeting Consumers Where They Are.”

Today, David Bell, founder of Idea Farm Ventures and former professor of The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, will share “How to Design and Deliver Consumer-Resonant and Immersive Retail” to close out the NACS Leadership Forum at the Eden Roc in Miami Beach.

Kim Stewart is editor-in-chief of NACS Magazine and editorial director of NACS. She can be reached at kstewart@convenience.org.