Compliance and Regulations — Q&A with a Policy Expert
Doug Kantor is a partner in the Washington, DC office of Steptoe & Johnson, LLP. He has been counsel to NACS since 2001 and has advised the association and its members on virtually every policy issue that the industry has confronted since that time.
1. What is the No. 1 attribute you believe successful c-store operators should have?
To run a successful business, it helps to be able to see the big picture. Obviously, there are many aspects to that – operations, management, marketing, etc. The piece of the puzzle that I focus on for the industry is law and policy. Business owners in the industry need to see that side of things, but I need to place that in context as well. Everything from tax policy to environmental and other regulations can have profound impacts on businesses in the industry and their profitability. So, business owners need to understand those risks and how to manage them just like they manage business risks.
2. Can you explain the difference between compliance and regulation? And why a business owner should be aware of them.
Compliance is what a business does to ensure it is following the law (or regulations). Regulations are the rules themselves. Unfortunately, regulations can sometimes seem simple, but because of how they interact with normal business processes, what needs to be done in order to comply with those rules can be out of proportion to what the regulations might, on the surface, appear to require. The compliance process can be very complicated – and confusion about regulations themselves can add to those complications. It is also worth noting that regulations can be changed. That policy-making process is at the heart of the advocacy that NACS does for its members.
3. How does today’s political climate affect the process of getting results?
The political process always affects the process of getting results in policy advocacy. That political climate can make things easier or harder, but it is a constant factor. The sharp partisan divides we see today makes a lot of practical problem-solving harder than it should be. There are always challenges to building consensus to address problems, but today there is more hostility toward bipartisan work than there has been in the past. That said, the climate can be helpful when trying to prevent new policies that may be harmful to the industry from getting enacted. So, the political climate is a double-edged sword.
4. When you talk with other retail (or political) leaders, what is their perception of our industry?
One of NACS’ best achievements over the last decade has been through its work with other retail groups. In particular, work on the swipe fees issue has deepened the ties between retail trade associations and NACS has become a center-point of cooperation amongst those groups on a range of policy issues. This has helped make every part of the retail industry more effective in its advocacy. Perceptions of the industry among political leaders have improved as well. NACS’ advocacy, in-store program, and Project reFresh have all changed perceptions of the industry among political leaders for the better.
5. When you’re on the road visiting NACS members, what is the one (or several!) item you always go for in a convenience store?
When I’m on the road I try to make an effort to exercise and eat right (though not always successfully). So, I tend to look for healthy options and products like protein bars/drinks when I’m in members’ stores. Of course, if some trail mix happens to have a bunch of M&Ms in it, I’ll never complain.
For an extended version with more information about how to run a successful convenience store, check out our downloadable guide, Compliance & Regulation — 3 Keys to Keeping Ahead.
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