Follow the Leader
Convenience/Gas Store Operator Grows Customers with Happy Workers
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But how do you get employees to uphold high standards and be happy about doing so?
Employees make serious incentive money for doing a good job … We make the rounds, once a month, for surprise inspections. We call it, “The Walk.” I go through a checklist and the stores get scored. If they get 95 percent or above, they get a certain amount of money.
How does the program work?
There is a monthly program and a yearly program. For the year, if they win [by getting the highest overall score among the 14 stores], the manager gets $6,500, the assistant manager gets $5,500, full timers get $2,000 and part-timers get $1,500. I’ve probably given, over [a period of] five years, easily, over $100,000 … If the stores make more money, everybody makes more money.
Your staff is 98 percent female. How does that factor into making your company a Best Place to Work?
We pay for [the DOE’s After School Care Plus] A+ program so that employees are able to work the hours after school. We cover that because childcare is a big issue, and we hire mothers and grandmothers. The program costs $55 per child, per month.
Are there special incentives for managers?
For the managers and my executive staff, we take them to a retreat once a year. Last year, we took them to Ala Moana, we saw “The Lion King,” we had a great dinner and we took them to Sunglass Hut. I closed [Sunglass Hut] down, and I told them they could have any sunglasses they wanted. How many times are they going to buy a $400 pair of sunglasses?
How do you find people for your management team?
Flo [Florence Cornelio], my vice president of operations, I took her out of the “cooler.” She was working for me when I had one store [in Kahului] and she did such a great job that now she’s vice president of operations. [She started as a cashier, was promoted, in turn, to assistant store manager, store manager, general manager and now VP of operations.]
Besides your incentive program and health benefits, are there any other benefits you hope to provide someday?
Profit sharing. But you can only do that if you have excess cash. A lot of ours goes into the incentive program. What I’ve found is — and I’ve had pension plans and all that jazz — the people we hire don’t really see that far ahead. They need the money now. They need it for the rent today. So that’s why we went to incentives every month.
Any other secrets to keeping employees happy?
We really love to have fun. I love to laugh. The people who don’t stay with us are the ones who don’t laugh. And you know what else? When we release somebody — basically they release themselves — nine times out of 10 they want to come back to work for us.
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