During the last couple of months in 2021, Joe Boyle, FreshStop Managing Director had the opportunity to travel across the country and meet many of our FreshStop colleagues. Joe came away with a renewed appreciation for our teams and a different mindset. Here are his thoughts on why we should spend the time needed to understand, recognise and value our people:
A fresh perspective from Joe Boyle:
“In early October, as the 3rd wave of COVID was waning, I seized the opportunity to travel to Ireland. I also stopped over in Dubai for a few days to take a break. I enjoyed the city and, of course, visited many convenience stores, as I did during my time in Ireland.
On my arrival back in SA, 7 COVID tests later, our leadership team planned road trips to visit as many FreshStop stores and competitors as possible, keeping in mind all the strict protocols. Our objective was to make face-to-face contact with our retailers to continue to build our relationships (to prove we’re not just pictures on an MS Teams screen), to find out what was really happening on the ground in our industry, and to assist our Retailers and BCs where possible.
I visited stores in Cape Town, Caledon, Hout Bay, Stellenbosch, Durban, Cato Ridge, Amanzimtoti, PMB, Ladysmith, Monte Vista, Harrismith, Johannesburg, Thokoza, Roodepoort, Krugersdorp, Pretoria, Mamelodi, and Midrand, to meet Retailers as well as our FreshStop Operations, Projects, and Administration teams, including our regional business consultants, and of course, our Foodies.
It was inspiring to be able to meet and greet so many of our colleagues. I also attended a Long Service Awards evening in Pietermaritzburg where our FreshStop Franchise Forum Chairman, Trevor Visvanathan, held a prestigious function to honour all of his staff members from his five FreshStop at Caltex stores. Guests included cashiers, CSAs, cleaners, Baristas, and Managers. Speakers at the event and the awardees spoke about their achievements, loyalty, recognition for years of service, and how they stood and defended their places of work and their brands during the looting and violence that broke out in July.
These brave colleagues were recognised (with a total of 67 awards being handed out) for their commitment to being at work during the unrest, strikes, taxi wars, service protests, threats of crime and intimidation, and for being presentable in clean uniforms when they did not have running water or electricity. It was an emotional testimony and all of us were teary-eyed when these heroes got on stage to receive their awards. They shared with the audience stories that were joyful, emotional, sad, scary, some even funny, looking back in time; but all heartfelt.
“Since that moment, I look at each person who works on our sites with a totally different mindset.”
Since that moment, I look at each person who works on our sites with a totally different mindset. We have many magnificent colleagues who need recognition and understanding. Salary and remuneration is one aspect, but simply greeting and thanking someone can add so much more value. As senior leaders in our business, we often rush into a site to have a meeting and rush out, instead of taking the time to notice our people. We need to speak to them and, more importantly, we need to listen to them. Understanding our customers is crucial and we can learn so much more about them if we spend some time with our cashiers, CSAs, food service, and merchandising colleagues.
Comparing our offer with the convenience offers I experienced in Dubai and Ireland is difficult as the circumstances are very different, but we are definitely not far behind in many areas of our business. For example, branding our coffee and food offering, and our marketing, including digital, and in-store displays, compete with the best. In SA, we also have some magnificent competitors and, in some areas, they are better, but they do not have the sub-brands, the field and food-service support, retail expertise, and admin support that we do. Our flexibility, volume of advertising campaigns, warehousing, and distribution standards are at another level, and we are able to create a unique offering to suit each micro-market.
“Comparing our offer with the convenience offers I experienced in Dubai and Ireland is difficult as the circumstances are very different, but we are definitely not far behind in many areas of our business.”
Our store atmosphere, vibe, and customer service skills convey the passion colleagues in most of our sites have for the business. I am aware we are not perfect, and we still need to work hard to remain the Number One Convenience Store Brand in SA.
I am so proud of every act, even the small aspects that each of you contributes towards our brands, every action, every customer, every smile, every hour of every day, 24/7/365. We continue to work as One Team with One Dream and we can only get better. #StrongerTogether”
Managing Director – FreshStop