One That Gets It Right

I recently facilitated a “Play To Win” program for Quick Chek, the New Jersey-based fresh food convenience stores. It’s an annual program to develop their emerging leaders. And in many ways, the program is a microcosm of their culture.

Dean Durling, President and CEO, and Mike Murphy, Senior Vice President Operations, team up to kick off the program, coach during the outdoor experiential day, and conclude the program. Regional Managers, District Managers and Corporate leaders co-facilitate the program, and attendees from previous programs return to coach and support the participants in their learning adventure.

An invitation to attend Play To Win is seen as an honor and a recognition of achievement and potential. The key learnings are reinforced on a daily basis in the stores, and form the core of the culture. The message is clear and consistent: these are the mindsets, skill sets and tool sets required to be a Quick Chek Leader.

The Quick Chek Play To Win journey began in the 1990s when senior leaders attended Larry Wilson’s Play To Win program . After developing their Play To Win skills and strengthening their leadership, the program was cascaded throughout the organization.

At the core of the program is helping people make the choice to Play To Win instead of Playing Not To Lose, choosing growth over fear. Bob Page, retired CEO and architect of Quick Chek’s Play To Win Culture, puts it this way:  “Most cultures don’t work because people can’t manage their fears,” says Page. “They’re worried about letting go. They’re afraid of being the best they can be and giving it all they have.” Today, Quick Chek’s culture supports its people in doing just that.

I first worked with Quick Chek 11 years ago, helping to design and facilitate a Coach-The-Coach program that eventually became part of Quick Chek University. In 2002, I had the good fortune to be chosen as the facilitator for Play To Win, and every year since I look forward to spending three days with an organization that not only values continuous learning and development, but shows its commitment to employees and customers each and every day.

And the results? Well, as America went through a serious recession, Quick Chek continued to grow in revenue, profit and store openings. It’s common to meet employees with 10, 15, 20 and even 30 years with the organization, often having started in the stores and advancing their careers to leadership positions.

Thirty percent of Quick Chek’s profits are paid out in bonuses to employees; the remaining 70% is reinvested in the company to build and remodel more stores, and introduce new programs. “This makes it a great place to work, so we’re providing opportunities for us to grow and do better,” says Dean. “It’s sharing in the growth both in profits and opportunities.”

Recently, Dean Durling was named 2010 Retail Leader of the Year by CSP Information Group. This annual award is presented to a convenience retailing executive for excellence in leadership, innovation within the chain, and perseverance within his or her company positively transforming the organization to new and higher levels.

But Dean would be the first to say that culture isn’t about one person. It’s about the values, expectations and behaviors that are modeled and led throughout the organization, and that are demonstrated with investments of time, money and energy.

When it comes to reinforcing a strong culture, Quick Chek gets it right.

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