Be the First Off the Diving Board Using Experts and Resources


As business owners, we’re used to change. Sometimes we change because we have a great idea. Other times we transform because our customers’ needs change. Or sometimes competition forces us to change. No matter why we seek out new ways to do things, we know staying nimble is critical in allowing us to embrace changes that are imperative for our success.

Many of us in the industry remember when asking customers to pre-pay at the pump was the death knell for a business. Today, not only do most customers want to pay at the pump, they want to get in and out quickly. With new technology, we have more options than ever to let our customers pay the way they desire. We recently installed RFID technology, which allows carriers to turn on a pump and pay via wireless technology. It’s not working seamlessly yet, but I am confident we will get the bugs worked out soon.

Like many of you, we’re also trying new product offerings and new ways to do things inside our stores. In an effort to increase productivity and lower food costs, we have added to our employee training and expanded branded food offerings, replacing some proprietary foods. We opened our second Caribou Coffee House in late February and even during a blizzard, many customers found our new Caribou Coffee House.

Being first off the diving board can be scary while also energizing, but one way to mitigate our fears and the risks associated with them is to tap into the expertise of others. As members of the nation’s only association dedicated to the truckstop and travel plaza industry, we have a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips. Not only can we learn how our peers are handling change, we can take advantage of the experience and information our industry suppliers make available.

The McLane-NATSO Foundation quarterly report can help us discover opportunities to improve sales inside our convenience stores. In addition, throughout the year industry partners offer free information and webinars through NATSO. 

NATSO is also cultivating global opportunities for us to prepare for the future. For the third year, NATSO is partnering with Insight to offer NATSO members a phenomenal learning trip to Europe. Having taken part in the International Study Tour in the past, I assure you this learning experience is well worth your time and will help keep you ahead of key industry trends. I have put several ideas from the tour into action.

As I mentioned earlier, our focus going forward is to use the strengths of the national brands to grow food transactions. However, our grab-and-go offerings remain our proprietary Deli Depot, which we sell out of a cooler similar to one we saw at a Statoil site outside Oslo, Norway during last year’s International Study Tour.

I encourage you to embrace all NATSO has to offer and to use its resources as you prepare to meet the future needs of your customers.



This article originally ran in Stop Watch magazineStop Watch provides in-depth content to assist NATSO members in improving their travel plaza business operations.

The magazine is mailed to NATSO members bimonthly. If you are a member and not receiving Stop Watchsubmit a request to be added to the mailing list. Not a memberJoin today or submit a request to receive additional information.

Tom Heinz's photo

Tom Heinz

Tom Heinz is President of Heinz, Inc. and Coffee Cup Fuel Stops & Convenience Stores, Inc. Tom’s thirty-seven year business career has been in different segments of the petroleum industry. Tom’s primary business and day job began 31 years ago as co-founder/owner of Coffee Cup Fuel Stops Tom received the following degrees: Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Master of Science in Human Resources, and Master of Business Administration from Beacom School of Business at the University of South Dakota. Presently, Tom serves on the University of South Dakota Foundation Board of Directors, Vermillion, South Dakota, NATSO Foundation Board of Directors, Alexandria, VA, Dakota Hospital Board of Directors, Vermillion, SD., and is a member of David Nelson Petroleum Marketers 300 Study Group.More
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