Fueling our community

Tips for success from Greg Parker, founder of Parker’s convenience stores.

By Sheila Paz | Photos by Jordan Matthis

Work hard. Surround yourself with a great team. Make success measurable. Stay hungry and nimble. Those were a few of the secrets Greg Parker shared in a presentation to local small business owners on March 22 at Venue 1223 in Bluffton. 

Parker is the founder and CEO of Parker’s convenience stores, a rapidly expanding company with 70 locations across South Carolina and southeast Georgia. If you couldn’t score a ticket to the sold-out event, here are a few highlights from Parker’s presentation. 

Create a foundation of excellence 

Parker started his first convenience store at age 21 in Midway, Georgia. He learned how to do everything from pumping gas, cooking food, making change and checking oil and tire pressure. He did not take a break for the first 3 1/2 years of his budding success. This was the first part of his presentation: entrepreneurs in their first decade out of college need to take the time to make their foundation of excellence. This is the time when young adults need to forget about a work-life balance and learn the ins and outs of their industry. Parker kept his head down and worked nonstop in exchange for having one of the most profitable convenience store chains in America.

Greg Parker is pictured with David Nelems, CEO of the Don Ryan Center for Innovation. Learn more at donryancenter.com.

Identify three pillars of success 

After a company has been established and placed its roots, there are three ways to set your brand apart. Parker calls them the three pillars of success – innovation, adaptability and giving back. 

1. Innovation 

The first pillar is all about being able to change and reinvent the way you do business. It’s knowing and believing that there is always a better way to do business. 

The Boston Consulting Group found that 75 percent of companies indicated that innovation is among their top three priorities, and 62 percent of high-growth companies plan to invest in technologies that lead to higher rates of innovation. It’s this type of data that drives Parker to figure out how to get three steps ahead of his competition.

Parker’s Kitchen innovation was Chewy Ice. It was a small idea that turned into its biggest success. Everyone told him that he couldn’t patent ice, but he did more than that: he came up with a smoother, faster dispensing technology. Parker went so far as to make the sound of the ice dispenser sound better than his competitors’ dispensers that “plunk” into drink cups, whereas his dispensers “whoosh” into drink cups. It’s a sound that words cannot do justice to, and a trip to your nearest Parker’s is worth it. Chewy Ice is just one of the several innovative ideas that have been incorporated over the years. 

2. Adaptability 

Parker’s Kitchen realized that the convenience store industry is more than a “gas, smokes and Cokes” industry. Rather than a convenience store that offers food service, Parker wanted to change and adapt his brand to being a food service that sells convenience. This one change has led to higher sales and an increase in merchandise sales. Parker is always thinking about the future and has been watching the evolving definition of fuel. He has started adding Tesla superchargers to certain locations to get a jump start on fueling his customers. 

3. Giving back 

The third pillar is part of Parker’s DNA. He believes that being successful is not enough – business leaders need to give back and support causes that are important to customers. Parker makes giving back intentional and is focused on how his company can impact each community in which his convenience stores are located. Parker’s doesn’t just focus on one charity but multiple because they see the multiple areas of need within their communities. The Parker’s Community Fund is dedicated to supporting education, healthcare, hunger and heroes. Parker knows that when he invests in the causes that customers are supporting, this will create lasting loyalty between his company and his customers.

Knowing these three pillars are important for businesses to stay competitive and establish loyalty in today’s dynamic marketplace. Learn to utilize and incorporate these pillars into your business strategy, and watch your business soar.

4 Keys to Success

1. Work hard: You should know more about your business, industry and competitors than anyone else.

2. Surround yourself with a great team: Create a board of advisors, and learn the best practices from other companies. “Work with the best team, even if it means firing a veteran and hiring a new person,” Parker said. 

3. Make success measurable: Make a dashboard for success. Track KPIs and ROIs daily to measure success over time. “If you can make success measurable, you can make it achievable,” Parker said. 

4. Stay humble and nimble: Always keep learning, keep growing, and stay open to new ideas.

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