NACS Show: Innovating Like a Start Up

The following originally appeared in Convenience Store Decisions and features W. Capra Senior Consultant, Jim Duboyce.

Sheetz aims to empower an incubator team to strategize new initiatives for Sheetz that will position it for the future.

In a Sunday, Oct. 7 educational session on innovating like a start up, Moderator Jim Duboyce, senior consultant, W. Capra Consulting, spoke with Emily Sheetz, AVP strategy development & execution for Sheetz, on what the c-store chain is doing to prepare for the future and how other chains might consider innovation in a similar way.

Sheetz, based in Altoona, Pa., is no stranger to making big changes. Emily Sheetz walked attendees through the chain’s history and some of the ways it has evolved over the years as disruptions entered the industry.

“Our vision statement is to put Sheetz as we know it today out of business,” she said. As Sheetz has worked to do just that over the years, it pulled ideas from different companies and industries and applied them to its market. This innovation led the company to grow from a single store to a grocerant in the 1960s to a chain with fuel and then a focus on food.

“Our founder Bob’s lasting legacy is to focus on the customer, and we need to focus on that area if we are to continue to be successful. We are vigilant about maintaining that focus and going after the right opportunities to drive our business and what we want to achieve,” Sheetz said.

Ideas Incubator

Today, Sheetz is aiming to create and empower a small team in an incubator environment to deliver disruptive innovation to Sheetz to best position it for the future.

While the team as a whole will continue to drive incremental innovation, this small incubator team will be responsible for envisioning big leaps. It will be shielded from bureaucracy but also integrated with the business throughout key points in the process to ensure any plans are accepted by the organization’s leadership.

Sheetz noted that the team will be resourced appropriately—in other words, given money and time, but it will also have the expectation to deliver financial results.

The convenience store chain is looking outside the industry to what companies like Google, Amazon and Tesla are doing, but with considerations for how those things could work for Sheetz specifically.

Sheetz expects the incubator to include internal and external staff so they understand Sheetz Convenience Stores—as these innovations need to be accepted by the organization—but bring new ideas too.

“It’s there to disrupt the customer experience—that’s its motivation,” Sheetz said.


Jim DuBoyce can be reached by email at [email protected].

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