Dave Hooker, Executive Director, New Zealand Association of Convenience Stores (NZACS), discusses how strong relationships lead to resilience.

When asked to write a piece in the Leaders Forum where does your head naturally go? Business, business, business.

Like everybody, I’m just one of many that has endured lockdowns, Zoom meetings, air frying and online funerals for friends and family over the last 12 months. I’ve struggled with a business environment that feels like we are walking on jelly at times.

Reflecting on the last two years, for myself and other leaders, the challenge is how to maintain a level of resilience in an ever-changing landscape.

Being resilient is all about relationships. The stronger your relationships the better your resilience.

Like any good building, strong foundations are imperative – so those are the relationships with family and friends. Work on these first as they will always be the most important. If these become wobbly it’s hard to concentrate on the superstructure.

So, what is the superstructure? This is the piece the whole world sees, your out of home and professional relationships. If these are strong and rewarding working through tough times becomes a lot more satisfying and manageable.

If these relationships are constantly challenging in a negative way this will chip away at your resilience to the point where you are most likely looking for another role or company.

You must love the industry you are in. If you don’t, you’re just doing a job.

So, this brings me to my position after almost 35 years in the convenience channel working for multi-nationals and now our own business plus heading NZACS.

Convenience stores, P&C aren’t always viewed as the sexiest industry. Let’s face it, it’s not a Google, a Tesla, or a garage start-up about to make billions.

However, I just love it, mainly because I’m energised by the people I deal with. Whether it’s an enthusiastic new key account manager or a business owner or manager that I have known for more than 20 years the motivation I get from these professionals is priceless.

If you’re running a convenience store your business relationships are clear. Your professional advisors, your suppliers and most importantly your customers. If you find yourself locking horns with any of these folks on a regular basis there is some work to do that will benefit you both.

As a channel, P&C has some huge challenges coming:

  • What does an alternate fuel future look like?
  • What will be the impacts of the Smokefree Aotearoa Action plan on our businesses?
  • How do we manage spiralling costs and reducing or stagnant margins?

We aren’t’ always going to get on with everyone, however, nurture the relationships you value, develop recent ones and look forward to making more in the future and keeping them. This will naturally build resilience to help you over the small and larger hurdles ahead.

New Zealand is a small place and operators in FMCG tend to be around for a long time. Don’t burn your bridges – build them and keep them strong.

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