The Three-Legged Stool
Convenience store sales are the sum of the efforts of the people involved, and I often compare it to a three-legged stool composed of 7-Eleven, Inc., vendor manufacturers or service people, and franchisees. The objective of the stool is to “sell more stuff,” but like the stool, we need each leg in the relationship to be strong, and to support the other with confidence, knowledge, and respect.
I would like to thank our vendors, first for providing us with all the fine products we sell in our stores, and second for your ongoing support of the National Coalition and our local FOAs. We all know we can’t live without the incremental sales from the new products you provide as well as the core products that form the elementary part of our businesses. Likewise, without your support of our FOAs we could not exist or do the work we do in our communities to make connections and get to know our customers. We also would not have the resources to participate in the legislative activities that protect our customers and our businesses.
When we all work together, and we are committed to supporting each other, we succeed. If we sell more products, you sell more products. In return we all gain more gross profit. Even SEI is happy in this scenario.
Some vendors participate with our FOAs very proactively, as they understand what FOAs can give in return. They understand that franchisees are the real decision makers at store level who sell their products. They realize that franchisees decide what products need to be carried and what products need to be deleted. Do we use SEI’s approved product recommendations? Absolutely we do. It’s the first level in accepting your product into our stores. If SEI merchandising sees value in your product, franchisees are almost always willing to give that product a try. In the end, if we see value in your product, we will reorder it.
Likewise, FOAs are a good place to test non-approved, non-recommended products. If a product is not recommended, and you can get a group of franchisees in a local FOA to try it, when you are successful you as a vendor have the opportunity to show those positive sales numbers to SEI and potentially get your product approved. In the meantime, all franchisees can purchase and sell non-approved, non-recommended items as part of our contract. We are the “real buyers” in our stores.
Sometimes vendors see the ups and downs in the other leg of the stool, the franchisor/franchisee relationship, which is more like a husband and wife. We have a legal contract, we share a bank account, we both have a heavy investment in the relationship, and our future is explicitly tied. Like a couple, we both have expectations from each other and we must communicate, be transparent, and discuss our differences openly. Sometimes we do this well, and sometimes we do not. Like a couple we must be positive towards each other, and sit together and talk about budgets and finances often. Franchisees in many cases have invested their life savings in their stores, and we deserve to be treated like investors, like family and like business partners. Together we can grow the business.