Money, Power And Prestige


My last Avanti article—“Dawn of a New Era….Or Is It?”—generated much conversation and feedback. Some supported my thesis, while others criticized. In either case, it tells me folks read it. That is the mark of effective communication. The article got folks talking and some just plain mad! The intent of this piece is the same as the last—to get people inside and outside the organization to start thinking and talking. Before you get too much further I must warn you, some may not like the commentary, but others may say, “Right on! It’s about time!”

Recently, I came across an article by Daniel Goleman entitled “Power, Prestige or Money: What Drives Us.” I found it fascinating in that I have long pondered the motivations of both peers and the people inside SEI. I cannot help but wonder as I watch and observe otherwise intelligent human beings succumb to the allure of false satisfactions brought on by money, power and prestige.

Oh yes, let me stop right there. We are in the convenience store business to make money, nothing wrong with that. I hope that drives us all. But how far will some go to accumulate wealth? Is it ultimately good for the person? Is it ultimately good for the system? When individuals or groups of individuals put aside all considerations to personally enrich themselves at the exclusion of others, then in my mind that pursuit of money is wrong. These pursuits can include selling out one’s principles to gain additional stores or get a “free” trip to a sporting event, music concert and other types of swag. When people who should be protecting the livelihoods of others easily forego that responsibility for personal gain it is not leadership—it is theft, and that is wrong. In my opinion there is just far too much of this behavior at all levels in both the corporate and franchise organizations.

The pursuit of power, the next attribute that causes disordered and dysfunctional relationships, can take on many forms, but usually those who seek it or think they have power go to great lengths to lord it over others. They may take a “my way or the highway” approach to various interactions. They may arbitrarily promulgate rules on the pretext it is their ball game. They may shut down reasonable debate on topics that threaten their position. These pampered, perfumed princes of privilege prance around like a parade of pashas expecting others to bow down and submit to their greatness, when in fact the position and perceived power was only acquired by hijacking it from well-meaning franchisees.

Far too many of us are extremely busy in our stores and in our lives to give additional time to safeguard and improve the franchise system. Unfortunately, many of those who do (not all!) are motivated by a relentless drive for access and power. When that happens, the system is weakened and franchisees lose. We become led by a cadre of entitled sycophants willing to ignore the goal of a better, stronger franchise system for the temporary benefit of perceived power and thirty pieces of silver. This problem is not just within the franchise ranks. On the company side, the desire for power and position taints outlooks, attitudes and approaches to problems. How many times has the truth been sacrificed on the altar of “looking good” and avoidance of irritating higher ups?

The last, and most destructive, personality trait on display within the organizational hierarchies is the desire for prestige. This soul sickness manifests itself in countless ways. The chronic sufferers of the drive to “be somebody” may be found seeking the company of those who have perceived power or influence. Their telltale calling card is the convenient “name drop” when it builds their self-esteem. They will often tell of their exploits on the corporate jet with company executives and let everyone know that folks at the top confide in them. The similarity between these folks and our celebrity culture is unmistakable. Instead of being content with an honorable profession as successful merchants, they need to be seen as important cogs in the vast machine and they have a need to appear indispensable to the functioning of the organization. Frankly, they are a huge distraction, but busy executives mistake them for influential and important players.

Our business, our system is nearing a crossroad. Far too many stores have sales and profits that cannot financially support an operator and a family. The scabs of neglect present far too many stores as woefully outdated and worn out. The dire need for a major upgrade in plant and facilities threatens our long-term survival. The advances by regional competitors like Wawa and Quik Trip are setting a new standard of excellence that will be difficult, but not impossible, to overcome.

In light of these things, committed franchisees and executives of good will must purge our ranks of self-seeking, self-serving individuals whose only concern is themselves. We must rid ourselves of the perfumed princes of privilege who seek to build up their credentials. We must take back our system, our stores, and our livelihoods from those who wish to destroy.

As I continue to challenge everyone for the betterment of franchisees and our brand—these are my thoughts, and I’d love to hear yours!