Amidst the lively hum of the NACS Show 2023, members of Medicine Creek Enterprise Corporation (MCEC) leadership team spent a week in Atlanta brushing up against innovative technologies, worthy product lines, and the knowledge of experts that cumulatively shaped their understanding of how to fuel an even brighter future for Nisqually Markets.
Hosted by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), the annual conference is the only global gathering of its kind. It’s a melting pot of innovation, industry insights, and networking opportunities. This year’s installment of the NACS Show was held at the Georgia World Congress Center from October 2-6, and provided a platform from which the Nisqually Markets team dove into all things retail and fueling.
For the first time in her tenure as MCEC Board President, Sharr Steetlah was available to attend the conference, and judging by her account of her week in Atlanta, it was time worth spending.
“NACS is such a large-scale event and a bit overwhelming, but in a good way,” Steetlah said. “For our team to be a part of a national event is important for Nisqually Markets, not just for exposure to new products but also to explore changes in technology. We aim to incorporate these systems into our stores to improve our services and growth. It was extremely informative, and I was impressed with the education sessions, as well as the conference in general.”
Jennifer Hines, MCEC Deputy Chief Executive Officer, shared Steetlah’s sentiment and enthusiasm. In addition to highlighting the thousands of products on display at the expo each day, Hines shared further about the education sessions, which were chocked full of all the latest information and projections.
“The sessions provided a forecast for where the industry is heading in the years to come, especially considering the advances in technology that pertain to retail and fueling,” Hines said. “We were fortunate to participate in this industry-defining event and came away with fresh ideas and insight into how we can best serve our region with our award-winning Nisqually Markets convenience stores and fueling stations.”
The importance of the NACS Show as a learning and networking hub is immense, particularly this year, due to a focal point on the industry’s burgeoning advances in technology, such as the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into the retail and fueling scene.
Hines described the entire conference as a “dynamic experience,” adding that “the sheer number of new products and technologies on display in the trade show expo was mindboggling.”
Amidst the dynamic atmosphere of the NACS Show 2023, the Nisqually Markets team seized key takeaways. The most prominent of them was the realization that while AI will be paramount for the industry in the coming years, retail- and fueling-specific AI systems are effectively still in the developmental stage and will require more time for both functionality and cost-effectiveness.
Industry experts recommended giving AI one to three years of further development before fully integrating it into operations. Additionally, the conference provided valuable insights into the long-term projection of fuel sales, offering essential knowledge for aligning our fueling stations for future growth and sustainability.
But not all of what made NACS exceptional this year could be summed up by its international array of new product lines, technological displays, and educational sessions. Some of what made the experience memorable stemmed from a little closer to home.
“One of the highlights of NACS this year was that our very own Ed Rosen sat on a panel,” Hines said. “Our entire team went to watch the panel. He had a cheering section, and we were all impressed with his presentation, which preceded his graduation from the NACS Leadership for Success program. It was great to witness and support his accomplishments as a team.”
Rosen, who helms the Nisqually Markets team as Interim Retail General Manager for MCEC, explained that the Leadership for Success program was a course aimed to help participants explore and develop their leadership skills. The program began with a pre-survey that assessed strengths and weaknesses in leadership, both from the participant’s perspective and that of their staff. It illuminated areas where improvements were needed and offered insights into communication styles and team dynamics.
According to Rosen, the program was not only an eye-opening journey of self-discovery but a collaborative experience where participants worked together to maximize their strengths and set a foundation for growth. The leadership program culminated in panel-style presentations at the NACS Show on topics related to leadership and management.
Rosen was part of a panel that discussed the program’s valuable lessons on building a successful management team, where he emphasized the importance of effective communication geared toward varying communication styles. He shared, “As a leader, you need to differentiate your communication style to fit the needs of the individuals you are leading.”
The key takeaways from Rosen’s experience encompassed the value of the program’s built-in networking relationships, which were aided by a sense of unity within the industry. He noted that despite differences in the size of businesses, common challenges exist across the board. Rosen remains in contact with many of his program peers, exchanging ideas and seeking input on overcoming shared obstacles.
While the NACS Leadership for Success program certainly aided Rosen’s further development as a Nisqually Markets leader, his time presenting program insights as a panelist had him drawing from something deeper.
“Being a panelist put me out of my comfort zone and into an area of growth,” Rosen said. “I found I was able to draw on inner strength that I didn’t know I had to get up on that stage and speak in front of that large audience of people.”
For the Nisqually Markets team, the NACS Show 2023 was a testament to a dedication to enterprise development, innovation, and excellence. It solidified MCEC’s commitment to delivering outstanding service and products to the region’s consumers and bolstered our efforts to be at the forefront of the industry’s developments.