Is this your first retail industry job? If not, what other industries were you in?
I started my career in the grocery business when I was 14 and I’ve been in it ever since.
Can you please share your path to the Store Manager position at Publix?
I started when I was in high school. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with my future, so I made the best of what I had at Publix. I worked my way to being the Assistant Common Area Manager, now call the Customer Service Manager, at the age of 19. I worked at several stores and was lucky to be promoted in a great store that I served for 8 years. After a few great stores and leaders helped me even further, I was promoted to Assistant Store Manager and after 3 years in that role I was promoted to Store Manager where I was able to finally have my own store.
On the first day (or the week) at Publix, did you have aspirations to lead Publix in some capacity?
No. I started off as a kid just trying to help pay for my own things and help my mother; however, I have always taken every job seriously.
What motivates you every day?
I'm motivated by helping people, getting to know people, and knowing that I can have an impact on someone’s life like many of my mentors before me.
Let’s talk business:
In your current role, essentially you are running a business. What's the biggest problem business owners don't know they have? (What do we need to pay attention to.)
Associate ownership and morale. It is important for your team to know they make a difference, feel important and reap benefits besides a paycheck.
What advice do you have for small business owners in order to make a successful new hire?
Go with your gut feeling when you get to know applicants during an interview process. Continue to build relationships once an employee is hired. If they feel you have invested in them, they will invest in your company.
In 2019, Publix was ranked No. 12 on Fortune magazine's list of 100 Best Companies to Work For. It was a huge leap from # 47 in 2018. Any lessons you can share on that transformation? (What small steps you and everyone took to make that happen.)
I unfortunately do not have an answer for this. However, Publix has been ranked in Fortune magazine’s top 100 since its inception. Because the Publix family believes in taking care of one another and allowing all associates to have the chance to purchase, and are given, shares of stock and ownership. It gives the sense of being cared for.
You lead one of the most successful F&D stores in the company. Did that happen under your watch or did you inherit it?
I believe all success is what you make it. The store I currently run has had many great leaders before me, and it will be my job to keep that legacy of this store true to continue its success.
Are mentors in business important? (Whom do you seek advice from for your business?)
Mentors are extremely important! I have had a great career so far and have worked with many whom have mentored me throughout the years. I continue to call them when I need guidance and I have others that often call me for guidance. It’s important to continue to grow leaders if I want to have Publix be as successful as it is now, once I retire.
Time for leadership questions:
Did someone teach you leadership? Or were you a born leader? Or did you inquisitively learn the best from others and assimilate it into your style of leadership?
I believe leadership comes in many ways. For me, it was taught. I often watched my mentors and leaders work with individuals and I would mimic the things I liked. This has helped me develop my own style of leadership.
Is your company guided by a set of Core Values? If so, what are they?
Publix has its mission and lessons from our founder, Mr. George, to keep in line with our company's vision. Our most recent focus is P.R.I.D.E; Personal Responsibility In Delivering Excellence.
When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused or lose interest, what do you do? What do you tell yourself?
When I lose interest, I typically start something new, refresh and then come back.
Can you tell me about a tough day you had at work and how you (and your employees) pushed through (non-pandemic)?
During last year's tropical storm Zeta, our store power went out. Most associates came in even though we were unable to open for business. They all chipped in to get the coolers secure in order to hold temps and ensure we followed all emergency procedures during this uncommon incident. After a long, stressful day of uncertainty, the power came back up 12 hours later. Our team did a great job of prepping the store for reopening and helping our community, who was also out of power.
How do you manage your day and distractions?
I try not to categorize anything as distractions. Most of the time I have opportunities that keep me from completing one task at a time. Being in retail, opportunities arise frequently and must be handled, but I always come back to the task at hand.
Let’s wind things down:
Who or What shaped who you are?
My mother helped me become the person I am. I never wanted to let her down, or anyone else down for that matter. The worst thing for me is to see or feel like I let someone down.
What beliefs and behaviors of yours most contributed to your success?
To be the best person I can be, and fully honest in life, has contributed to my success. To always give everyone fair opportunities when deserved and to hold everyone accountable to the same standard.
My son has completed his first year at college. What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the real world in a few years?
Live everything to the fullest. Soak every moment in. Don't be afraid to start new things and venture out. Believe in yourself and know that you are going to do great things in life.
What advice should he ignore?
Don't let anyone tell you, “You can't,” or “You’re not good enough.” You are good enough!
Let’s end this with a serious answer. What was the small step for you, that became the giant leap for yourself?
Coming from a single parent home where we didn't have a lot of money, I often watched my mother struggle. I never wanted to have that for myself. I knew that whatever I did in life I wanted to be able to afford things without worry. Publix has given me that opportunity by rewarding me on my successes.