Greg Parker was 21 when he graduated from the University of Georgia and took over a construction project, a new gas station in Midway in 1976.
His company has now grown into 49 convenience stores across the Southeast and Parker said the secret to his company’s success is staying ahead of the curve.
“I am a futurist,” Parker said, adding he did a strength finder test offered by Gallup. “I am always thinking on the horizon. What’s next? What is the convenience store going to look like? We can talk about the past, but let’s think about the future. What are convenience store going to look like 10, 20, 30 years from now?”
Among their early innovations was the addition of what he calls “Chewy Ice” and fountain drink dispensers.
“We own cold dispensed beverages,” he said. “We are the people that started having cheap cost, Chewy Ice fountain drinks. We were the first people to do it. Nobody had Chewy Ice before we did chewy ice.”
Parker said business has changed since opening the Midway store, which is still in operations. And if the technological trends continue Parker said many things will soon be automated.
“Cars are not going to be being driven. Within 10 years truck drivers will be a job of the past. Because it is all going to be automated,” he said. “Taxi drivers, Uber drivers … all going to be automated. Most deliveries will be automated. Retail sales are going to change. Amazon is redefining the way we shop and receive products.”
Parker said business people need to be able to adapt or at least surround themselves with those who can.
“We are staying ahead of the industry,” he said adding he was selected as top technology CEO for the industry about two years ago.
“Don’t think that I am the greatest technology person. I am not. But I get stuff done. And I am thinking about the future and it is not whether or not I can figure out how to do it. The thing I am good at is putting a team together and holding people accountable. I am good at helping to set metrics and milestones and key performance indicators which helps us determine how we are progressing.”
And Parker said he makes changes as often as needed to his stores that enhance their ability to do business and most importantly please the customers.
“We are so different than most in the industry,” he said. “We will do something in a second.”
The changes include purchasing specialized coffee machines from Germany at $9,000 apiece for all 49 of his stores.
Parker said his stores have changed their point of sales program to allow for quicker service.
“With the (credit card) chip reader what happens is you put the card in and you have to wait 13 to 14 seconds for it to read your credit card,” he said. “Our customers have told us that the single most important thing in our stores is speed of transaction. How quickly they can get in and get out. So we decided that we are going to move from our conventional POS system which most of the industry uses to an EPOS system which is called radiant and made by NCR. So we bought those...”
Parker said there are 125,000 transactions a day at his stores.
Parker said they’ve also added a smartphone app, The Pump, that allows customers to pay for gas at the pump and pay for products with phones. He said those transactions are even faster than his new EPOS. The app allows consumers to find the nearest store, and activate a pump as they pull up.
Recently Parker’s renovated the Parker’s market in Savannah.
“When I redid that store I knew people were going to push back. Why? Because people don’t like change,” he said, noting the renovation took 12 days and cost $350,000-$400,000.
But accepting change and embracing new ideas is what Parker said keeps his company at the forefront.
“If there is one thing we have to teach our children, we have to teach them to be nimble learners,” he said. “They say whatever you learn in college is obsolete now in three years.”
Parker said it is also important for a company to show loyalty to customers.
“We do have a responsibility to give back to the communities where we are doing business. It is part of our DNA in this organization,” he said.
Parker had a medical issue where he ended up at Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Department.
“I was in there and I was talking to my PR team and I told them I wanted to do something significant for this incredible community that has supported us,” he said. “Everybody uses and ER at some point in their life. We did some research and we found out that there weren’t a lot of philanthropic gifts that were going to emergency rooms…so we made a very significant gift. The trauma center at Memorial is the only level one trauma center in this part of the state… That is the reason we are supporting it.”
Parker also runs an anti-litter campaign.
“I raised over $200,000 and we went out… We did a blitz about litter,” he said. “We as a country don’t do much about litter now and littering costs us 11 billion a year to clean up in America.”
Parker’s also raises funds for the area school systems.