IGA Rally: Transform Your Supermarket


The 2015 IGA Rally held earlier this month in Orlando, Fla., gathered IGA retailers and suppliers to learn how to transform their supermarket while remaining true to their vision and values.

Mark Batenic, CEO and president of IGA, opened the event with Dr. Tom Haggai, chairman, who reminded attendees that “IGA is not about building stores, but about community centers.” He continued by reiterating that good leaders lead from the front and not by standing at the back and pushing.

Michael Sansolo, event moderator, also challenged attendees to throw out the playbook. “None of us stands alone,” he said. “We all work together and we can from each other. We can get better together.”

The opening keynote speaker was Caption Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot who successfully landed the US Airways plane on the Hudson River in 2009. He prompted retailers to turn adversity into opportunity and to change before you’re forced to. “Bad outcomes are never the result of one thing, but the causal outcome of several things,” he said. “You hold the future in your hands. It’s important to know where the exits are and how the doors operate.”

Change According to Values

The transformation theme continued on with Brian Burkhart, president of SquarePlanet Presentations, who stated, “If you don’t transform, you will die.” His caveat was that the transformation had to be along the lines of what you believe in as a business. For example, Oreos are the top selling cookie in the United States, but Whole Foods does not sell Oreos. It's missing out on millions in sales, but is staying true to the beliefs if holds as a business. The goal of your business should not be to work with everyone or anyone, but rather to work with those that believe what you believe. Also, don’t be afraid to shake things up. Burkhart quoted Francis Ford Coppola, “The things that get you fired are the things that get you a lifetime achievement award later.”

Jeff Sinelli, founder, CEO and chief vibe officer of Which Wich, also stressed the need to transform but within the confines of what you believe as a business owner. He challenged attendees to make their own personal vibe or value system within their stores. Part of his company’s mission is to give back. For example, Which Wich donates two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for every one that a customer buys. One of the donated sandwiches is given to a local food bank or charity and the other is placed in a fund to be distributed throughout the world in the event of a natural disaster.

He also challenged Rally attendees to make 10,000 PB&J sandwiches during a sandwich-making session to be distributed that night to shelters throughout Orlando. Attendees rose to the challenge and surpassed the goal by making 12,381 sandwiches.

Future by Numbers

In order to transform, retailers need to know what is coming and what demographics they are serving. Ken Gronbach, president of KGC Direct, is a demographer by trade who used numbers to show attendees what they could expect in the future. Baby Boomers are a monster generation and there are not enough Gen Xers to replace them as they “age out,” which is why we are seeing many of the “problems” we see today. The housing crash – there were not enough people in the Gen X generation to buy all the houses Boomers owned and wanted to sell upon retirement. The loss of the middle class – we have no middle class because we have so few people in the generation that would be the middle class. The Millennials or Gen Y is another monster generation and Gronbach predicts all of these problems will right themselves as the Millennials “age in.”

The final speaker, Lou Holtz, legendary football coach, offered his five steps to improve your “team” and win: Attitude, passion, teamwork, dream and uplift. He also offered the three simple rules to being a better leader: do right, do everything to the best of your ability and show people you care. “If you want to be happy for a lifetime, add value to others,” he said.

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