The Big Question: Don Rhoads

The Big Question: Don Rhoads

November 2022   minute read

Don Rhoads, president and CEO of The Convenience Group LLC,
Vancouver, Washington, and 2022-23 NACS chair.
At the NACS Show, I talked extensively about the importance of community and in giving back. That doesn’t just apply to the communities where we have stores—it also applies to our industry. The reason I first got involved in NACS three decades ago was simple: I wanted to learn from and connect with best-in-class retailers.

I was new to the industry. Unlike many of you, my business wasn’t a family business. I acquired it. And that’s something that is a much longer story than can fit here. The point is that I knew I needed help to learn what I needed to learn—and didn’t know I needed to learn.

What I didn’t know at the time was how profoundly my engagement with NACS would change my life. It made me a better operator. I now have connections around the country—and even around the world— who can help me solve my problems. More importantly, a lot of my best friends are the people I have met in the industry.

As NACS chairman, I want to pay it forward. I want to spend as much time as I can visiting and meeting our members—whether at NACS events or in stores and headquarters offices. I’ve seen the power of connections and helping each other. That’s one of the reasons I co- founded the Washington Association of Neighborhood Stores in the 1990s with fellow Northwest c-store retailer Henry Armour. For the record, he’s pretty good at running NACS, too.

Our past NACS Chairman Jared Scheeler has talked about how he’s welcomed retailers to visit his stores in Dickinson, North Dakota, and they all came away with great ideas for their own businesses. But he also said the “dirty little secret” is he got as much benefit from people sharing their ideas when visiting as they did. And I completely agree.

We certainly have a lot of ways to communicate today, and the power of immediate communications makes it easy to feel connected without leaving your home or office. But there is another level to in-person communications where you are present and engaged. We saw that at the NACS Show and other events. And that’s something I intend to focus on over the next year. Let’s connect and make each other better.

As Dave Matthews, one of my favorite musicians, says in his song “#34”: ‘I’ll lean on you, and you lean on me and we’ll be OK.’”