Sinclair Shop Eazy - Mike Aziz
Mike Aziz, a long-time CarterEnergy customer, currently has eight c-stores throughout the Kansas City area (branded Sinclair, Conoco, Phillips, BP, and Shell). His Sinclair Shop Eazy location in Pleasant Valley, Missouri, is unique, with an on-site, Greek restaurant right inside the store. Mike shared his secrets, challenges and experiences with us for this quarter’s customer spotlight.
What inspired you to get into the c-store business?
My entire family was involved in business when I was growing up, so I have had been watching them since I was a child. I also helped my parents with their retail business. I later graduated from college with honors in Economics.
When I came to this country, I looked into several options and found that the C-store industry related most to my experience. It also appealed to me since it connects to people’s everyday lives. I also liked the trading business.
What challenges have you faced with your businesses? How have you addressed them?
Our biggest challenge is theft, from different angles. When I was new to the industry, I thought about it and realized that I had to try to find a way to take care of this problem. In addition, if I wanted to grow my business, I would have to update myself like the other big guys in the industry. I spent lots of time going to those “big guys”, trying to determine how I could bring their best practices back into my own business. In 1998, I started scanning all of my products using back-office software. I also carefully trained my employees, knowing that they could grow with me—as long as they were honest and sincere. We now work as a team, not just with me as “the boss”.
What key elements did you want in your store?
Strict accounting practices, cleanliness, a friendly atmosphere and proper merchandising.
What makes you different from your competition?
We guarantee our service, which means that, if a customer is unhappy, we definitely make an effort to talk to him. We also let our customers know that they can email me directly if they are unhappy for any reason.
What has been your key to success so far?
Our kitchen and our carwash. We opened GYRO TOWN, a Greek restaurant in our store, almost two years ago. We offer a variety of foods cooked fresh on site, along with daily specials. No one is making this kind of food in or around our store, which is an advantage because it gives people another option. We also guarantee our food for freshness; if anyone has any issues, we’ll refund their money 100%, no questions asked. So far, we haven’t had any complaints.
Secondly, we’re in the carwash business. I made the decision to go ahead and put in a new carwash, even if I didn’t make a lot of extra profit. I figured that if I could at least break even, it would be a value-added service for us. It’s been profitable so far.
I started with Carter back in 1992. CarterEnergy provides a very valuable service to all of their dealers. I have experienced, firsthand, the look of concern in the eyes of their salesforce and the passion they have for helping their dealers succeed. Whether we are buying property, upgrading our stores, or not running our business in a profitable manner, they are there to help. Irrespective of how much time a dealer may take to accomplish something, I’ve never seen a wrinkle on their faces.
Overall, most of the people I have met at CarterEnergy have been very respectful and helpful to me.
CarterEnergy provides me with valuable and timely information and helps me implement new ideas to help my business grow. They also help me evaluate our success afterwards.
We’ve had immense help from Carter in promoting our kitchen and carwash by helping us start a Facebook page (www.facebook. com/sinclairshopeazy). We ran promotions on the site, as well as did monthly fan drawings for free food. We also promoted our Facebook page at the register, offering people a free fountain drink just for liking us on the spot.
As customers tried our restaurant, they put very nice comments on our Facebook page about how good the food and service was. We earned new fans because they referred their friends and family to us. Once, a customer came in around 9 pm, just when the kitchen was closing. When she mentioned that she and her brother had just visited their dad in the hospital, the cashier made them all the food they wanted. That customer wrote about her experience on our page, which resulted in even more positive comments—and more customers!
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