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e ectively the national operations
manager. I loved the job and
enjoyed being able to get on with
it without having to report to a
In the meantime Leticia and
Warren had bought a rural
property at Cockatoo, near
Emerald on the old Pu ng Billy
line, where they still live today --
with a small rural lot and a twenty
acre holding close by. Cockatoo
is just 35 to 45 minutes' drive from
the 7-Eleven o ce. Their daughter
Kylie arrived ten months after they
arrived in Melbourne, followed by
their son Liam, sixteen months
later. But rather more radical
changes we about to occur in
Warren's busine ss life.
"Paul decided he was going to
retire at fifty-five and started
grooming me for the CEO's job. He
gave me marketing responsibility
on top of the operational role. Paul
let me learn from experience and
always gave me space to make
mistakes -- without living in fear of
my life - which I think is something
that remains in 7-Eleven today.
1. Work on your supply chain.
2. Concentrate on quality
service and speed of service.
That's what convenience is
3. Lead your customers and
your sta on a journey that
4. Concentrate on the
1. Work on your supply chain.
2. Understand that the industry
does not do strategic
partnerships well and the
fault is on both sides.
3. Reduce the amount of churn
in your key sta .
4. Be aware that good retailers
understand your problems.
"The franchise model means
that you have an entrepreneur
in every store."
"We have had great success with
small stand-alone stores. I think the
proliferation of small independent
stores will take some market share,
but will not threaten the major
operators. I think that in ten years or
so, most convenience purchases will
happen via a mobile phone app and
there won't be a front counter; sta
will move through the store helping
customers, rather than taking cash.
"Fresh Food is going to have to
become more important in Australia,
where fresh makes up just 8% of our
store business. In the Scandinavian
countries it's 40% and in Japan its
54%. The industry as a whole needs
to establish credibility with fresh food.
7-Eleven is putting a lot of resources
into its fresh food program and we
see it as being a ten year journey."
Fresh food is just one of many
journeys in the life of Warren Wilmot.
At home he's on his tractor
constructing a five acre garden from
"One day we'll build a new house
in the middle of it and retire to our
garden. I still love building things."
and cooking steaks, and I ended
up staying in the quick service
restaurant industry for fourteen
"The Bonanza chain was created
by a group of former Pizza Hut
manager's, and it was a great
training ground. It was also where
I met my future wife, Leticia,
who was a trainee manager at
Bonanza's Toowoomba restaurant.
I became a restaurant manager
after four weeks and senior
management eventually turned
a blind eye to the courtship. Two
years later we were married. Leticia
and I moved across to Pizza Hut as
trainee managers and found that
the systems there were all very
familiar to us.
"One thing that was not familiar to
us was life in Darwin, where we'd
been transferred to run Pizza Hut's
first Northern Territory store. The
store itself was a huge success
and extremely profitable, but back
then it wasn't the right place for a
young married couple like us. We
would have accepted a transfer to
any place just to get out of Darwin.
"A year later we were back in
Melbourne, with me as area
manager. Within a short time I
had operational responsibility
for Victoria and Tasmania. By
the end of 1992 it seemed to me
that management had unrealistic
expectations of the business. So
I put together the budgets for
1993 and quit, to take a couple of
months o .
"7-Eleven was recruiting people
from the quick ser vice restaurant
industry at the time, and I took a
job as a district manager. It was a
bit of a step down from what I'd
been doing, but it was a business
that I found interesting and I was
more than happy to give it a go. It
was a time of change at 7-Eleven,
which had been run as a family
business for many years, and was
only now being given over to
professional management. Paul
Tebbutt was General Manager
(and later MD).
"Within sixteen months I was
State manager for Victoria and
eighteen months later I got
NSW as well, which involved a
lot of commuting. It wasn't long
before Queensland was added.
After that, a few more bits and
pieces came my way, and I was
planning and how to e ectively
report to a board of directors. It
became apparent that 7-Eleven
was not necessarily a good place to
learning every day.
"Last year I and two colleagues
did an intensive course in strategic
planning in the USA. As a result,
we have just put down the best
strategic plan in the history of the
business. Our business is about
looking after franchisees as well as
customers. 7-Eleven has one major
advantage over its competitors.
The franchise model means that
you have an entrepreneur in every
store. This results in enormous
opportunities for innovation and
growth. I find it incredible when I
hear that other chains have moved
away from franchising because they
thought that their franchisees were
making too much money!
"Every franchisee and every store is
di erent and the challenge for our
people is to take each franchisee
on a di erent journey. Franchisees
deserve friendship and personal
support as well as business support.
It's a wonderful thing to see a
franchisee start with next to nothing
and then see them later running
"It worked for me because I
have always been good at self
assessment and introspection,
something which is not always
evident in young managers these
days. In those days there was a
seat-of-the-pants element in
management which, strangely, sits
quite well in an organised franchise
environment. Innovation is no less
important today that it was in the
early days of 7-Eleven.
"At the time, I had my doubts about
taking on the CEO's job -- even if
I was to be o ered it among all of
the external candidates that were
pitching for it. At the end, it was a
choice between breaking in a new
boss or taking on the role myself.
That was nine years ago.
"It was tough at first. We'd just taken
on fifty Burmah sites as the bottom
fell out of fuel margins. I had to
learn strategic planning, business
several stores of their own with
substantial accumulated personal
"Regrets? I don't have any major
ones, perhaps because I have
learned the importance of moving
on. Maybe it's just selective memory.
There are always things that I could
have improved on and I think that
these mainly revolve around the
development of people. In hindsight,
I'd say the one decent thing I have
always been able to do is hire good
"As to the future, I think the industry
has probably consolidated as much
as it is going to and it's become quite
di cult for major new entrants. But
think it will become more segmented.
I love what Coles has done with its
Coles Local concept in Ashburton
and you have to admire what BP has
achieved with Wild Bean. We're all still
waiting for Woolworths to get serious
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