Tree-change the right move for former 7-Eleven corporate
Family is important to Barry King, so it was top of mind when he thought about moving to a new location to start his own 7-Eleven fuel outlet.
The Sydney-born corporate was living in Minchinbury when he grabbed the opportunity to take his life in a whole new direction.
King’s parents had lived in the country, and the Lithgow location he chose put him just 45 minutes away from relatives on the central tablelands side of the Blue Mountains, and yet only 90 minutes from Sydney-based family and friends.
“It was a major consideration, to be closer to family and spend time with my aunt and 100-year-old great aunt. It was close enough, and far away enough to be a tree change.”
Not only was he moving into a new region, but was taking on business ownership for the first time. “It was a huge change. I’m 55 so have 12 years before I officially retire. It looked like a great opportunity. Regional stores are doing well, and it’s a great system,” he says.
Not that he was a newbie in the convenience world...King had spent 20 years in Mobil and had moved around (Perth, Adelaide, Queensland and New Zealand) before joining the corporate team at 7-Eleven. When he made the decision to become a franchisee, he had been NSW state manager for seven years.
Armed with inside knowledge of the system and the importance of doing his due diligence, Barry made sure he did his homework on the site, checking out passing traffic, customers, the local community and other shops in town. He was confident he could make something of the business.
Lithgow leads into four major highways and so attracts a regular flow of tourists and travellers heading over the Blue Mountains or into the tablelands.
The 7-Eleven site is the only one for miles – the closest store in the network is in Bathurst, 50 minutes’ drive away – and it serves between 1200 and 1400 customers daily, with food and coffee particular favourites.
“It’s a brand new store so a bit of a gamble, but I couldn’t see it not being successful. There’s nothing else like it.” The convenience store neighbours McDonald’s and Zambrero outlets.
“We service the fuel customers, and we get a margin as a fuel reseller, but the shop is where the money is made, on food and snacks.”
The store has to be well presented and stocked, says King. And it’s a new-look store with an extended food counter and coffee area. “I probably do 400-plus coffees a day. And Krispy Kremes are big drivers too, and sandwiches and pies.”
The location is in the middle of the delivery run from Sydney to Orange, so he’s had no issues with the all-important supply chain. He appreciates the work that has already been done in setting up the store, the systems and processes, allowing him to concentrate on customer service.
“You need to have the right staff, and I worked with a recruiter to help to make sure they were the right fit. You also need the opportunity and a place to train, then get them to provide great customer service.”
The decision to invest in his own business is the fulfilment of a long -held ambition, and despite initial doubts and the separation from some family members, King has found the relocation to be a positive experience.
“I was giving up time I’d spent with the family, but decided it was time to think about me. I’d always wanted to own my own business, it was time to do it,” he says.
And with Sydney in easy reach of his new home, a day trip to the city once every two to three weeks is easily manageable and enables him to share in family life.
He is a keen advocate for moving out of the big city to a more rural setting. “There really is a lack of stress, less traffic and there’s no 90-minute commute to and from the office,” he says.
“There is not the pressure of managing 20 staff [in a corporate role]. Yes, there are pressures, and I work probably the same hours (I’m a bit of a workaholic), about 60 hours, but the time just flies because you’re having a ball with it. I have great customers, and everyone knows you. I can’t go anywhere in town without someone waving hello.”
Country people like to chat, he has discovered. “I have a circle of friends I’ve made through the store. I got invited out for drinks and dinner and accepted the invitations. In Sydney that would never happen, but in the country people embrace you.
“At first I was not sure about the move, but I settled into it and I’m seeing double digit growth every week. I’m ecstatic I couldn’t be happier.”