Minute Mart Express: A True Life MBA Lesson

Minute Mart Express
1555 Southeast Orient Drive, Gresham, OR 97080-7227

[NOTE: This is a long reflective post]

The older I get, the more I realize how much I’ve taken things for granted in my childhood. Having finished an excellent MBA program from MIT Sloan, I also realize that I could’ve gotten everything I needed just by listening to my parents.

Spending two weeks at home before I start my new career, I was truly humbled at how much further I need to go to measure up to my parents. They recently started their 6th convenience store, this time located in Gresham, Oregon. I was home when they were starting everything up, and got to see the hardship first hand.

First. A Background Story:

My parents immigrated from South Korea in the 1970s. No english, no money, after travelling all over the US (from Colorado, to NY, to Alaska) my dad eventually found a home in Oregon and stayed ever since. He was among the first group of Koreans to settle in Oregon (vs California, New York, or Seattle). Looking for work, he found himself doing a convenience store, at the time in a very very tough place in town (lots of crime…he’s been at gunpoint many times). The hours are BRUTAL; As much as I complain about my long work hours, sitting on my computer, procrastinating, reading the internet, and checking email all the time, it doesn’t even compare. Currently they work 7 days a week, 365 days a year, from about 6am to about 11pm. These hours are actually pretty good, before they had to do 6am to midnight! I cannot thank my parents enough for their sacrifice so that I could have the privileged life that I have.

Convenience Store –> MBA Lessons

1. Due Diligence. In finance, PE, VC, etc… you want to make sure you’re making the right investments. Be it checking the numbers, profits, customers, etc. In the convenience store world, when I my parents are looking for a new store, they are super comprehensive. They know it’s going to be their home for the next few years. Not only does he check out the area, other stores, super markets, prices, but they also go into the store 100s of times, at different times of the day. He wants to understand the customers, the product mixes, busy/non-busy times, and the general feel. They are trying to understand where they can add value further value into the business.

2. Investments. Companies call it R&D, capital expenditures, long-term strategy, etc. My parents call it getting-stuff-done. From the first day they take over a new store, they make sure to invest in whatever ways possible to make it the best store they can. Be it adding new freezers/refrigerators, structural changes, new registers, equipment, and new items. Not only do they try to make it comfortable on themselves, but they want the customers and various merchants to feel comfortable as well. If they can be more efficient, then everybody benefits. They understand the sooner they finish making modifications, the faster it can bring returns.

3. Strategy and Operations. Customers, customers, customers. That’s their strategy. They learn what their customers want, and they get it. Even on the personal level, if a customer requests an item, by the next time they are in the store it’s there. Customer value; my parents understand that if it’s convenient for a customer to get what they want, then they’d added value and created that relationship.

4. Business Analytics. Total responsiveness, Agility. Being that they are there all the time, they are tuned to the minute detail (customer mix, product mix, items sold, finances, theft, etc…), and if things change, they are willing to adjust on the fly. If only businesses could be this tuned to their business analytics and customer flow.

Summary:

  • As you can see, my personal entrepreneurial roots/passions come from my parents – the ultimate entrepreneurs; foreign land, foreign language,risk taking, learning on the fly, and succeeding. I have sooo much more to go to match up to them.
  • It’s one thing to learn, but there’s another to DO. Everything I learned in business school…my parents already do, and they do it well

Reflections:
My parents have sooo much work ahead of them. Minute Mart Express is going to be a busy place…at least for the next couple years. Now that I’ve grown up (somewhat), I think I can better appreciate and understand the hardships that my parents are going through. Hopefully with as much education as I have gone through now, I could help them a little bit more…BUT…my guess is that I will probably learn more from them, as I always have.

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