As we have been interviewing CFOs from different industries, many finance leaders have told us that they had bracketed the CFO office as their preferred career destination beginning from Day One of their professional lives.
Still others have reported that it was only due to the intervention of a determined mentor that they were able to muster the resolve to aim ever higher and ultimately arrive in the C-suite.
As it turns out, neither of these profiles depicts the experience of Don Bassell, CFO of ARKO Corp., a Fortune 500 company that is one of the largest operators of convenience stores and wholesalers of fuel in the United States.Read More
For Bassell, the CFO office would become “the destination” only after he received a particular job offer when he was in his early 40s.
“Something didn’t feel right,” he recalls, reflecting back on the opportunity to fill a senior controller role.
Bassell remembers being seated across the table from the CFO, who was trying to sell him by saying, “Don’t you understand? You are going to be preparing all of the materials that will be presented inside the boardroom.”
“I said to him, ‘That’s the problem—I want to be inside the boardroom!,’” continues Bassell, “and that’s when everything became crystal clear to me.”
However, while Bassell tells us that he was confident that his breadth of experience had left him well suited and qualified for top management, he still was not convinced that the CFO office was the best ultimate destination for him.
“I didn’t think that I wanted to be a CFO,” remarks Bassell, who credits his eventual change of heart to a human resources consultant who pointedly cross-examined his hesitation to pursue the role.
“She took me through this whole process of listing the different roles that I had had and things that I had done during my career, and she then put me through a series of questions,” explains Bassell, who adds that both he and the consultant ended up almost simultaneously saying the same words: “Okay, it looks like the CFO office it is.”
To better reveal the scope of Bassell’s experiences, the consultant had helped him to reformulate his executive resume by using a listing of the different functional roles that he had filled rather than the traditional chronological list—a change that helped even Bassell to better digest the fact that he now had a CFO resume.
Says Bassell: “It was a crossroads for me—she really helped me to assess what it was that I wanted to do.” –Jack Sweeney
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CFOTL: Tell us about ARKO and GPM Investments … what realms do these firms operate in today?
Bassell: Well, GPM Investments is the operating company, and ARKO Corp. is the public company that essentially owns it. We have about 1,400 convenience stores and roughly 1,600 wholesale sites. When I say “wholesale site,” I’m basically referring to a dealer who operates a convenience store.
If we operate the convenience store, it’s our site—we’re running it. If a dealer is operating the convenience store, it’s their site. We’re selling fuel to them, so they’re a wholesale customer. We have a big wholesale population and a big convenience population. We have also recently acquired a fleet fueling operation, which is not really where over-the-road rigs would pull in to fuel up but instead where vehicles like landscaping trucks, FedEx, whatever, can come in to fill up quickly. This is mostly fast-fill diesel.Read More
We continue to grow. As a side note: I was fortunate enough to experience the same type of thing back when I was with MACS—Mid-Atlantic Convenience Stores—which was an investment owned by L Catterton, a great private equity firm with which to work. So, I’ve seen a lot.
At ARKO, we have now gone through 22 acquisitions over the past 8 years. There has been a lot to do. We operate under 18 banners across the country. We’re primarily a convenience retailer, but we also have these great revenue engines. We have this great wholesale engine and this great fleet fueling engine that both provide steady cash flow that gives us opportunities. We’re the sixth largest convenience store chain in the country, but people wouldn’t know this because we operate under so many brands.
My biggest priority right now is helping to implement the integration of two more acquisitions that we have recently announced. After this, my biggest goal is really to focus on how to make life easier for everybody. Let’s look at the things that are creating challenges for people. Let’s take the waste out. Things like that.
I really believe in creating and maintaining a good work/life balance. This is very, very important to me. I don’t want people having to work endlessly. Obviously, if you’re an accountant, you know that you’re going to run into your quarterly and end-of-year reports—they are just part of what you sign up for. But I want to make processes a lot more efficient, and I want to make sure that when I leave this place, I can feel confident that I have done everything that I could, from all perspectives, to make us not just more efficient but also more productive. This is really, really my highest priority.
ARKO Corp. | www.arkocorp.com | Richmond, VA