John MacDougall has been in the convenience store business for more than 30 years. So when he was asked to help create a grocery company, he didn’t hesitate on the offer.
‘It took me about three minutes to make a decision,’ he said.
And Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes was born in the spring of 1980, with MacDougall owning half the franchise. The chain currently has 80 stores in upstate New York, and the company celebrated its 30th anniversary this year.
MacDougall, the president and chief executive officer of Nice N Easy, appeared Monday at the inauguration of the Martin J. Whitman School of Management’s Goodman Leadership Center. He advised students to take risks and find their passion.
The newly opened center aims to provide undergraduate students with hands-on experiences and learning opportunities to develop leadership skill, said Donald Cardarelli, assistant professor of management.
Cardarelli said he invited MacDougall to speak to get students inspired about leadership.
MacDougall spoke about his rise to success in the business world. The chance to found Nice N Easy happened after he took a risk of investing in and successfully rebuilding a chain of Quik Stops.
He said he is satisfied in how the risk of starting Nice N Easy turned out.
‘It is a $400 million business,’ MacDougall said. ‘If you don’t think I’m proud, you’re crazy.’
He stressed that to become successful and to be a leader, students should take risks — something he said is harder for this generation to do. He called the students conservative.
‘You’ve got to be a risk taker, and it isn’t easy,’ he said. ‘Sometimes you don’t win, but unless you take a risk, how are you going to know? That’s part of the game.’
He said all decisions he has had to make are not easy, especially because he is the head of the company. But he said he thinks the majority of his decisions have paid off.
MacDougall classified himself as a ‘people person’ and said his favorite part of his job is mingling with the customers so they have a voice in the company.
MacDougall said he highly believes in giving the people what they deserve.
‘In today’s world, integrity is being lost. Your company has to stand for something,’ he said. ‘It’s wrong to turn your back on people and not give them what you promised.’
MacDougall, who will be 70 in January, said he’s not sure when he’ll retire, but it won’t be anytime soon. His final words of advice for achieving goals are to ‘love what you do.’
‘The thing that has made me successful is that I love it; I have a passion for it,’ he said. ‘I’m urging you as college students to find that focus, that passion, that thing that makes you feel whole. The university will mold you, but keep in mind that you’re the one that is going to do it.’
Matt Tompkin, a junior finance and management major, said he was glad he attended the speech.
‘It was interesting and inspiring,’ Tompkin said. ‘I liked how he said to always get involved with something that you are passionate and care about.’
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