I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Jenny Love Meyer, vice president of communications for Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores, to discuss their Unstoppable Culture.
1) Love’s Travel Stops are located in 41 states, which is a sizeable footprint. Tell us about the scope of all that the Love’s Family of Companies has to offer.
In those 41 states we have a retail footprint of over 480 retail locations, which are food and fuel stops along highways all around the United States. We also have a company that is essentially for procurement and distribution of fuels and another, Gemini, which is a large fleet of trucks and drivers that deliver fuel to our retail locations. Finally, we have our most recent addition to our portfolio, Speedco, which is a chain of 53 total truck care locations nationwide. That’s been our latest addition to the Love’s Family of Companies, and we’re excited to have them!
2) It’s no surprise that you describe your organization as a family of companies because you are a family business. How do you keep that family feeling now that you have 23,000 employees and as one of the largest privately held companies in the country?
If there’s anything that I lose sleep over, it is retaining that family feeling. Keeping the family culture intact is really our differentiator as a company, and so keeping that alive for our folks is critical. There’s a lot of different ways that we that we do that. Historically what we’ve done is have the family, who are really representative of the culture, go out to store locations and serve as that visible frame of reference for culture. That’s meaningful for our store employees, and there’s still a place for that personal family outreach. But now the vision is about getting more leaders on board to keep the culture alive.
We are being purposeful about having our company leaders, at all levels in the organization, be involved with and understand the importance of their role as culture ambassadors. These leaders are modeling how the culture should be represented and how their employees should behave in a way that correlates with that culture. We’re working like crazy to keep that train running great! Ultimately, at Love’s we’re more about substance than style. And as we continue to progress in our journey in regards to culture, it is important for us to keep reminding ourselves of this differentiator from our prime competitor. Being authentic to our store employee base is critical in that endeavor.
3) That leads us right to my next question! How do you think about your customers in a way that is different from your competitors?
Words do matter. We’ve seen our competition talk about customer service and not necessarily walk that talk. We also put words into action by treating our customers like guests. Ultimately, they’re the reason why all of us have a job! We always challenge ourselves when it comes to customer service, and I think that’s an area we’re really succeeding based on customer feedback. Customer service is one of our North Stars and our approach is working in terms of how our customers see us differently from our competitors. Chiefly for the reason that our team members care, and it shows.
4) Jenny, you are known for frequently meeting with your employees. So can you talk about how you stay connected and what other actions or activity really keep the culture grounded at Love’s?
This again goes back to the origins of the company. My dad would literally drive around to the stores and pop in to talk to the employees there, and sometimes he’d be five minutes, sometimes he’d be 20 minutes. And I still do that. I’m typically out a couple weeks of the month visiting store locations, meeting with store employees and managers, but also district managers and up. That provides me an opportunity to calibrate them and check on their experience personally.
One of the other activities that keeps our culture grounded is communication, in terms of making sure that people are crystal clear on not only what the culture is but what their role is in sustaining it. I present to all new managers coming in – here’s what our culture is, and here’s why it’s important that you help sustain it. That’s a good on-boarding session, but I’m very aware that is just one day, one hour, out of their life. And so we need to layer on more to that. One of the things that that we’ve started is amplifying recognition of our folks. Conceptually it’s really the idea that when our folks do a great job in a customer experience, going above and beyond, that they get rewarded for that. And so there’s various mechanisms for that but we’re really starting to make that more visible and official so that people see it. The idea is then that other employees will replicate that behavior because they know A) what it is and B) that it’s a big deal to the organization when you do it.
5) How do you engage and empower your employees to serve your core customer, the professional truck driver?
It’s a big deal from a few different standpoints; that professional driver really has unique needs. They may not see a person for 8-9 hours until they come into our store location and talk with our team member. They’re on a tight schedule as well. Not to mention that there are a lot of regulations imposed upon them. And so for our team member to be able to engage with that person and be able to provide them with the amenities that they need, like a clean shower, can make a huge impact. Just for them to have a good experience in terms of friendly service is something that’s paramount.
We really try to empower our team members; if you can meet a need of a customer, do that. Or if you make a mistake, make it right. Our business is a 24/7 business, and that comes with its own unique set of challenges. And so being able to empower our team members to fix it and make it right in the moment is something I think they appreciate; they don’t have to go through layers of bureaucracy to solve a problem. My interactions with team members confirm that they care about helping the customer and as a general rule, giving them that autonomy to solve problems and to make that customer’s visit really great is one of the primary ways that we are able to keep a consistent experience with customers and ensure future visits. We call them “wow moments,” whether it’s an employee going outside to pump gas for someone in the freezing cold, or just recognizing a customer and knowing what they want to eat before they even order! Those are pretty common examples of actions that we talk about that can be easily replicated. Importantly, we learn about those things by talking with folks who are excelling and share those examples with other team members as best practices.
6) Giving back to your communities is an important part of Love’s external outreach. What are you most proud of in Love’s community involvement?
There’s a lot! Our Communications Manager, Kyla Turner, has done a lot in her tenure with Love’s to really boost our visibility in regards to giving back. She’s touched most aspects of our outward community involvement. I would say if you had to point to one aspect of it that really stands out, it would be our partnership with the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. They’re a network of over 170 hospitals across the country and in Canada and our store locations give to over 100 of those. We are seeing the growth of the partnership, and it’s manifesting itself in the dollars that we raise for that organization. Seeing the engagement of all of our employees in supporting the organization is really gratifying; it’s those times that you really learn what a person is made of. These are hourly team members, and the ways that they support that cause during that month of September is truly amazing. To be able to see that level of support scaled over 480 locations is really pretty fantastic.
Jenny Love Meyer is the vice president of communications for Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores. In her position, Jenny oversees public and media relations, internal communications, community relations, charitable giving and corporate events for the Love’s Family of Companies. Jenny is the daughter of Love’s founders Tom and Judy Love, and her career with Love’s officially began in 1991 serving in business and operational management roles. In 1998, she assumed her current role leading the Love’s communications team.
Jenny is an Oklahoma native, a graduate of Bishop McGuinness High School in Oklahoma City, and she holds a BA in political science from Colorado College. She is a past board member of the American Red Cross, Teach for America, the Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools, and the Arthritis Foundation. She was also past chairperson of the Children’s Miracle Network Council, past co-chair of United Way Women’s Leadership Society and a Leadership Oklahoma City Aluma, Class of XVII.
Jenny has been recognized with a Byliner award from the Association of Women in Communications, Oklahoma City Chapter, an Oklahoma City University Societies award in recognition of her work with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, Leadership OKC’s Paragon award for outstanding volunteer work and a Women in Leadership award from Langston University.
Currently, Jenny serves on the executive committee for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce board of directors, the Oklahoma City Community Foundation board of trustees executive committee, the Children’s Hospital Foundation board of directors, the OU Medicine board of directors and is chair of the board of governors for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
Jenny spearheads the Love’s annual fundraising campaign for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Under her leadership, Love’s has donated more than $30 million for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals across the nation in the past 20 years.
Jenny resides in Oklahoma City with her husband and daughter.