Steve Parker has learned quite a bit since he took on the job of store director at Hy-Vee in Vermillion.
He also knows that there is still a lot to learn about the community, and about the role that Hy-Vee plays in it.
The biggest challenge is getting a feel for the community and getting a feel of perhaps the perception of
(Photo by David Lias)
Hy-Vee within the community, and how Hy-Vee can help the community, he said.
Parker has been with Hy-Vee for 19 years. He became the store manager at Vermillion in August 2009 after serving a similar role at the Hy-Vee store in Papillion, NE.
The majority of my career has been spent in the Omaha Council Bluffs area, he said. When youve got a growing market like they have in that area, its easy to gain experience at a number of different stores. I have experience at three Council Bluffs stores and two Omaha stores.
He and his wife, Kellie, have been married 19 years. They are parents of a 12-year-old daughter, Sheridan, who attends sixth grade at Vermillion Middle School.
Parkers career includes experiences in three smaller Hy-Vee food stores similar in age and size to Vermillions. Honestly, I think thats helped to prepare me for this role, he said.
There may be many tasks involved in that role as store director, but ultimately, all of Parkers efforts are designed with one goal in mind.
As far as a personal philosophy, I think whats most important is anything you can do for a customer, he said. Im also big on the experience that each customer has when they are in the store. I obviously want a regret-free experience for the shopper, but I also want an experience that makes them say Wow. I cant get that at this store or that store, or the competitor.
I want customers to find what we do to be obviously pleasing, and also to have a regret-free, positive and fun experience, Parker said.
Parker was born and raised in Council Bluffs, IA, where he attended high school. He studied at Iowa Western in Council Bluffs, is a Dale Carnegie graduate and has completed Hy-Vee leadership courses.
Ive been in retail for so long, since high school, and Ive really got a passion for the service, for the merchandising, he said. Thats one of the neat things about Hy-Vee. Weve got the autonomy at store level that allows us to take things to a whole new level and for me, within Hy-Vee, Im able to see that this is not a top-down style of operation.
They give the directors at the individual stores the autonomy to run the stores as they see fit, Parker said. That was the cool thing that inspired me to be able to do this. If I want to focus on service we always want to give great service, but what about legendary service? I can take the service to a whole new level. Its not necessarily a cookie-cutter style of running a store.
He notes that the founding fathers of Hy-Vee instilled a philosophy in their business with heavy emphasis on service and customer satisfaction.
They used to have a saying that if you had a fire and a customer at the same time, you took care of the customer first, and then you took care of the fire, Parker said. And that still lives on today in all 233 of our stores.
The staff at the Vermillion Hy-Vee is focused on customer service and friendliness, he said.
Thats at the forefront of everything we do, with every employee in every department that we have, Parker said. Obviously, our community efforts are a strong component that includes our Cash For Students program, in which we gave back over $6,000 to our area schools in 2010, and our Smart Points program and the other requests that we get.
I guess we really work to wow our customers with the experience that they get, he said. We strive to provide for them a service, to provide for them amenities, to provide for them a fun and exciting atmosphere. And, I think with todays economy and the situation that were in, I find it our obligation to search out and pass along savings and value for our customers, and to do that at every possible area within the store.
Parker recognizes that many of Vermillion shoppers grew up in an area of Mom-and-Pop-owned grocery stores, where customers looked forward to socializing with friends and neighbors as they shopped.
That atmosphere still exists today, he said, noting that people enjoy seeing each other on a daily basis at Hy-Vee, often stopping to sit together and share coffee in the stores dining area.
It all goes back to that initial experience, Parker said. I think when you can provide an inviting atmosphere, when you can be a gathering spot that people are just naturally attracted to, I really feel that is having a positive impact, and its also making a difference in peoples lives.
He admits the seven months that hes been in Vermillion isnt enough time to get to fully know the community and its people. He is constantly striving to become better acquainted with the city and his customers.
I think when you begin a new job, you spend the first couple of months getting to learn my people, Parker said, referring to the staff at the store. I used that time getting to know them, getting to know their interests and whats important to them. And then it seemed we spring boarded right into the holidays. And then, we had our South Dakota winter. Honestly, it isnt much different than Council Bluffs or Omaha; there may be just a few more inches of snow on the ground.
He is learning more and more about the special dynamic of the community, of how the city springs to life in the fall with the beginning of the school year and the arrival of USD students.
That dynamic is different than in other stores Ive worked at, Parker said, but what a great bunch of students, faculty and staff. Im so impressed with USD, from their involvement in the community, to the campus and the facilities. Its just top notch from what Ive seen.
He is excited, he said, to be part of the team that provides excellent service to the Vermillion community.
Im a coach on the team. My playmakers are my people, he said, referring to the Vermillion Hy-Vees staff. To me, the part-time courtesy clerk on the front end he or she has the same amount of responsibility for making sure our customers have a great experience in the store.