As is the case with so many American enterprises, the family roots of Webb’s Auto & Truck Services, Inc. run deep. The Bell Gardens, California business was started by Richard and Robert Webb—the father and uncle of current general manger Matthew Webb—together with Matt’s grandfather, Gary Webb. Webb’s was the first gas station in the city and for many years after functioned as a gasoline-only, mechanical service site, the pervasive model for retail petroleum at the time. In 1975, Matt’s grandfather bought a second gas station, right across the street.
Matt grew up and around the business, so it was only natural that he considered making his own contribution to the family enterprise. “I was drawn to working on cars at first—my dad is a master mechanic,” Matt said. “As I got older, however, I started to notice that the business was changing, making it less and less practical to offer mechanical service. Ultimately, I re-thought things and began to gravitate to the business as a whole.”
In an effort to keep evolving along with the retail petroleum industry, the original station added a car wash in 1979 and, in 1996, built its first C-store under the auspices of Matt’s father and uncle. “The business did okay for awhile, although the second gas station always kind of struggled, relying on the profits of our auto repair site to keep it afloat,” explained Matt. “We eventually had to reassess our approach in the face of increasing competition from new stations that were cropping up in the vicinity. It affected us adversely. Our store lost $5,000–$10,000 a month five years running. That’s when I stepped in to see if I could make a difference.”
Matt’s understanding of how to run a successful store in his market consistently improved, but it didn’t take long before he and his family came to the conclusion that a stable, knowledgeable partner would be an invaluable asset if the C-store was going to reach its full potential. For that reason, Webb’s Auto & Truck Services made a decision that would change the face of its business forever: it franchised with Circle K.
Almost out of the gate, the partnership provided several impactful benefits to Webb’s. It started with the ability to conduct business under the sign of a well-known, trusted brand. “We noticed an uptick in store traffic from the very first day we erected the sign,” Matt recalls. “People noticed the Circle K logo; it meant something positive to them; it gave us a presence in our market that we previously didn’t have.”
Additionally, Webb implemented SSCS’ Computerized Daily Book back office software. “Before you can make Circle K’s management principles work for you,” Matt said, “you need access to the specifics of the operation when they’re still meaningful. Access to item margins and hands-on inventory counts top the list, and before we used the CDB they were difficult for us to identify in a timely manner. With the back office I can check margins on what I’ve sold at least three times a week. I can see that what I’m making is real and sustainable. It’s easier to ensure even cash flow. I feel comfortable spending additional resources on store staffing and staff salaries, where once I might have held back.”
Competitive C-stores are embracing Food Service as a profit center with a high ceiling. Webb’s is no exception, as the store recently began to offer pizza. “A key to success with pizza is knowing how much waste you can generate and still make it worthwhile to offer,” Matt explains. “The CDB is a big help because it’s precise about tracking our waste so I know I’m not throwing money in the trash. I’m currently maintaining a 50 percent margin on pizza and we’re trending upward. I’m not sure I would have tried to offer Food Service without a back office system.”
Webb’s Auto & Truck Services officially franchised with Circle K in late 2013. In the time that has passed since then, virtually all of the store’s measurable metrics have improved. The business went from selling about 3,500 gallons a day, to upwards of 8,500. Their C-store, which once struggled to realize $30,000 in monthly sales, recently topped $100,000.
Matthew doesn’t expect improvement to stop anytime soon. A second store is being built across the street, scheduled for completion in September of this year. His journey with technology likewise continues, as recently he began to use Transaction Analysis, a recently introduced, web based, platform independent application from SSCS that reports on transaction level detail generated by the point-of-sale.
“Transaction Analysis opened a window on our operation that we never had before,” he states. “It’s become easier to fine-tune our store’s performance, as a result. I can precisely determine my staffing requirements because the program gives me a record of register transactions by hour. I never knew our busiest hour of the week was Saturday at 1:00 p.m., until I used Transaction Analysis. Once I knew, I added staff to address the proven demand and maintain the quality customer service for which we are known.”
Transaction Analysis also helped Matthew identify suspicious activity at the register. “The application provides very specific information in regards to a voided transaction’s content,” he says. “I’ve started to monitor my voids count twice a week to identify any mysterious activity that may occur. Each voided transaction is time-stamped, so if I see something that looks out of the ordinary I can pull the corresponding video security footage and see what’s happening. I’ve caught employees running up voids and giving stuff away without spending hours looking at useless footage.”
The progressive outlook of Matthew Webb and his team combined with the franchise know-how of Circle K and powerful technology from SSCS form a three-pronged partnership that is positioned to continue serving Webb’s Auto & Truck Services, Inc. into the future. Maintaining the store’s daily inventory levels continue to be a challenge, but Matthew is in the process of getting the CDB’s Computer Assisted Ordering URL module fully operational which he believes will prevent the shelves from being under- or over-stocked.
“I get a lot of satisfaction out of knowing I took a failing business and turned it around,” Matthew says. “The management expertise of Circle K and the control provided by SSCS technology played a big role in making it happen. They opened up a new world of possibilities for us, from which the 35 employees of Webb’s Auto & Truck Services ultimately get to benefit.