How IoT is Redefining the Convenience Store Experience

IoT Leaders with Nick Earle, CEO of Eseye and Rachel Collins, General Manager of Insite360.

Convenience retail is slowly outpacing fuel sales at gas stations. Gasoline is no longer the main draw for customers; instead, they’re looking for a brand experience. Convenience store brands are trying to create a unique customer experience within their stores to attract people who may not even need gasoline. 

So, how can IoT transform the journey of the convenience store owner? In this episode, General Manager of Insite360 Rachel Collins explains the change in convenience retail goals, how automation eases the burden on overloaded retail vendors, and why culture is the key to a successful shift.

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Transcript

Intro:
You’re listening to IoT Leaders, a podcast from Eseye that shares real IoT stories from the field about digital transformation swings and misses, lessons learned and innovation strategies that work. In each episode, you’ll hear our conversations with top digitization leaders on how IoT is changing the world for the better. Let IoT Leaders be your guide to IoT digital transformation and innovation. Let’s get into the show.

Nick Earle:
Hello, this is Nick Earle and in this week’s episode, we’ve got a really interesting story for you. What you’re going to hear is a story from a lady called Rachel Collins. She works for an institution called GVR, Gilbarco Veeder-Root, which you may not have heard of, but you would’ve seen because they have, in the U.S, at least, over 65% market share of the dispensers on garage forecourts, fuel dispensers, tank management, et cetera, et cetera. They’re also over in Europe and around the world and it’s a story of change management. It’s a story of taking 152 year old company and accelerating its transformation to become a company offering business services to petrol station, gas station, forecourt owners, which are now becoming convenience stores with fuel. So how IoT can enable that transformation of the journey for the convenience store owner, but also for GVR, again, as this large company with bulletproof market share, but in a world that’s changing very, very dramatically.

Nick Earle:
Rachel tells the story really well and someone who came in from the outside to turn a business around and then has been one of the leaders at GVR that has driven this strategy. It really is a nice story of business transformation and IoT making a difference in a rapidly changing world around a very established U.S. hardware focus company. I think you’re really going to enjoy this and so with no further ado, please enjoy the IoT Leaders podcast episode with Rachel Collins of GVR. Here we go.

Nick Earle:
Okay. Rachel, welcome to the IoT Leaders podcast.

Rachel Collins:
Thank you so much, Nick. Nice to be here. Thanks for inviting me.

Nick Earle:
Great to have you here. We’ve got a really interesting story with multiple facets today, but before we get into that, I just wanted to explore a little bit about yourself and your background. Maybe we can just start off with where you’re based, what you’ve done, potted history of what you’ve done, and then how did you end up in GVR? Because I think that’s a really interesting story to start off with.

Rachel Collins:
Absolutely. I’m based in Houston, Texas. I’ve actually lived in Houston for the past 26 years. Came here right out of college, but I’ve actually been professionally based out of a lot of different places, including Austin, Texas, New York, travelled a lot. I’ve been in enterprise software for over 25 years. Started my career here, love deep vertical market software, spent a lot of time in energy just by way of being here in Houston. I’ve worked on a lot of high volume transactional systems, so that’s really more of my expertise. Back in my 20s, I started my own company when I was fearless and had nothing to lose and really created a business around financial systems, trading systems, developing in Java. That’s where my background-

Nick Earle:
You became an entrepreneur, not long after college. How about that?

Rachel Collins:
Yeah. Hands on developer. I have a very technical background, and then leading up to how did I get here to GVR. About a decade ago, 10 to 15 years ago, I was running a company that was acquired by private equity. Unbeknownst to us, we were owned by a German based parent company that was divesting of their North American assets. We were acquired by private equity, an Austin based company, and I proceeded to learn the private equity models, the different operating models, financial models, stuck within private equity, one particular company for about six years and ran about six different acquisitions. The reason that I loved it is just learning different business models, different delivery models. I was really focused on building out the operating playbooks for managed services, full blown SaaS, because this particular private equity company had more experience in the licensed on-prem software and less about cloud-based software.

Rachel Collins:
Spent time there building out these playbooks and back in, I guess, 2019, I was approached about a company here in Houston. The opportunity to get off the road a little bit and run a software company locally, and it happened to roll into a company called GVR or Gilbarco Veeder-Root, and it was the first software acquisition by the company. It was acquired in 2014 and I entered the business in 2019. It was not performing as expected. I think it was just a very, very different business model. They were looking for someone from software to come in and make some changes to the financial model and the operating model and take this underperforming asset to a point that it was growing recurring revenue.

Nick Earle:
To understand the magnitude of that change, giving a little bit of context on GVR, and I was just looking at Wikipedia before we hit the record button here, and I think you hold the record of the person who works for the company that’s been in the business the longest of anyone who’s appeared on the IoT Leaders podcast. Because what I found was GVR was formed in 1870. So 152 years. Not that many companies, although it wasn’t called GVR. It wasn’t long before it was called Gilbarco after it was founded, but part of Exxon for 100 years. There’s a lot of history and culture in this company and you joined it to turn around, it’s not a software company. I mean, it’s an automatic, a tank gauge management for petrol, or as you call it in the U.S., gas station, forecourts, the fuel management systems. We’re going to get into all of that, but this is not a cutting edge software Silicon Valley or even Austin, Texas software company you found yourself in. That’s quite a leap into this company.

Rachel Collins:
That’s right. Big change, big challenge. I mean, I never mapped out my career. I always looked for the spicy meatball kind of challenges and I thought this one had it written all over because at the time we were spinning off a new holding company, but to your point, GVR is a deep rooted industrial manufacturing company, something that I knew nothing about. Not only did I not have any retail petroleum experience, but I didn’t have any industrial manufacturing. To come in and essentially run a turnaround of a software acquisition within this deep rooted culture, this heritage, and really this pride, right? I mean, a very, very successful industrial manufacturing organization. I thought it was going to be a big challenge. It has been a big challenge, but it’s been a lot of fun and I’ve learned so much as a result.

Rachel Collins:
Now I feel like I know a little bit more about the manufacturing industry and a lot more about just hardware and how to integrate and use that as a conduit for software and services. I think I’ve grown as a leader, but I’m happy to share more about just the experiences I’ve had with the culture. They’re dramatically different.

Nick Earle:
I would like to go there because, again, we’ve not had a story like this on the podcast. A couple of points up here. I mean, full disclosure for our listeners, no surprise, GVR and Eseye were partners. GVR use Eseye’s offering so full disclosure there, but secondly, I’ve talked in previous podcasts about my role in two companies actually, Hewlett Packard in the Valley in California and Cisco based out of Europe, but where I was doing change management, trying to change large organizations, not with anywhere near the type of history that GVR had, but probably the most relevant one mapping onto what your role is, was at Cisco, which was the world’s biggest box company. You sell more computers boxes than anybody else and then trying to turn it into a software and managed services company. Managing software companies within Cisco, the issues were … everything was orthogonal.

Nick Earle:
I mean, nothing was designed for software, nothing was designed for recurring revenue, OPEX, just the way you think about software and engineering and the way you do financial systems. It was a real change management system and we had to build another culture within a culture. At least I knew the industry, right? I mean, I’d been at Cisco several years before they asked me to do that gig and I’d been in tech for many years, but you came in with no knowledge of the oil industry, no knowledge of the hardware side and with a mandate to turn around a poor performing software business, which was their first software acquisition. So you like a challenge.

Rachel Collins:
Very high profile, I’ll tell you. Or a masochist, right? I mean, one or the other.

Nick Earle:
I was kind of hinting that.

Rachel Collins:
Yeah. But I mean, it’s so interesting. And I knew … I mean, I think what drew me to it as well is this was a strategic acquisition. It wasn’t private equity where you’re trying to find a path to exit. This is a critical part of the strategy of the overall organization and really the future of the company. There’s a distinct awareness that the company needs to transform and start moving away from focusing on hardware sales and having the economic value within the equipment. There’s an understanding that now that’s shifting and it’s more the services and solutions that can be delivered through that equipment, and that’s the future of the business.

Nick Earle:
That’s the nub of this story, right. Just for those listeners and indeed myself who are not immersed, pardon the pun, in fuel tank management and everything that goes on in the dispensers, that dispense the fuel on the forecourt, and we’re going to get into the whole retail side of it soon, because the world’s changing very rapidly and the EV charges, but before we get into that, you guys have, I understand, in North America, 65 plus percent market share. Someone could look at this and say, “Okay, so what was the burning platform? Why did they take the risk? Why did they see this as strategic? What’s the problem? You have 65% market share, there’s millions of cars.” At the time you were recruited, EV wasn’t as anywhere big as it is now, so there was a visionary clearly, or there was a strategy around reinvention of this 150 year old company.

Rachel Collins:
I think it was a few things. I mean, number one, when you refer to the market share, that’s the installed base of equipment. As you know, equipment businesses being non-recurring revenue, you start over every year trying to hit these monthly numbers, these quarterly numbers. There was a very deliberate focus of our board members and our leadership to say, “We want to change the mix of revenue. We have about 80/20 non-recurring to recurring. Let’s try to get that recurring revenue, which is a bit more fluid and predictable, up to, let’s say, 60, 65%.” That was a part of it. I think the second thing is just from a regulatory standpoint, if you’ve heard about EMV, which is … what is it? Europay, MasterCard, Visa, but essentially what was happening is from a regulatory standpoint, the liability was shifting from the credit card companies to the network operators, the site owners, when you pay at the pump.

Rachel Collins:
We saw a big surge in orders of updated dispensers, modern dispensers, but we knew that was going to drop off after that became the law. That had happened actually last year, so we knew there was going to be a drop off in equipment needs and orders. But the third part was just that naturally the business has seen that there’s this divergence from fuel and convenience retail. Fuel is no longer necessarily the draw. It’s no longer just your local gas station, you go to get gas and then you walk inside and you might buy a Coke. It’s actually quite different where people are actually drawn to the experience at the convenience store and less so around fuel. Some people may not fill up their car when they go to a convenience store, and so you’re seeing a transformation in that industry. I think just all of those macro dynamics are some of the reasons that there was this shift in mindset strategically to tap into recurrence.

Nick Earle:
Right, and being such a big player in the industry, your board or your senior exec team saw this coming and thought we need to prepare for it because it’s coming and the model is changing.

Rachel Collins:
That’s right.

Nick Earle:
Let’s talk through the steps. Actually, you know what? Before we do, I’m going to throw a curve ball at you. I’m going to apologize for this in advance. So I’ve lived in the U.S., multiple countries, but the U.S. and of course living back in the UK now. I don’t know whether you know the answer to this, so apologies if you don’t, but I didn’t tell you this question in advance. In Europe, in the UK, in particular, you don’t pay at the pump, right? When I used to fill my car up in California, I could put the nozzle in and I could press the click and it would stay and I could walk away from the car and then it would click off. Well, we don’t have that. You have to keep on squeezing the trigger and although the dispenses have credit card capabilities on them, they’re all turned off or pretty much all turned off.

Nick Earle:
Is there a reason that you’re aware of as to why the U.S. allows you to pay in the pump and in general, certainly in the UK, but I think in quite a bit of Europe, you still have to go inside to pay for fuel?

Rachel Collins:
Some of it’s regulatory, but they’re just dramatically different markets. I mean, North America, whether you’re talking about just compliance regulatory conditions or just the footprint of these C stores, it’s so different. Then you go to Europe for instance, where you have very fragmented market. Europe alone has over 200 countries and so you’re going to have different needs. I think that’s a big part of it. What we have seen outside of North America is in North America, people want to pay at the pump, they’re still using their credit card, whether it’s frictionless and they tap their credit card. In Europe, we’re seeing a lot more demand for mobile payment solutions, so I just think that … it’s a great question. I think it’s a combination, again, of just consumer demand and also just regulatory regional nuances.

Nick Earle:
Okay. We’re just kind of weird over here. Okay. You’re right. I mean, I haven’t used a physical credit card for over two years because I’ve paid with my phone, so even if it was there, I wouldn’t use it. That’s a good point. Let’s go back to the stages of the journey. You come in, turn around a software unit, which I think is called Onsite 360-

Rachel Collins:
Insite.

Nick Earle:
Excuse me, Insite 360. Just at a very high level, I mentioned ATG and managing the fuel levels, but it does a little bit more than that, doesn’t it? Broadly, what does the solution do if I’m a forecourt owner, as you call it, a C store, a convenience store owner with fuel on the site? What does in Insite 360 do for me?

Rachel Collins:
In a nutshell, to keep it simple, we are remote operations management. When you think about we connect to equipment agnostically, not just what we manufacture, but we connect to … an ATG is essentially the device that monitors your inventory level in those large underground storage tanks of petroleum. We connect to the ATG. We can help just manage your whole supply chain. We also connect to the pumps, the dispensers above ground, and we can monitor the health of the equipment. Sometimes you’ll go to a gas station, there’s a bag over the pump, we make sure you never have to put a bag over the pump, that we can resolve issues remotely. Then inside the store, I mean, many people don’t know that GVR has over 30% market share in North America alone with point of sale.

Rachel Collins:
We also have remote capabilities to connect to the point of sale inside the store and remotely monitor that. What’s so powerful is we can do things such as send software updates. If you have a network of hundreds of sites, we can do all of that remotely and we can send software updates, we can do a warm reboot of a dispenser so you never have to send a technician on site to do that low value type of work. We can also manage your fuel supply. We know if your inventory’s running low, we can automate the ordering of let’s find the right fuel at the right price, get it delivered at the right time. We can coordinate the delivery from a terminal to a site. Then we also monitor from there environmental compliance. We make sure we can detect any sort of leaks. We can detect fraud and theft, which is huge right now with the prices of-

Nick Earle:
Yes, and over here in Europe, we got a … I was reading the other day, a 30% or more uptick in the last month or so, whatever, six weeks, of people just filling up and driving off.

Rachel Collins:
It’s remarkable. Yeah. Then just theft getting a little more sophisticated, opening up dispensers. I read the news yesterday, there are trucks rolling over the underground storage tanks and they’ve carved out the bottom of the van or truck and they’re able to then just go and directly steal from this underground storage tanks. So those are-

Nick Earle:
That was in Breaking Bad. Don’t whether you-

Rachel Collins:
Yeah.

Nick Earle:
You see Breaking Bad, when they were after the ingredient for the drug, so they stopped the train? That’s exactly what they did.

Rachel Collins:
Okay. Yeah. Very similar. Very similar. We could make a movie about this, but … That’s essentially the nature of the services that we offer. It’s really about how can I do all of that remotely and avoid having to dispatch a service technician to go on site and conduct that work. How much of that can I resolve remotely?

Nick Earle:
Which is a very common theme on all IoT use cases. It’s not about the product, it’s about the experience and how do you enhance the experience and automate it and then do new things such as download of new firmware, remote diagnostics, find out what’s wrong without having to send a technician out there. Pretty much every use case that we see do that. Again, for the listeners, shameless advertising piece of the podcast, we not only worked together for several years, but we’ve also helped design with you a lot of this equipment, haven’t we, because of our hardware design capabilities, so that it’s optimized for the use case. But the world is changing, so let’s transition a bit. You’ve already given a little hint of that because you talked about the fact that the C storage, you call it, the convenience store, and I know this from …

Nick Earle:
Again, our listeners will know from their own experience, it used to be you only went to the petrol station or the gas station and you got fuel and you paid for the fuel and maybe you picked up a snack or whatever, just a bar while you were waiting to pay, and then you left. But now these stores, they’re becoming little supermarkets and they’re selling a lot of things. There’s other companies in the store. I mean, another one of our customer, Costa Express, who are part Coca-Cola now, they have these coffee machines that are in the stores and there’s ATMs there. We got another customer, Amazon, with their lockers. Sometimes you see an Amazon locker on the forecourt. It seems like there’s an overall trend, but a lot of other stuff in there. Oh, and by the way, we do fuel as well. Have I broadly got that right? Is that what’s happening?

Rachel Collins:
I think so. I mean, I think really, it’s very intentional for convenience retailers to try to drive foot traffic inside the store because that’s the high margin. The dry stock, that’s where they’re getting their profit. The challenge, you still have most these stores that have about half of their annual revenue coming from fuel, so it’s not going away quickly. I mean, you’re still seeing electrification and alternative fuels and that will happen in time, but it’s still a draw to an extent that people still have to fill up their car with gas. But the challenge is it’s a really competitive and low margin business, and so what you’re seeing convenience retailers try to do is figure out how can I get people to come to the store and fill up their tank, but direct them inside? You’ll see a lot of … they’re putting media at the pump. “We’re offering personalization through loyalty and rewards programs on your cell phone.”

Rachel Collins:
How can you get someone to go inside and buy a soda or buy a bag of chips? Because that’s where the profitable business really is. That’s part of it, but then to your point, then one step further, how do I improve this consumer experience so that when you see this whole retail apocalypse happening and you’re seeing foot traffic go down in retail stores, you’re seeing the opposite in convenience retail where you’re seeing foot traffic go up and people are really coming because of the convenience, the convenience of the location, but just making sure they have the goods available that people need on a daily basis.

Nick Earle:
So when you say convenience retail, do you mean not just gas station, forecourts, C stores, but also independency stores like 7-Elevens or whatever. Is that the trend? They’re the bit of retail that’s doing well? Is that what you’re saying?

Rachel Collins:
Yeah. So if you think about the Circle K’s, the 7-Elevens, if you’re in North America, depending regionally, you’ll get different brands. There’s Sheetz and Wawa. Here in Texas, we have … it’s called Buc-ee’s, where it’s a crazy experience. Some of the stores are 68,000 square feet. What you’re seeing is the market share’s increasing for those convenience retailers that are more focused on a personalized consumer experience and you’re actually seeing market share reduced with some of the major oil companies. It used to be the juggernauts in this space that every single gas station was branded as a Shell or Chevron. You’re kind of seeing that shift and now people are going to a convenience store to go inside the store and not just fill up with fuel. That’s the difference we’re seeing, not just in North America, but globally.

Nick Earle:
Yeah. We are seeing it globally. The petrol stations, as we call them over here, that I drive past on a regular basis, I actually think I see the store brand … clearly I see that the Shell logo or the BP logo because it’s up on the higher pole and I recognize the colors on the gantry, the overhead gantry. But I see Waitrose, which is a supermarket, Waitrose or Tescos or … and you’re kind of thinking, “Oh, hold on a second. Who owns who here?” There’s massive change going on and massive competition and I think this takes us to the next stage of your story because having got the ATG and the theft and the … make sure you don’t get the fuel delivered so that you don’t have to put the hood on the dispenser, get it delivered just in time, fix the dispensers in advance, because you can do stuff remotely, you seem to be pivoting to your next strategy, which is really helping the C store owner because they need more things to pull things in.

Nick Earle:
Because I think you said earlier, fuel’s no longer the draw. Now you need to accumulate things, but you don’t want all these different experiences, I guess. I mean, everything’s going to be IoT, everything’s going to be connected. Coffee machines and ATMs and parcel like Amazon lockers and the dispensers and the cameras and the … so suddenly there’s all this technology coming in, which arguably has the potential to make things even more complicated because everything’s coming from a different vendor, which I guess is an opportunity for you. Right?

Rachel Collins:
It is. I mean, it’s very complex and we can talk about the complexity of retrofitting a site, but I think if you zoom out, what we’re trying to do is we see that most of our customers, they’re trying to shift their investment from outside the store to inside the store. They want to invest in a personalized consumer experience. The opportunity for us is how can we make the operations so seamless, so automated that then that allows them to invest less in fuel equipment and more inside the store and creating that personalized experience. That’s what we’ve been focusing on is … and then we also want to earn the right to be closer to the consumer, but we recognize that we are seeing first and foremost as an industrial manufacturing of fueling equipment. So let’s start outside the store, let’s make sure that we can just automate all the operations around monitoring the inventory levels, automate everything around the four court and the dispensers, and then we earn the right to go inside the store and help our customers with those personalized experiences.

Rachel Collins:
But what we’re seeing from customers is, “Hey, I don’t want to buy more ATGs. I don’t want to buy more dispensers. What I’d like to do is really create inside the store this amazing experience.” We’re focused on operational efficiencies first and foremost, so that’s really the first step of the strategy. But I think to your point, you mentioned there are a lot of different things inside the store too, like a coffee machine, beverage machines. On average, our customers say that at a site, they have anywhere from 40 to 80 devices that they’d like to get connected, much more than a-

Nick Earle:
No. Really?

Rachel Collins:
Yes. Much more than an ATG and the different dispensers and the point of sale. But they have refrigeration, they have coffee and beverage machines. There’s a lot to get connected-

Nick Earle:
40 to 80?

Rachel Collins:
40 to 80, depending on the size of the site and how sophisticated the retailer is. That’s mostly in North America. But we know that we’re not going to get everything connected, but we feel like let’s do our part. We should at least get the things connected that we manufacture, that we know how to get connected. So that’s the ATG, that’s the dispenser and that’s the point of sale. That really covers a large portion of the critical operations at a site. So that’s where we’ve been focused.

Nick Earle:
It seems to me that, again, if I was what we call over here a petrol station owner or forecourt, one of these site owners or C store, you call it, you’re actually becoming more of a business partner for me because you’re helping me make this transition in a world that’s changing really, really well. I guess, is there an age, any sort of age split here? Because I’m old enough to say, “I’m going to go to the BP at the top of the road,” because I’ve always gone to the BP at the top of the road. But our daughter who’s in her 20s, our youngest daughter, she’s got an electric car and she’d never go to the BP at the top of the road. Is there a generational change coming at these people as well?

Rachel Collins:
Absolutely. I’ll age myself. My husband and I, we’ll still go to the local gas station, whatever’s closest, just to fill up. It’s highly unlikely most of the time that we even go inside the store, but we have two teenage daughters who are 18 and 16. I mean, we’re experiencing this real time. They will pass up every Shell, every Chevron to get to 7-Eleven because they have Laredo Tacos. They are really going for the experience or they’ll pass it all up … they’ll drive 20 minutes to go to a Buc-ee’s because it has one of the largest gas stations in North America. Or they want to go get a Slurpee and some beaver nuggets or a brisket sandwich. It is very much a generational difference between Boomers and Gen X versus Gen Y, Gen Z. Seeing very different behaviors there.

Nick Earle:
I feel I should make a public service announcement for our European listeners that we might need to translate. You used three phrases there back to back and I’m thinking, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Rachel Collins:
Oh no. Okay.

Nick Earle:
I think what you said was a Buc-ee’s, beaver nuggets-

Rachel Collins:
Beaver nuggets are known at Buc-ee’s. The point is they have food that is unique to that store. They’re actually creating and promoting their own brand, but it’s because they have proprietary food and apparel within their store. Very different than a gas station.

Nick Earle:
Your kids will drive 20 miles because they’re loyal to that?

Rachel Collins:
Yeah. It’s remarkable. I mean, they will wear Buc-ee’s t-shirts. Who would’ve thought that … when we were growing up, wearing t-shirts from a gas station may or may not have been cool, but no, this is a fad. This is a generational craze here that it’s been surprising, but yeah, very much different behaviors based on generation.

Nick Earle:
My first job when I was, I guess, about 15 or 16, I used to, as you would say, pump gas just to earn some money. They knew I worked at the gas station mainly because the diesel was so smelly that it would get on my t-shirt. When I went out as a student of an evening, I smelled like a petrol station. But no, I wouldn’t have never thought of wearing the brand. You’re helping these guys transition, you’re helping them connect as many things as possible and you’re helping them compete with a totally new form of value and particularly one that appeals to their next generation of customers. It’s yet another example, going back to the beginning of the podcast, it’s another example of this, as I said, a now 152 year old company, that’s got the vision to keep on reinventing itself and reinvented its value proposition to its customers, which I think is pretty cool.

Nick Earle:
To stay alive for 152 years as a company, you’ve got to have reinvented yourself constantly. I think a lot of people don’t know the story about GVR. They think it’s a … well, first of all, they don’t know the brand because you don’t see it. If they do know the brand, “Oh, yeah, that’s a carbon fuel related company that does the tank monitoring.” But what you’re doing is actually creating IoT solutions for small business owners.

Rachel Collins:
That’s right, and I’m going to plant a seed because I bet that you look next time you go to fill up your car with gas. But before I joined this company and I went to fill up my tank, I never paid attention to the manufacturer of the dispenser. It’s really an oligopoly. There are two primary providers. It’s either GVR, Gilbarco Veeder-Root, or our competitor. I look every time. Even my kids say, “Hey, Mom, we might need to go to a different gas station. This isn’t GVR equipment.” It’s interesting that I pay attention to that now, and also when you do fill up your tank, it’s supposed to take you less than three minutes. I have my kids trained now that we time it. If it takes more than three minutes, that could be that they need to change their filters out. It’s funny when you join organization that you had nothing to do with the industry, how you pay attention to things that you’ve never had before.

Nick Earle:
It’s fascinating, things I’ve always wanted to ask about filling up my car. Sometimes I fill up my car, right? Put the nozzles in, I pull the trigger and it goes really fast, click and I’m done. Other times, sometimes it’s slow because there’s somebody else on the other side of the little island there and I’m thinking, “Well, we’re both sharing the same pump or something.” Sometimes I’m just on my own and it’s slow. Right? Because you’re in the industry, I think you just said, because they need to change the filter. Is it stuff like that causes it to go slow?

Rachel Collins:
It’s called slow flow. I mean, the lingo is we call that slow flow. We can detect that so we can actually remotely say, “Hey, these dispensers are efficient. You have a site over here that they’re not efficient and it may be as simple as you need to go change your filters. But if you see that it’s systemic at the site and every dispenser is slow, then it could be that you have a dirty tank underground that you need to actually manage and clean the tank.” I mean, that’s definitely something that we see regularly that we can help our customers detect because what it does is it creates a negative experience. If you go to a convenience retail store and it takes you six, seven minutes to fill up, you’d be like, “Man, that place is always slow. Let me just go ahead and drive across the street.”

Rachel Collins:
That’s all around how do we help them optimize their operations so that people are more likely to go inside the store and buy the higher margin goods? It’s all about making everything outside the store seamless, frictionless. How do you make it easy so that then they’re more likely to go inside?

Nick Earle:
I guess not requiring additional labor because the last thing these store owners want to do is they want more stuff, more reasons to visit, not just fuel, but all these other things. I think one of those other things you called out was a sloppy. I still don’t know what a sloppy is, but my guess is a drink.

Rachel Collins:
Slurpee. Yeah, a Slurpee.

Nick Earle:
Oh, Slurpee. Oh, I do know a Slurpee. I’ve heard of a Slurpee. A Slurpee. I thought you said a sloppy. Okay. But I guess they don’t want to have to then maintain all these things and touch all these things and that’s where IoT comes in, because what you’re saying is, “No, don’t touch it because we not only smart enable it, but we do not just reactive maintenance, so we’ll send someone out, but proactive and preemptive maintenance.” Most people know the Tesla model, or your iPhone, it gets regular software updates. Yes, you get new features, but most of the time it’s fixing issues you didn’t know you had, so you don’t experience a problem in the first place.

Nick Earle:
By having this IoT fabric or this IoT capability, this aggregation capability for the site, you’re able to let people, I guess, have a lot of … I’m still thinking about the 40 to 80, wow. 40 to 80 things that are communicating data that are creating a differentiated experience like monitoring the fridges and et cetera, et cetera, without having to have lots of people on site to fix it when stuff goes wrong. I guess the vision is that the site owner or the manager of the site is not having to touch these things because you’re taking care of it for them, you’re almost outsourcing the management of all this stuff to you guys, allowing them just to focus on what’s important for them, but not managing all this stuff.

Rachel Collins:
Yeah. One of our largest customers, they have franchisees and their statement to us was, “We want our site operators, our franchisees, to have to show up and take out the trash, and that’s it.” Everything else for them is seamless. It’s automated. We can do things remotely. So that’s exactly right. That’s the future vision of many of these convenience retailers is, “Let’s figure out how we can automate everything,” because to your point, they don’t want to have to continuously increase the number of people at the site because the complexity or the service offerings are expanding. They want to be able to expand their service offerings, but have the same footprint of labor, if you will.

Nick Earle:
That’s a great phrase, isn’t it? We talked about Costa Coffee. They call their machine the barista without a beard because it’s a barista quality coffee, but it doesn’t have a beard. The future goal is that the site owner’s main job is to take out the trash. But it’s all about the experience being delivered electronically and capturing the data and whatever. It’s a great story. I just want to finish, if we can, we just a few minutes, and I want to wind back. There’ll be a lot of people listening to this saying, “Wow, I’ve learned a lot,” which I certainly have, “About the whole environment where I go fuel my vehicle and how it’s all connected together and how it works.” But there also was that bit of the story, right at the beginning, the change management story and that’s where I said I have done a couple of roles, one at HP and one at Cisco, doing change management, but I didn’t start from where you started from. They were already a technology company, software company at that time.

Nick Earle:
Looking back, briefly, what did you do to try and do the change management? Because you came in, turned around a business, but I guess it’s as much a culture change as a strategy change. Did you have to hire new people? Did you have to go outside for people? Looking back, what was it that you did?

Rachel Collins:
It’s a huge culture change. It’s always the people side that’s the most difficult at times. We didn’t go through a dramatic change in our personnel deeper in the organization, but I knew that I needed to take a look at the sitting leaders and make sure we had the right mix, but not to move too quickly. Because to your point, it’s about change management, not shocking the system, right? Making sure that we pace ourselves. One of the things that I recognized is to be a growth oriented SaaS business within an industrial manufacturing organization, we’ve got to have some modern technology skill sets here. I knew that I had to focus on introducing that within the organization, giving some fresh perspective, but it couldn’t be over tilted. It had to be balanced.

Rachel Collins:
What I knew is that the industry is very tight knit and you have to build the credibility and know the industry and know the lingo. It’s something that I didn’t have. I knew that I needed to balance that industry credibility with the modern, current skillset with regard to technology. But then I also needed, because of this deep root culture and a P&L that’s been around for over 150 years, I also needed to really honor that institutional knowledge, that native genius that we had. I was very intentional about trying to balance the leadership teams, that I had a little bit of each of those perspectives.

Nick Earle:
So that the organization … yeah. I found that. You have to drive change, but you don’t want to turn the whole organization against you because there’s more of them than you and they’ll make sure you don’t succeed if they feel threatened in any way. So it is that tricky balance, but worth it when you see the change,

Rachel Collins:
I think there’s a pride, right? I mean, a lot of the people that I work with have been with the organization for 20 to 30 years. That doesn’t happen anymore. I think it’s important not to come in and say, “Hey, you’re doing it all wrong.” No. I mean, it’s, “Hey, there’s just maybe a different way of looking at it.” I think it’s finding that the communication style, the leadership style, to question some of the status quo, to introduce some new ideas, but not to come across as condescending or antagonistic. Right? That’s the balance. We didn’t always get it right. I didn’t always get it right. But I think that’s been the learning here is how can we become more collaborative, create an awareness and teach the organization about a different model, a different mindset, a different culture.

Rachel Collins:
I’m really proud of the cultural changes that we’ve made. I think if I had my stamp on one thing, it would be culture. Really proud that when I entered the organization, our engagement scores were relatively low. I think it’d been an acquisition that had kind of stagnated over five years. I think our engagement scores were in the 50s and within 12 months we were at 89 because we just brute-forced culture.” Hey, we’ve got to be different. Doesn’t mean that we’re not honoring our heritage, but we’ve got to think differently and behave differently, and sometimes it’s acting yourself into a new way of thinking.”

Nick Earle:
Well, that is a great place to finish. As I said earlier, we’re really proud to be a partner with you on this journey and we know there’s a lot of exciting things still to come. But that’s a really interesting story. We’ve not had a podcast like this and I’m really glad we did because to show … we talk about IoT and often it’s technology or the individual players within IoT, but we talk about the same time IoT really is an enabler of business model disruption. To hear a story from the inside of how a company can disrupt itself and a company that, again, that’s 150 years old, a lot of people work there for a long time, high market share so why change? But in a market that’s changing so rapidly around you is such a great story. Thank you again for being my guest.

Rachel Collins:
Thank you. Thank you so much. It’s been a lot of fun. This has been a remarkable journey at GVR, but I also am honoured that you’ve invited me to come and talk to you today, so thank you.

Nick Earle:
Really glad to have you on you. I glad to have you on the show and I will now look at that dispenser. When you’re thinking of buying a car, there’s suddenly every car you see. It’s like, “Oh, I didn’t realize there was so many of those cars out there.” I will now look at that dispenser and I’m sure I’ll see the GVR-

Rachel Collins:
I guarantee you will.

Nick Earle:
That was just right in front of me all of this time. I’ll wrap it up there and for our listeners, I hope you’ve enjoyed this. I’m sure you have. You’ve been listening to the IoT Leaders podcast with me, your host, Nick Earle, CEO of Eseye, and Rachel Collins of GVR, who really just shared with us such a fabulous story of business transformation in a real world environment, a real spread from where they started to where they are now and clearly a vision for where they’re wanting to go in the future with a big, hairy audacious goal, which is the role of the site manager is just to take the trash out in the future. That is a wonderful aspiration to automate everything and it’s a great IoT story. Rachel, thank you so much. Thank you for being our partner and thank you for being my guest on the IoT Leaders podcast.

Rachel Collins:
It’s been a pleasure.

Outro:
Thanks for tuning in to IoT Leaders, a podcast brought to you by Eseye. Our team delivers innovative, global IoT cellular connectivity solutions that just work, helping our customers deploy differentiated experiences and disrupt their markets. Learn more at eseye.com.

Outro:
You’ve been listening to IoT Leaders, featuring digitization leadership on the front lines of IoT. Our vision for this podcast is to be your guide to IoT and digital disruption, helping you to plot the right route to success. We hope today’s lessons, stories, strategies, and insights have changed your vision of IoT. Let us know how we’re doing by subscribing, rating, reviewing and recommending us. Thanks for listening. Until next time.

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