Jan. 30, 2014
From Small to SPINX!
Stewart Spinks is the Founder and Chairman of the Board of The Spinx Company. He started Spinx in 1972 with a home heating oil delivery company, and one gas station in Greenville. With annual sales of over $500 million, SPINX is now the largest privately held gasoline-convenience retailer in South Carolina and is ranked among the top 100 U.S. convenience store chains in the country. Spinks attributes his successes to many teachers and lessons throughout his life and career, as well as luck and the importance of a supportive community. He shared the following values and strategies with business community members: Hard work is honorable. Born in 1946 after his father returned from World War II, Spinks grew up in Augusta, Georgia. His father worked first shift as an auto mechanic and third shift as a night orderly in a hospital, and his mother worked second shift as a hostess at the Hotel Richmond. Both considered and instilled in him the value that hard work is honorable and an opportunity to be enjoyed.
Set goals higher than what you think you can do. Spinks attributes this lesson to his University of Tennessee football coach Doug Dickey. In business he translates it to passion, “Have a constant curiosity about what might happen, and figure out what you can do to affect that.”
Do what you say you’re going to do. Spinks has built a reputation on his discipline to live up to his obligations. In 1972, he secured his first loan and employee on the promise that, “I’m going to build 14 convenience stores.” It was based on trust in Spinks’ interpretation of distribution rules that, during the 1979 petroleum crisis, then U.S. Congressman Carroll Campbell made the call to allow the supply necessary to keep his business running.
Know your capacity and dwell there in. Though he has always demanded a lot of himself, Spinks sites the need for humility. “Recognize your capacity, and hire accounting people.” When asked about a strategy for developing an advisory board, Spinks sites the need to seek a balance of interests and expertise. “Geographic diversity is especially important as individuals from other markets can provide insight for what’s to come.”
Don’t get discouraged. Over the span of his career, Spinks is proud to have sold 54 operating businesses, but not discouraged by the fact that he’s had to close 47 along the way. When asked how to know when to start a business, he says, “the first step is by far the hardest.” His steps are to start with the plan, then organize, staff, direct, and control.
Celebrate loyalty and share ownership. The Spinx Co. celebrates long-term employment and provides education and ownership incentives. When asked about getting buy-in from associates, Spinks is proud to note that roughly 300 of 1200 participate in their employee-ownership program. “We all demand performance and we’re all pulling together.”
Competition makes us all better. From being a Mickey Mantle fan to playing University of Tennessee football, Spinks has always embraced his competitive spirit. When asked about the growing competition in our market, he notes, “They’re strong, but they will make us better. And the beneficiary of a competitive market is Greenville.”