Do I Qualify as an Independent Operator?

What we look for in potential independent operators

The Grocery Outlet Bargain Market network is a growing group of independent businesses with entrepreneurially motivated independent operators who are driven to do their best and achieve financial independence. Many of our independent operators initially joined their parents in their businesses and continue as independent operators themselves today. Our own company’s co-CEOs represent the third generation of founder Jim Read’s family.

“When you find a source of good people, you want to continue fostering and nourishing that,” says Co-CEO MacGregor Read, Jim’s grandson. “In so many ways this has always been a word-of-mouth business, particularly from the standpoint of finding new talent. Good people tend to spawn good family members.”

The candidate we want

Grocery Outlet looks for aspiring entrepreneurs who love what they do. People with experience working in grocery and big-box retail stores, that know what it means to build teams and be leaders.

“Our challenge is to bring people with a fundamental level of experience,” says Senior Recruiter Ashish Kapadia. “We can teach you about Grocery Outlet and the strategies that come along with the store. But to love retail? We can’t teach you that.”

We require an independent operator to have five years of retail management experience, as well as proven marketing and community skills, merchandising skills, hiring, teaching and coaching skills, and financial and business skills, and meet additional financial and background qualifications.

How to open a supermarket: qualifying traits

Here are the traits we want to see in an independent operator: a strong belief in the value of people; solid communication skills; a sustained passion to grow the business; a sense of humor; a strong work ethic complemented with integrity and good common sense; assertiveness coupled with a good attitude; and strong organizational skills spurred by a creative intellect.

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We expect an independent operator to be fully committed to the Grocery Outlet business opportunity. That means that he or she is willing to devote whatever time it takes to training and developing employees, as well as increasing store sales and exceeding customer expectations. We train people in the skills needed to be profitable in this business venture, and that’s why we are asking you to commit yourself to learning our unique business model.

We require that our operators provide an investment for working capital and specific assets. This can be accomplished through an investment of their own combined with financing through Grocery Outlet (if needed). Additionally, we make sure that prospective independent operators have a stable financial and employment track record.

A third of our independent operators come from within the organization, because the road to becoming an independent operator is presented as a career opportunity to Grocery Outlet employees.

“It’s a company where there are no walls,” says MacGregor. “Our independent operators communicate with us directly. It’s not a hierarchical place.”

Partners in life; partners in business

When we assess the qualifications of a potential independent operator, we look at all aspects of their business plan, including their support. All of our independent operators are business entities, many of which are owned by couples or family members. We believe that the strong support of family members is a huge asset to an independent operator in being able to maximize performance of a Grocery Outlet store and achieve personal financial goals. We also want our independent operators to give back to their community, and to become a part of it.

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Before accepting someone into our network, we make sure that Grocery Outlet is a good fit. Several thousand candidates are screened each year, but when all is said and done, only a few candidates rise above and are awarded a license to operate a Grocery Outlet Bargain Market.

Grocery Outlet doesn’t require a candidate to be from the grocery industry, but the candidate must be someone who understands the principles of being a merchant. In some cases, we have recruited managers from restaurants of a significant size. We’re looking for someone who has entrepreneurial talent and spirit.

The Path to Becoming an Independent Operator

Becoming an independent operator is a highly selective process.  After a candidate submits an application and personal financial statement, we perform background checks on those candidates who present the kinds of credentials we look for.  Our recruiters further narrow the applicant pool through a series of interviews that help us get to know one another better.  They explain to candidates what being an independent operator entails.  Once we gather and supply this foundational information, we invite those with the right mix of qualifications to enter our “aspiring operators in training” or “AOT” program. 

AOT largely consists of on-the-job training as an employee of an existing independent operator (the “Training Store Operator”) who is willing to teach the skills they learned and now rely on to drive their own financial success. As employees of an existing independent operator, aspiring operators in training get to experience first-hand what running a Grocery Outlet and managing employees really takes.  We supplement on-the-job training with classes at our Grocery Outlet headquarters and through online tutorials so that candidates gain a thorough appreciation for an independent operator’s responsibilities and opportunities.    Both the Training Store Operator and employees of Grocery Outlet Inc. will evaluate the skills of the candidates. While there is no set time in which an aspiring operator in training will complete the AOT program, candidates typically will need to become proficient in three to six months.  We make no promise that aspiring operators in training will attain a minimum level of proficiency, or if they do, that they will have the leadership skills to become an independent operator. 

AOT requires dedication.  Our recruiters let candidates know at the outset that enrolling in AOT may require that they relocate or find temporary housing away from their residence.  .  The path to becoming an independent operator is highly selective: neither enrollment in nor the completion of the AOT program guarantees a candidate that he or she will be offered a license to become an independent operator.  However, because we are so highly selective in the recruitment process, we have a high retention rate among our aspiring operators-in-training candidates and most complete the program successfully and ultimately go on to operate a Grocery Outlet Bargain Market.    

Along this path, aspiring entrepreneurs learn what it takes to achieve financial independence and develop a genuine passion for the Grocery Outlet brand.  We make no promise that aspiring operators in training will attain a minimum level or range of commissions if they are invited and choose to become an independent operator.  Aspiring operator’s-in-training understand that each independent operator’s financial results varies based on a host of factors.  One thing that all independent operators across our network share is a strong personal drive to achieve financial independence and confidence about staking their future on their own performance.  Our independent operators believe in the fairness of the Grocery Outlet business opportunity.  They take tremendous pride in being business owners and supporting our efforts to identify new entrepreneurially-motivated candidates who are equally committed as they are to promoting the Grocery Outlet brand.

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