For Rob Vassar, leading a store is personal – very personal.
The 35-year Meijer, Inc. employee and manager of a location in Stevensville, MI is known for his powerful interactions with shoppers and team members. He regularly sends heartfelt cards to his team members to recognize their efforts. On one occasion, he noticed that a certain employee seemed to have a special passion for the business and impressive presentation skills, so he created a special orientation facilitator role just for her. After observing another team member’s creativity, he asked him to create some print and digital materials and store displays, which have become even more meaningful following that employee’s unexpected passing.
Such thoughtfulness is also apparent in his customer relationships. Vassar's colleagues report that many shoppers view him as a friend and seek him out in store, and he’s sent cards, flowers, Meijer bakery cakes and other gifts to customers, adding their name to a spreadsheet to remind him of their upcoming birthday or anniversary.
His interactions are complemented by his actions to lift his store’s performance. In 2021, the Stevensville location reported its highest-ever sales, and the store is currently beating its sales plan by 8.37% and exceeding net profit plan by $500,000. Shrink is one of the best in the company at 1.56%, and his location is one of the top four within his market for all customer service categories.
One way Vassar has driven strong results is through creative encouragement. When he challenged his team to reach a $100 million sales goal, he reiterated the importance of small-but-important actions like greeting customers and ensuring stocked shelves and created friendly departmental challenges with prizes.
The retailer has benefited from Vassar’s approach to leadership and his loyalty to Meijer. He has worked in five of the six states within Meijer’s footprint and developed hundreds of leaders over the years. He opened the company’s first store in Kentucky.
Likewise, the communities he serves have his unwavering personal support. He has been a part of the Southwest Michigan United Way Campaign committee for many years, launched an Operation Thanksgiving Campaign to donate 150 turkey dinners to those in need and partners with a local church on a Santa’s Workshop program that allows families to buy a toy for a quarter or fifty cents.
According to his co-workers, these results are just as important to him as the sales and profit results. “More important to Rob than any external recognition, he genuinely seeks to live out our Meijer purpose of enriching lives in communities we serve,” they declared.
One of Rob’s peers shared, “Rob is the only store director I know that has been asked to participate in a customer’s funeral. He truly embraces this community and those he works with.”