Episode 300: Building Value to Last

Episode Summary

We know that successful leaders lead with a vision, and there is no better example of it than our guest for today’s show, Crystal Maggelet. When FJ Management had to change and restructure back in 2010, after seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2008, Crystal knew she had to find a way to tie different businesses together. She and the company’s executives decided that FJM’s new mission would be building value to last. They added three elements for its vision to this powerful mission: mutual respect, integrity, and excellence. They figured that if they managed to instill this vision among their employees, they would succeed — and they weren’t wrong. 

Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to all of our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners wherever you may be in the world today. This is your host, Steve Shallenberger, and we have an amazing guest with us today. She is the CEO of FJ Management Inc, a diversified family business that includes wholly-owned subsidiaries: Maverik, a 350 c-store, convenience store chain, and Big West Oil, a petroleum refinery. And FJ Management also has a minority stake in Pilot Flying J. And other family businesses include TAB Bank — a community bank — and Crystal Inn, which is a small chain of hotels. Welcome, Crystal Maggelet. 

Crystal Maggelet: Thank you. Thanks for having me, Steve. It’s great to be with you today. 

Steve Shallenberger: Oh, well this is fun. And before we get started, I’d like to tell you a little bit more about Crystal. In addition to Crystal’s current board role as Chairperson of the FJ Management’s board, she is a director on the Pilot Flying J board of managers, serves on the Utah State Board of Higher Education. Thank you, Crystal. That’s no easy job, is it? 

Crystal Maggelet: No, that one is not. That one is a little tough. 

Steve Shallenberger: And along with serving on the board have numerous other significant business and community boards, she is actively involved in managing the family’s charitable giving through FJM Impact Fund which focuses mostly on education and scholarships, which is an awesome thing to do. It helps so many people. Crystal holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Pepperdine University. She also completed her college education with an MBA from Harvard Business School. And I remember when she went and came back a couple of years ago, right?  

Crystal Maggelet: Yes. 

Steve Shallenberger: And she has an Honorary Doctorate degree in Business from Utah State University as well as Weaver State University. And in 2018, she was named the National E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year for Family Business. Crystal has been active in Young Presidents’ Organization for about 25 years. This organization is dedicated to executive education. It has 30,000 member presidents throughout the world, and she has held numerous leadership roles in YPO. She loves her role as a mother to her four children ranging in age from 20 to 26. And in her free time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends. And her favorite activities are running, skiing, and traveling. So, I just want to add that I’ve had a special interest in Crystal since I’ve seen her as a young lady. I knew her father, Jay, very well. And he was also a YPO-er, and just a wonderful family. Both of our families have roots in Soda Springs, Idaho and Star Valley, Wyoming. And Crystal is a classy lady. Of all the things I can say, she is just a delight to be around. You feel happier and better when you’re around Crystal. So, welcome, Crystal, so excited to have you. 

Crystal Maggelet: Well, thank you, that is quite the introduction. And it’s just great to be with you today. You’ve always been a role model for me too, Steve, and all the great positive work you do for so many people. So, thanks for having me today. 

Steve Shallenberger: Yeah, you bet. This is kind of a hallmark podcast show today because it’s number 300. I invited Crystal on purpose because of how amazing she is. So, Crystal, first of all, tell us a bit more about running a family enterprise that includes several businesses. You’re now involved with petroleum, lodging, banking, and healthcare. So, how do you create a culture across the companies that are each unique? 

Crystal Maggelet: So, I think that can be a tough question. And back in the day, when my dad started Flying J, we were a fully integrated oil company. And so, it was an oil company and it was all kind of in that industry. When we changed and restructured back in 2010, suddenly it became clear to me that I needed to have something that tied numerous different businesses together. We came up with, along with our executives, a mission for FJM: building value to last. Because that’s what I want to do; I want to build value to last, and the guiding principles are integrity, mutual respect, and excellence. And I figured that no matter what we did and what businesses that we participated in, that these principles were key. And so I knew that they could apply across many different businesses. And then when we get down into our individual businesses and different executive management teams, they put their own twists on that. For instance, Maverik, their mission is to be the coolest convenience store on the planet and they like to strive to live the titanium rule, which is “Treating people better than they expect to be treated.” So, that’s kind of how I approach having a number of different businesses, and hopefully creating a culture that does embody our guiding principles.  

Steve Shallenberger: That’s really exciting. That is so good. Building value – is it values to last?  

Crystal Maggelet: Building value to last.  

Steve Shallenberger: Yeah, value to last. Okay, good. That is so good. And a culture around integrity, mutual respect, and excellence, which sets the standard. Crystal knows that we’re all working on becoming your best, but there are certain principles that highly successful leaders use. And one of those, besides being integrity, which she just talked about – being true to character – is highly successful leaders lead with a vision. And so thanks for starting out with this. And wow, the vision of Maverik to be the coolest convenience store on the planet. I want to go there.  

Crystal Maggelet: That’s right. And I hope those that have been to Maverik see and feel that when they go into our stores. 

Steve Shallenberger: That is unique, that’s for sure. So, what are some of your key lessons learned? Like, professional lessons, that have helped you and your business be successful? 

Crystal Maggelet: So, by far, the biggest one is honesty, which obviously fits in with integrity. But I just think if a person isn’t honest, all bets are off, and it’s very hard to deal with them. I just need to be honest in all the things that I do. And then I also think it’s really important, whether you’re offering a job to someone, or you’re doing a deal where you’re buying or selling companies, that both people on both sides of that deal leave happy. That’s super important to me, too. So those are a couple of things that have been key lessons for me as I’ve gone through my business career. 

Steve Shallenberger: Well, those are great. Big deal. And maybe an experience or two on how you learned those lessons.

Crystal Maggelet: So, on the honesty piece, of course, I always wanted to do everything with honesty. And my parents definitely instilled that into me. But when Flying J ended up in bankruptcy back in 2008, and within three weeks, I became CEO — and I have not been working for Flying J and so I did not know every little detail about anything. And I needed to know and I was talking to so many different people, and they were asking me questions. And I learned very quickly that I needed to just tell them exactly what I knew and I needed to be completely truthful because the only way I was going to build trust quickly with people is that they got the same story from me. And that I never was questioning “Oh, did I spin it a little bit that way for that person, spin it a little bit that way for the other person?” I just had to be honest. And if I didn’t know the answer, I had to be honest about that, too. And that served me extremely well during that period of time in my life. I remember very well making that decision that that’s all I had; I just had my integrity and I needed to stick to that.  

Crystal Maggelet: Also, when we did the Maverik deal back in 2012, I was very proud because the day that we bought the company we wrote 72 checks to 72 Maverik stockholders who all were very happy to be able to go off, and take their money, and have a liquidity event, and go start now almost 10 years later. I know there’s a ton of new entrepreneurial endeavors because of those checks we wrote and I’m pretty sure that those people are very happy. So, that was an example of doing a big deal where both people are very happy. And of course, we’re extremely happy with Maverik today as well. 

Steve Shallenberger: Oh, that’s a great story. I love hearing about that. It’s a wonderful standard as well. And when you’re honest, it’s such a great policy and just a great ethic, a great principle right at your heart. You just don’t have to worry about things, like you said, you don’t have to second guess or look over your shoulder. And when you’re honest, you feel good about yourself, don’t you? 

Crystal Maggelet: You do. You don’t worry about it at that point. 

Steve Shallenberger: All right, well, that’s really good. Now, if you had the chance to sit down with someone who is just joining your team, what would be one or two things that you would say to them about what it means to be a great team member? 

Crystal Maggelet: I think whether it’s at work or in life, having confidence in yourself is just so key and important. And I would just encourage a new employee to have confidence in the job that they were doing. And even though they’re a new employee and may not know everything, they should believe in themselves and not be afraid to make mistakes. And I also would encourage them to not be afraid to speak up. If they see something, if they have an idea, or they see something we missed, or that we didn’t do right, or wasn’t within our guiding principles, that they feel confident and can speak up. Those are a couple of things that I just think are extremely important in the business world. And for me, I really got dumped into a lot of situations that I really had no clue what I was doing, and I just had to use my gut, I had to think through, try to do the right thing. And it worked well for me. But if I had not had confidence, I wouldn’t have been able to do that. I needed to believe in myself. And I really think that is just such a key aspect to people in general. 

Steve Shallenberger: Crystal, what recommendation do you have for employees that helps them feel confident to speak up? What advice would you have for them on how they can be constructive? How do you do it the right way so it’s positive as well? 

Crystal Maggelet: First, I would encourage people to sit down with managers — their managers and supervisors — and have just a conversation about what they see. If it’s a heated moment, I would say let’s not do it then, let’s take a deep breath, and then maybe ask for time to sit down and talk through whatever the situation might be. Or if it’s a recommendation for something that we can do better, sort of the same thing; going to supervisors. We have 8000 employees, so it’s not always easy to get it through to every last employee. But I hope our guiding principle of mutual respect would come through to some degree and that the person on the other side would accept that. But I think that if people don’t, then people also should have the confidence to say, “You know what? It’s still not right. I’m still not getting what I need. I need to go above that person and talk about whatever the issue might be.”  

Steve Shallenberger: I love that. And that’s a big deal for me as well that every one of our employees feels like they can speak up. But I’m not sure all of them feel comfortable. And that’s one of the challenges that I see is how do I create an environment where they can speak up and they can say whatever they want, and they don’t have to worry about any repercussions. What have you found is the best way, Crystal, to create that environment? Because I know that’s something I want to do, and I think I could do better. 

Crystal Maggelet: If we have the opportunity to do that as an example, and people see it done, I think that helps a lot too. So, in other words, if I see a peer that was able to do that, or if a peer is recognized in a meeting for a great idea, or if someone is recognized for pointing out something that wasn’t right that we do that we corrected, I think that those sorts of things give other people more courage. If they see the opposite of that, of course, it has the opposite impact; then they’re; “You know, I’m just gonna go be quiet in my corner and do my job because I see what happens around here if you speak your mind.” So, I think it’s very key as leaders to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.  

Steve Shallenberger: Okay, good. And to this culture that you’ve talked about — integrity and mutual respect and excellence — how do you inspire your employees to be excellent, to get excellent results? 

Crystal Maggelet: You have measures for one thing, and you align those measures. And you do have vision and goals, and you’re always striving to do better, and you measure those results so that everybody can be a part of that success and understands what success means; that it’s not just something out there that they have no idea how to achieve. So, I think getting everybody on the same page and headed in the same direction, and measuring results, and rewarding those results as they happen, can keep you on a path for excellence and continuing to always get better. 

Steve Shallenberger: Yeah, that’s a great answer. I love that answer. Where they have a vision so that they can lead themselves from within about excellence, it’s something that they believe in and want to be. It gets back to your comment of believing in themselves and what they can do, that they can make a difference, and then also have a way to measure it. So, really, good thought. Thank you. Okay, well, let’s go in a little bit different direction. There’s so much you can share, so much you could be helpful. This one is, I happen to know, Crystal’s husband, Chuck. Chuck is one cool guy. He looks cool, doesn’t he, Crystal? 

Crystal Maggelet: He does.  

Steve Shallenberger: They both work professionally. And of course, they are husband and wife, so how do you do it? How can you be friends and still work together? 

Crystal Maggelet: We’ve done it a long time. In a week or two, we will have been married 28 years. So, it hasn’t always been easy and perfect but we’ve had a mutual understanding that we have a partnership to raise our kids and we have the same partnership at work. And we have to define for each other where our space is, I guess it’ll be the way that I would say it. And so, I think that’s the way that we have been able to make that happen. But also, life isn’t day-to-day, always perfect and balanced the way you’d like it. So, maybe you’re not the best spouse but you are the best mom, or maybe you’re not the best career woman but you were the best mom that week or that day. And for me, when I think about how you balance all the things you do in your life, I really think it’s just that – it’s balanced over a lifetime. And any one day, it’s really impossible to feel – or even week or even month – that you’ve had balance. But if I can turn 80, or 90, or whatever age I live to, and I can look back and say, “I had a fulfilling career. I had a fulfilling family. And I gave back to the community in the ways I wanted to.” At that moment in time, I will feel like I have balance. And in between now and then, I think it’s just different every day.  

Steve Shallenberger: Do you have any tips on how to stay aligned as a couple and how do you coordinate your schedules? What have you found works best? 

Crystal Maggelet: The best thing is if you really take the time to sit down and literally go through your calendar together so that you know that you’re not stepping on each other’s toes or that if one of you wants someone to be in an event that you make sure you’re there for them. I think that that’s a simple thing but I think that that’s super important. And communication is always just key to everything in life, really. So, are you communicating what’s going to happen in your life and sharing that? I think that’s also, again, are you on the same page? Are you communicating together and staying on the same page? 

Steve Shallenberger: You can’t take it for granted, can you?  

Crystal Maggelet: You cannot. 

Steve Shallenberger: I mean, to be able to laugh together and love, you really need to have these kinds of things lined up so that they don’t become an issue. 

Crystal Maggelet: And Chuck and I play a lot. I mean, that was the basis of our relationship. When we met, we loved to do the same thing. So, on the weekends, we’re riding bikes, we do adventure travel a lot together, we ski all winter. I mean, we are very aligned in the things outside of work that we like to do. So, that helps us a lot to stay connected. 

Steve Shallenberger: Okay, I’m glad that you mentioned that, that’s an important aspect. So, you’re doing a lot of things, so how have you balanced being a mom and a spouse with your career and work demands? I mean, you have a great family and they’re really beautiful, I’ve seen them. She has twins. Crystal has twins. 

Crystal Maggelet: Having four kids in five years, which is what I did. At that time, I decided I would step back from the workforce for obvious reasons. And then, diving back in eight years later, really, into 60 hours a week, traveling away from home – you have to make sure you spend time with the people that you love the most. And for me, in periods in my life, the one thing that’s been pretty darn consistent are the weekends for family. So, whether it’s Chuck as my spouse or our kids, I really have kept our weekends sacred. And I think that has been super helpful. And the other thing is that I’m a real Type-A, driven person. And I think I could have driven our kids crazy if I hadn’t had my career because I just have come to realize that I do you just have so much energy and want to accomplish so much. And I’m afraid I might have overmanaged them, and been a helicopter mom. And instead, I think we have raised four very independent kids, and I am super proud of them. Our last two are seniors at Notre Dame, and they’ll graduate. And all the kids have graduated from college in four years and are launching, and it’s just so fun to watch. And even though I may not have been there every single day, I hope I was an example to them. I mean, I have three daughters, and I hope I was an example to them at what they could be if they choose to be. 

Steve Shallenberger: Well, I can attest as an outsider looking in and knowing your family and knowing you and knowing them, you have been. I know you have a great relationship with them and I know they adore you.  

Crystal Maggelet: Thank you.  

Steve Shallenberger: That’s how we want it, right? 

Crystal Maggelet: That is exactly how we want it.  

Steve Shallenberger: Okay, well, on a personal side, what are two or three of your biggest lessons learned in life? So, why and what experiences taught you those lessons? 

Crystal Maggelet: So, I think that one of the biggest lessons that I learned was that you take opportunities when they present themselves to you. And luckily for me, I was a person that didn’t have a set direction in life. And I just tried to do the right things along the way so that I always kept every door open to me. And that has proven to work very well. But things didn’t always come in the order that I would have liked them. So, one day, I was working in Salt Lake and someone suggested, “Hey, you should go to Harvard Business School.” And I’m like, “Yeah, I should go to Harvard Business School, I’m gonna apply and take a chance.” And then a few years after Harvard Business School, my dad said, “Hey, when you come to Utah, you should come to Salt Lake. I have an idea for you.” And he said, “Hey, do you want to come and build Crystal Inns?” And coincidentally, that same weekend, I met a guy and he ended up being my husband. And that was such a pivotal weekend. And I took advantage of both of those opportunities; got a great husband and I got a great business opportunity.  

Crystal Maggelet: And with Flying J, the same thing. Bankruptcy was a terrible thing. And it would have been very easy to just run and hide and say, “Well, whatever, I don’t know this business.” It’s a huge business. $20 billion in sales and 11,000 employees. I mean, how do I become CEO of that from a stay-at-home mom? And I just think that had I not taken any one of those opportunities, I would not be where I am today. And very few of them came in the order I would have liked them, nor did I even ever expect I would have those opportunities if I had tried to plan them out. So, that has certainly been a lesson for me; in any one of those steps, if I had just said, “Eh, I’m having fun, I don’t want to do that right now,” or “I don’t want to disrupt my life” or whatever, I wouldn’t be where I am today. So, I view that as super important. Probably the most important takeaway from that piece is the one thing that I knew to do is to always, whether at a job or grades in school or whatever it was, I always strived to be the very, very best I could be. Because I knew if I did that, there would be no downside. So, I think that was an important part of that whole process for me.  

Crystal Maggelet: And then, I think, knowing that it takes a village to accomplish your dreams. And what I mean by that is that I could not have done all of what I’ve done if I had been afraid to ask for help. So, there’s no way when my kids were eight to 13, for instance, and I went back to work. Luckily, I already had some help with the kids. And whether it’s family or you hire help or whatever, it’s like, through the years, I had to rely on a lot of people to help me raise the kind of family I wanted to raise when it comes to the family side, to be able to have dinners at home. I hired people to make sure groceries were done and things like that. And I needed to do that to be able to have things work the way they did, and I just couldn’t do it all myself. And on the career side, hiring people smarter than I am and letting them run and not micromanaging them is just super important. And I think, really, if I boil it all down, the reason that I am where I am is because I have surrounded myself with such great people that have helped me and been there to support me. And I think that those are a couple of lessons, I guess; taking opportunities and making sure you’re not afraid to ask for help that I think are key in life. 

Steve Shallenberger: Well, that is really great advice. Another quality that I’ve always admired in Crystal is she’s also really a humble lady. 

Crystal Maggelet: I try. I think that’s super important too. 

Steve Shallenberger: It is. It’s a big deal. I know you are. And that helps you be open to learning and helps you be open to looking for people to be part of the team, and to help, and to compensate for things that you think are important – that’s a big deal. Well, I’m always amazed at how fast time goes, and we’re at the end of our show today. So, do you have one final tip for our listeners before we sign off? 

Crystal Maggelet: I just think, mostly, approach life with optimism, especially where we are and we find ourselves today. Just keep looking at life like it’s great and it’s just gonna get better. 

Steve Shallenberger: Well, that’s a great tip. Because if you look at it that way, actually, it is gonna get better. It might take a little work, right? 

Crystal Maggelet: That’s right. 

Steve Shallenberger: Well, it’s been so fun being together today, Crystal. Thank you for being with us. 

Crystal Maggelet: Thank you. It’s been fun for me too. And I hope that your listeners can learn something from today, and just so appreciate your leadership, Steve. You do an amazing job. 

Steve Shallenberger: Well, thank you. And for our listeners, for you who may be in the inner mountain area, how far do the Maverik stations go out, Crystal? I know they’re in the general inner mountain area, right? 

Crystal Maggelet: So, we go as far east as New Mexico. We will soon be opening in California. And we’re in really all the states in between. 

Steve Shallenberger: Okay, that’s great. And of course, you know about Pilot and Flying J. So, the next time our listeners go into one of those stores, you can say, “Oh, yeah, I know Crystal and Chuck.” 

Crystal Maggelet: That’s right. 

Steve Shallenberger: You can look around and you can say, “Man, I’m in the coolest convenience store on the planet!

Crystal Maggelet: There you go. Yes. 

Steve Shallenberger: All right. Well, we wish you all the best. You’re really making a difference in so many lives. So, thanks again. And to you, our listeners, thank you for listening, for being part of the show and really blessing so many other people in the process. This is Steve Shallenberger with Becoming Your Best Global Leadership, wishing you a great day. 

Steve Shallenberger

Founder, Becoming Your Best
CEO, executive, corporate trainer, and community leader.

Crystal Maggelet

President & CEO of FJ Management Inc.

President, CEO, chairwomen, director, loving wife, and proud mother of four.

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