Wawa president and CEO Chris Gheysens will visit the University of Delaware on Sept. 27 as part of the Chaplin Tyler Lecture Series at UD’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics. Gheysens will speak at 3:30 p.m., in room 115 of Purnell Hall and the event is free to the public.
In this Q&A, Gheysens gives a preview of his discussion, offers his advice for students and talks about the special place Delaware holds in his heart as the parent of a UD student.
We’re looking forward to your presentation on “The Wawa Way” at UD. Can you give us a preview of what you’ll be discussing?
I’m sharing something I always love to talk about – what we call “The Wawa Way.” It’s a little bit about Wawa’s history and growth, but more about what I really like to share: Wawa’s unique culture, values and purpose, which I believe have driven our growth and will play a key role in shaping our future.
Our culture really is our “secret sauce.” It starts with our purpose of Fulfilling Lives Every Day, and it’s based on having what we call “goose blood,” believing in our six core values; and working together in a way we refer to as “flying in friendly formation.” Our culture is not just strong, but also humble. It also includes our philosophy of sharing ownership, staying private and serving others.
How did your time at Deloitte influence your career’s trajectory to your current role at Wawa?
After high school/college, I started with Deloitte and Touche and discovered I had a natural affinity for retail. It wasn’t long before I was transferred to the Wawa account, where I was exposed to a very special culture I had yet to see in business. At that time, they had 500 stores in 5 states. There was something about the excitement and aspect of customer service that I loved, but there is also still the need for detail, process and analytics to drive decisions. It was a great fit for me.
What advice would you offer for students who hope to follow a similar career path?
Some career advice I like to give: Follow your passion… and then take action. And always remember you have a personal responsibility to follow through on opportunities. In addition, I think it’s important to understand that while business strategies are very important, having a purpose and a culture is just as important, sometimes more. Once you find a company that has a purpose and culture that are a good fit for you, pursue it.
What makes this visit special, in terms of Wawa’s and your unique connections to UD and Delaware as a whole?
The state of Delaware and the University of Delaware will always have a special place in my heart. Wawa has been serving communities in Delaware for more than 48 years, and we are proud to call so many wonderful associates in the state part of the Wawa family. As for the University of Delaware, it’s not only an excellent institution with a great reputation, but I’m also a Delaware Dad and proud to have a daughter who goes here.
Chaplin Tyler Executive Leadership Lecture Series
The Chaplin Tyler Executive Leadership Lecture Series brings leaders from the business, non-profit and government sectors to the UD campus to share their experiences and insights with students, faculty and the business community. Several times each year, the Lerner College’s Graduate and Executive Programs office invites these leaders to spend a day engaging in an open exchange of ideas and perspectives. The series, which is supported by the Chaplin Tyler Endowment Fund, is dedicated to the memory of Chap and Elizabeth Tyler, their commitment to education and their determination to help young people achieve success in the business world.