“Today, entrepreneurs want to have scale immediately,” said Travis Sheetz, president and chief operating officer of Sheetz Inc., during a recent talk at Behrend.
“They feel pressure to get out there and grab some venture capital and grow quickly.
“I get that,” he said. “If you have a really good idea, there’s an incentive to move fast, because you don’t want someone to beat you to it.
“My uncle Bob, who bought the first of our stores in 1952, took a different approach,” Sheetz said. “It took him ten years to open a second store. And I think it was better, in the end, for the business to have that foundation. It’s really difficult to prove out a business model on a moving train, and to scale up before you really understand what your competitive advantage is.”
For Sheetz, the slower approach has paid off. From that first store, which was purchased for $990—$900 for the inventory and $90 more to put in the cash drawer—the Altoona-based company has built an $11.7 billion business, with nearly 700 gas stations and convenience stores in six states.
Travis Sheetz is one of fifteen family members who work at the company. He talked about that dynamic during “Your Business, Your Family, Your Legacy,” the fall showcase event of Behrend’s Center for Family Business. The center, an outreach unit of the college’s Black School of Business, connects and supports family-run businesses in the Erie region.
Sheetz shared his perspective in a fireside chat format, taking questions from other business owners.
Visit the Center for Family Business at Penn State Behrend for more information about the center or to become a member.