|Photo by Robin May|
When a hurricane hits, Brent Mouton doesn’t run. The convenience store chain owner is proof that the challenges of mother nature can almost break a business, but Mouton learned to grow out of temporary closure from near devastation in 2002 and of lost potential revenue.
“We were not as prepared as we should have been the first time around, but Hurricane Lili taught us some valuable lessons,” says Mouton. Product and structural damage were obvious losses, but loss of people was the biggest challenge. “After the storm passed, we had employees all over the place and in many cases could not get in touch with them. This created a challenge to get the stores reopened,” says Mouton. Since 2002, Mouton has made having a plan for communicating with all 85 of his employees to keep Hit-n-Run open and serving the public a priority.
Mouton also connects with the public’s need for a clean and safe convenience store when stopping to top off the tank, and he’s dedicated himself to making his stores appealing by expanding food service offerings beyond salty snacks and a six pack and adding Subway restaurants and fresh-baked pizza in some locations. The decision to reinvest in existing locations versus adding additional stores is the focus of Mouton’s vision for successful growth.
Mouton’s operations in Lafayette, Broussard, Henderson, Opelousas, Eunice and the Baton Rouge metro area are dependent on the supply and demand of the oil and gas market — snacks and sodas alone are not the biggest draw of customers to his Chevron and Shell Hit-n-Run gas stations. Fluctuations in gas prices mean a fluctuation in revenue for Mouton, but even with a decline of about $2.6 million from 2012, $54 million in revenues is not a bad way to close the books on 2013.
At the end of the day, Mouton knows his success is nothing without people: “I always wanted to be in business for myself and starting in 2000 with a single store and now [we’ve] grown to 13 locations throughout South Louisiana,” he says. “Without a doubt, the one thing that has kept us moving in a positive direction is our people; without them we have nothing.”