SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Working at a midsized company has enabled Rob Marsh to take on a lot of responsibilities in a very short time.
Marsh is director of planning and development at RPCS here, a chain of 33 supermarkets and six convenience stores/fuel centers that operates across a wide swath of southern Missouri under a trio of banners -- Price Cutter at 19 locations, Ramey's at 10 and Smitty's at three -- plus a single corporate-owned Save-A-Lot in Siloam Springs, Ark.
He told SN he likes working for a small company "because it's easier to be recognized when the president of the company is in your store all the time, and it's also easier to make a difference."
Marsh, 32, has been with RPCS since mid-1998. As director of planning and development, he oversees construction, store layouts, resets, equipment purchases, information technology and store engineering.
His first foray into retail came in the early 1990s, when he worked for Smitty's -- before it was operated by RPCS -- as a carry-out clerk, then a stocker and finally as a night manager. Marsh left that company to become a food broker, but returned to the retail side within a couple of years "because that's where I felt I could do the best job. I like working with customers, and I felt retail offered more opportunities to grow."
He said he recognizes that customer service is the No. 1 priority at retail, and that approach led to a series of successful promotions at RPCS.
Starting as night manager at a Price Cutter store, he was promoted within a year to night supervisor for the 26 stores the company was operating at the time. "The advantage of being a supervisor was that I was able to see what worked and what didn't work at each store, at the same time I was exposed to the administrative side of the business, with the ability to look at the P&Ls [profit-and-loss statements] for all the stores," Marsh told SN.
When he was named manager of the company's second-highest-volume store here -- at a time its volume was beginning to decline -- Marsh said he had a clear idea what was needed: a bigger effort to improve store conditions and customer service. Within six months, sales at the store increased by double digits as Marsh put into practice what he learned from previous observation, he pointed out.
"We cleaned up the store, hired a new stock crew and assigned each person to specific aisles, which promoted ownership and eliminated out-of-stock problems," Marsh said. "To boost customer service, we developed the position of front-end coordinator so that someone was always overseeing the front end at peak hours from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m."
Marsh got to put his management philosophies into wider use in late 2000, when he was named district manager for 16 stores. Last July, Marsh was named director of planning and development.
According to Erick Taylor, president of RPCS, executives at the company were aware of Marsh when he worked at Smitty's in the early 1990s "because of the exceptional job he did there as a stocker and display builder. When we hired him, he did an excellent job for us in that area, then as a district manager and later at store level because he understood the retail side of the business. That's been particularly useful as we remerchandise and add more specialty foods to make the stores more upscale.
"Working for a midsized company like this one, everyone has to do more multitasking, which gives you a greater opportunity to learn the complete retail business in all its different aspects. Rob is a very hard-working, intelligent, dedicated employee who's very willing to learn."
Marsh told SN he has no desire to work at a larger chain. "I have a lot of loyalty to this company, and right now I want to grow with it," he told SN.
He said he credits two mentors for helping him in his career: Taylor, "who has taught me a lot about the profit-and-loss side of the business and how to handle personnel issues," and the late Joe Yates, who retired in 2004 as vice president, procurement, after 50 years with the company, "who always told me what to look out for to save money at store level and who always walked the stores with me to share his thoughts on how to improve things. Over the years, I could always go to him with questions, and he always had answers for me."
Marsh's wife, Janelle, is a former cashier who is now a nurse. They've been married for five years and have a son, Christian, who had his first birthday in mid-January.
Outside of his job, Marsh said his top priorities are his wife, his son and golf.
director of planning and development, RPCS Inc., Springfield, Mo.
Professional background: Joined Smitty's Supermarkets in 1993 as a carry-out clerk; left retail in 1995 to become food broker with Premier Marketing, Springfield, Mo., then back to retail in mid-1998 as night manager of a Price Cutter; named store manager in 2000; named district manager over 16 stores in early 2001, then named director of operations over all 32 stores in late 2001; promoted to current position in July 2004.
College: Attended Southwest Missouri State University for one year in business management.
Family: Married to wife Janelle; one son, Christian, age 1.
Leisure activities: Family, golf.
Career mentors: Erick Taylor, president of RPCS, "who taught me a lot about the profit-and-loss side of the business," and the late Joe Yates, 50-year Ramey's veteran, "who always walked the stores with me to share his thoughts on how to improve things."