On January 1, 1955, the first Dollar General retail store opened in Springfield, Kentucky, with a simple concept: not a single item for sale in the store would cost more than one dollar.
Two years later, the company had twenty-nine stores and annual sales that topped $5 million. Pioneering the dollar store concept seemingly proved to be both an ingenious and longstanding strategy.
Nearly eighty years after the company’s inception as J.L. Turner and Son, a wholesale business venture between a father and son in rural Kentucky in 1939, the business is still growing. By fall 2017, the now Tennessee-based company, which ranked 128 on the 2017 Fortune 500 list, operated more than 14,000 retail locations and fifteen distribution centers, employed more than 130,000 employees, and reported annual sales that topped $22 billion in 2016.
The company’s business model has evolved since 1955. Less than 25 percent of items are currently priced at one dollar or less today. What has endured alongside the company’s growth, though, is Dollar General’s mission and company culture as it remains focused on providing shoppers with simple and affordable shopping through its timeless mission of serving others by keeping its customers, employees, and communities at the heart of everything it does.
Dollar General first looks to how it can best serve its customers by operating small-box retail stores in convenient locations that deliver everyday low prices. It strives to serve its customers through excellent service, quality products, and an overall positive shopping experience every day.
“For nearly eighty years, Dollar General has continually been focused on delivering everyday low prices, convenience, and value,” said Todd Vasos, Dollar General’s CEO, in a press release.
In supporting the store’s convenience goal, the company recently announced plans to complete roughly two thousand retail projects in 2018. Coupled with plans to add distribution centers in Amsterdam, New York, and Longview, Texas, the company continues to invest in the business to best support customer needs.
Taking care of the team
Investing in its employees as a competitive advantage is one of Dollar General’s four key operating priorities, and providing employees the opportunity for growth and development is a cornerstone of Dollar General’s culture.
One person that knows a thing or two about creating a great working environment at Dollar General is Bob Ravener, the company’s executive vice president and chief people officer, who joined the company in 2008.
“Dollar General’s ongoing investment in talent development is essential to fulfill the leadership needs of our rapidly-growing business,” Ravener said. “Whether an individual works in a store, a distribution center, or at the store support center, Dollar General provides employees with numerous opportunities to gain new skills and develop their talents through award-winning training and development programs.”
And Ravener is not the only one who is invested in seeing others grow and succeed. The company’s training and development program has been continually recognized as Training Magazine’s top 125 for providing world-class training to employees, earning a top-five recognition for 2018.
One way in which he helps create that environment for employees is ensuring there is a culture of mentorship at the company as Dollar General also looks to fill a number of job vacancies by promoting from within.
Dollar General is also committed to serving its communities. For the company, its philanthropic focus is rooted in the founding family’s story.
When cofounder J.L. Turner was eleven years old, his father was killed in an accident. To help support his family, he dropped out of school to work on the family farm and never completed his formal education, leaving him functionally illiterate.
In 1993, J.L.’s grandson, Cal Turner Jr., was president and CEO of Dollar General. He founded the Dollar General Literacy Foundation to honor his grandfather’s memory and support individuals looking to improve their lives through literacy and education. Today, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation awards grants to nonprofits, schools, and libraries within a twenty-mile radius of a Dollar General store or distribution center to support adult, family, and youth literacy programs. To date, the nonprofit has awarded more than $140 million in grants that have helped more than nine million individuals learn to read, prepare for their high school equivalency test, or learn English.
“Through our mission of serving others, we are excited to support literacy and education across the communities we call home,” Vasos said, in a press release. “We hope the Dollar General Literacy Foundation’s youth literacy grants help strengthen literacy programs, expand library collections, inspire a love of reading in students, and make a distinct impact to enhance the lives of children.”
The Dollar General Literacy Foundation isn’t the only way the company gives back, though. Throughout the year, Dollar General partners with organizations including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation and local toy drives during the holiday season, the American Red Cross, the Kids in Need Foundation, and others across the forty-four states Dollar General serves.
By serving its communities, customers, and employees, Dollar General has found an enduring formula for success.
Serving others from the legal department
One executive that embodies Dollar General’s mission of serving others is Rhonda Taylor, the company’s executive vice president and general counsel. Taylor has been with the company since she joined as an employment attorney in March 2000. She has since been promoted to senior employment attorney in 2001, deputy general counsel in 2004, vice president and assistant general counsel in March 2010, and to her current role in June 2013, where she serves others by ensuring the legal team’s success.
“Rhonda is a valuable member of our executive leadership team and is a trusted advisor on legal and business issues impacting Dollar General,” said Rick Dreiling, Dollar General’s former chairman and chief executive officer, in a press release at the time of her promotion. “In addition, she provides outstanding leadership, and I look forward to her continued success at Dollar General.