Jennifer Goschke has deep retail roots. K-Mart/Sears, Walmart, and Office Depot are just a few of the accounting expert’s stops on her career journey prior to coming to 7-Eleven. “It can be difficult to tie the accounting function to the overall vision of the company,” says Goschke, vice president, chief accounting officer, and controller. “But our purpose is to make people’s lives better. If you don’t think that something small like a Slurpee can make someone’s life better, even for just ten minutes, then you haven’t had one in a while.”
The sentiment is a perfect encapsulation of Goschke’s ability to bridge the hard numbers of her department with the wider lens of retail that often relies on cross-functional work, relationships, and the collective vision required to achieve optimal success. “So few projects we work on only involve accounting,” she says. “If I want to get something done within the organization, it will require that I collaborate and partner with someone in IT, someone in HR, and/or someone in operations. It’s so important to build those relationships before you need them.”
Goschke says cultivating those relationships means reaching out for touch-base meetings, or just finding chances to get to know stakeholders. “It’s important to reach out especially when you don’t need anything,” Goschke stresses. “The perfect time is right now. Taking that time has been hugely impactful on my career.”
Cultivating relationships is also important when it comes to working with external partners. “Crowe enjoys our deep and strategic relationship with 7-Eleven,” says Bill Watts, partner and national retail leader at Crowe. “Jennifer is instrumental in this relationship, bringing her accounting knowledge, business expertise, and retail experience to bear, helping guide Crowe’s efforts to support her organizations needs and strategic initiatives. Her vision and insight make our partnering efforts more successful for both parties.”
It was a lesson Goschke learned early in her career when she left public accounting to help a post-bankruptcy K-Mart right itself. “I learned early that I needed to invest in my team and make sure they knew I was there for them,” the VP says. “How do I help them be successful? Whether it’s removing roadblocks or ensuring frequent, quality communication or providing tools that they need to bring their best selves to work.”
Ensuring the quality experience of her team may have seemed much easier in the past. At 7-Eleven, Goschke now oversees a team of over four hundred. It’s one of the reasons Goschke is so heavily committed to the idea of mentorship. “My predecessor has put us on such a great journey of excellence, and I’m really trying to dovetail what she had started,” she says.
“If you don’t think that something small like a Slurpee can make someone’s life better, even for just ten minutes, then you haven’t had one in a while.”
The VP met with IT partners and asked if they would be able to build a mentoring app that’s able to match ambitious younger employees with tenured and experienced veterans of the company. “They were able to find an existing app that does exactly what we need it to,” the VP explains. “It does more than blindly match people; it pairs people based on strengths and skills that people are looking to better develop.” The program is in its pilot phase, and the project was slated to begin in summer 2020.
“I think it’s really going to help us move forward and invest in our people,” Goschke says. “And, honestly, I’m looking for some reverse mentoring. I’m sure some of our newer team members could show me how to better utilize and integrate new technology, and that would add tremendous value for me.”
In her efforts to continually find new ways to aid her finance team, Goschke says the organization has created a director of process improvement whose sole job is to partner with senior directors and their teams to take a fresh look at departmental processes and figure out where “quick wins” can be made and what other projects might require long-term tending.
“An hour that a simple macro or automation can save is an hour we can spend providing more insightful information to our business partners,” the VP says. And as she continually underlines, that value is always passed on to customers in some capacity.
“It always comes back to that original purpose of wanting to make people’s lives better,” Goschke reiterates. The VP talks about solving problems for customers the same way she talks about making life easier for her team.
“It’s so important to build those relationships before you need them.”
“If our customer is a busy mother who’s stopping to get gas on her way home from running errands, maybe we can help her by reducing the number of stops she needs to make,” Goschke explains. “We think about our customers and their challenges. What I love most about retail is just putting myself in customers’ shoes and coming up with ways to help them.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, those challenges have been exponential. “We’ve found that customers were starting to shop our stores almost like a mini bodega because they either didn’t feel comfortable going into a big-box grocery store or perhaps their local grocery store closed early.”
It’s meant adapting to continually changing needs, both on the customer and seller side. “Retailers typically focus on operating in a clean, fast, and friendly way, but I think this is the first time we’ve heard the word ‘safe’ talked about in terms of employees feeling comfortable coming into work, and customers feeling comfortable shopping,” Goschke says. “COVID has changed our standards, and we’ll continue to adapt to be there for our people and for our customers.”