When asked for his landmark career moment, The Convenience Shop Group CEO Martin Agius simply replies: “Transforming the mindset and image of the company, from a traditional outlook to a corporate franchise entity.”
This overview belies the full extent of the extraordinary achievements and entrepreneurial spirit of the CEO. Martin was a key part of the major restructuring of the company at all levels, from good corporate governance to the daily operation of the business – in a matter of years, taking this family-owned business and turning it into Malta’s largest and leading food retail chain. This was part of the company’s major restructuring across all levels – from good corporate governance to the daily operation of the business.
Prior to becoming Group CEO in late 2018, Martin worked extensively in hospitality for over 15 years and manufacturing for more than 25. As sales and marketing manager at General Soft Drinks for over two decades, he positioned Coca Cola as the local beverage brand leader with the second-highest per capita consumption worldwide.
Martin’s impact as CEO of The Convenience Shop Group has been equally game changing. Today, The Convenience Shop franchise boasts 81 outlets – and counting – in more than 48 strategically selected localities across the island. As of 2022, the franchise has a team compliment of over 600 people, working with 140 local suppliers and offering nearly 2,000 brands. These numbers are even more impressive when considering that this is a franchise that began operating from a single outlet in Zebbug just over a decade ago.
Nevertheless, it was the Directors’ focused approach for the company to become ‘the leading retail business, seeking consistent and sustainable growth by engaging highly motivated people’ that may have made Martin the clear choice to take the helm and drive the business forward.
“Our vision is to be the best retailer in the sector by making sure that we keep providing modern convenience to our customers, making their lives easier,” shares the CEO. “The company’s vision and objective has always been to help ease our customer’s hectic lives and provide a hassle-free solution for their daily needs. This commitment and the vision of our shareholders to bring convenience as well as the best shopping experience has led to numerous ‘The Convenience Shop’ outlets opening since that first in 2009, which are a mix of fully owned stores and franchisees, all operating a highly successful formula.”
Listing the company’s core values at the heart of this success, Martin points to teamwork in a culture of active participation and mutual respect; integrity that upholds honesty and trust between employees, customers and business partners; reliability to deliver on promises; customer focus that puts the customer first; and data-driven decision-making.
In fact, Martin views his approach as a leader as intrinsic to his role. “A strong leadership philosophy is key to successfully running a team,” he shares. “Leading the team with an optimistic and positive vision of the future and channelling everyone’s innate potential gives us the opportunity to leverage the unique talent of our employees to retain our position as a leading retail business in Malta.”
Martin goes on to define the traits of a good business leader: “One of the most important qualities is self-awareness, and the ability to understand your own strengths and weaknesses. Leaders should also have decisiveness, fairness, enthusiasm, integrity, knowledge, creativity and imagination. Perseverance and endurance are also a must.”
As CEO of one of Malta’s most prominent retail franchises, Martin meanwhile offers insights into the plethora of responsibilities involved in his multi-faceted role. “CEOs must set the company's strategic direction, take major corporate decisions, manage the executive team and the company's overall resources and operations, be the ‘public face’ of the company, present ideas to the Board of Directors, and share the company's future to investors, while also being a role model and an inspiration to everyone in the company,” he says. “It's a challenging yet satisfying job, which is why some CEOs love doing it – including me.”
With such a wealth of experience, Martin is also well-placed to offer one key piece of advice for aspiring leaders. “Learn the difference between organisational health and organisational strategy,” he asserts, defining organisational health as focusing on making a company effective through creating a unified leadership team, aligning goals and having a clear purpose, before communicating that vision to the team. “Strive to attract and keep some of the best people in the industry, while fostering innovation and building exceptional stakeholder relationships.”
Looking forward to the Group’s future, Martin highlights that its resilience and agility have translated into a solid performance. “Our published interim figures for the first 6 months of this year show a turnover of €19.4 million, a growth of 20 per cent over the same period last year. This resulted in a 38 per cent increase in gross profit at €2.5 million and our EBITDA outperformed projections by five per cent,” concluded Martin.
Martin also points out that by September 2022, The Convenience Shop Group recorded a profit before tax of €1.75 million, already surpassing the previous year figures by 10 per cent in the first nine months of this year as well as the projected profit before tax by 24.2 per cent.
“Despite the challenges faced, the Group is in a strong position and remains focused on serving its customers,” Martin confirms. “We invest in our people and systems, to not only enhance the shopper experience in all outlets but also to introduce more efficient processes and procedures for all our employees.”
Looking ahead, value creation to the Group’s shareholders remains central to its plans, as does the customer experience in the face of world events. “We continue to invest in the longer term, identifying attractive opportunities for sustainable growth in keeping with our mission and vision for the future,” the CEO concludes. “The Group’s Directors are also keeping a keen eye on the developments of the Russia-Ukraine war to ensure product availability and to safeguard affordability of products to customers through monthly price offers and other initiatives. The first and constant mission of The Convenience Shop is to meet and, whenever possible exceed, shopper expectations – and we will continue to grow with cutting-edge technology and business processes, with our customers at the core of our vision.”