In a sector now raking in $106 billion per year, Canada has over 11,900 gas stations trading within an industry which continues to grow at a steady rate.
Running a gas station requires owners to compete with rivals, manage volatile gas prices and rising overheads, while also meeting the challenge of staying up to date with complex safety regulations. So, for new gas-station owners, here’s a checklist covering this broad-ranging task:
Compliance and staffing
Check your gas station is fully compliant. That means getting in touch with your area’s CEPA Environmental Registry offices. Just give them full details of your gas station and they should be ready to help.
Decide the hours you want to trade, and make sure you keep your word and are always good to go. Think carefully about opening late – this may create the kind of atmosphere many of your regular customers would want to avoid as you’ll have to cut costs in order to remain open for extended hours. It’s worth remembering too that customers will rate a clean gas station (with clean restrooms) as particularly welcoming – something that it is harder to maintain with extended hours.
Hire respectful and reliable employees and make punctuality a priority. Then set up your work schedules to ensure your peak times are well staffed. To keep things running smoothly, you’ll need a responsible manager to oversee every working shift if you are not able to.
Good business practice
Get into the habit of taking regular inventory. Check and record the station tank readings, plus the transaction records for vending sales. These will include items like lottery, money orders, food and drinks, automotive supplies, and of course cigarettes. Be sure to inventory all of these after every working shift.
Create cash register reports to cover every shift. Total up all the money in the drawer – and that includes the change too. Then match up your report totals with the cash receipts and the amount in the drawer. That’s the only way to keep your trading accounts straight.
Transfer each of your shift totals through to your business ledger. Then at the end of each day, run summary reports covering the totals for: your gas tanks and sales inventory, as well as your cash register receipts.
Check and verify all these totals before making any final entries in the ledger. Make a careful note whenever this process reveals any losses or shrinkage of stock. Then arrange to deposit your gas station takings – always bank your cash on a daily basis.
Prioritize employee safety
Your employees must feel safe while they are at work. So don’t allow staff operating cash registers to keep more than a small amount of cash in each register. Set up a drop-safe close to the cash registers.
This will give operators a safe place to store excess cash. It’s quick and easy for them to drop cash into the drawer because there’s no need to open the safe. Empty all drop-safes after every working shift, and don’t forget to include those extra cash amounts in your regular bank deposit.
To protect your staff as well as your customers, fit your retail area with shatterproof glass and install security systems which must include a comprehensive network of security cameras. For extra security, especially for 24-hour gas stations in more vulnerable areas, also consider electronic door systems.
But wherever you are located, be sure to build a good relationship with your local police authorities, so you can ask them to make a habit of calling around regularly. That will do much to reinforce the impression that your gas station is a safe and secure option.
Always get your ordering done in good time to make sure you never run short of stock. In part, this strategy depends on a good understanding of your supplier’s processing arrangements and modes of delivery. And when those shipments arrive, they should be carefully checked so you can report any errors and contact the supplier to get them corrected.