Thursday, May 27, 2021

If you’ve spent time in the Midwest, then you probably fueled up at least once at a Kum & Go convenience store and gas station. With 400 stores and 5,000 associates, the family-owned company sets the standard for roadside convenience and comfort in Iowa and 10 other states.

For 17 years, the company’s CEO was Kyle Krause (BBA85), son of Kum & Go co-founder W.A. (Bill) Krause (BA57). In January, Kyle Krause handed over leadership of the company to Tanner Krause, one of his five children. Kyle is now focusing on management of the Krause Group, the parent company of Kum & Go, which is comprised of 10 other businesses, including two wineries and a professional soccer team in Italy. To help others with management transitions, they agreed to talk about the experience and share a few tips.

Long-term planning is paramount

Kyle: Kum & Go senior leadership started work on the transition about five years ago. It was always my hope that one of my children would take over the company, as I did from my father, and it was clear to me that Tanner was ready for the move. In many ways, we have been planning for this transition since he was nine years old when he started stocking shelves and sweeping floors at a local Kum & Go store.

Tanner: My dad always talked about the business with my brothers and me when we were kids, and he was good about teaching us about different aspects of the business. When I was in college, he started introducing me to more complex aspects of the company. I did four internships with Kum & Go during college, and so I explored different divisions. In family businesses especially, it’s essential to start talking about succession early on, when there’s less pressure.

Have a flexible mindset

Kyle: It was an easy decision for me to hand over the management of Kum & Go to Tanner because I knew he was ready. The more difficult question was, was I? In the end, I let go because I knew that the leadership team was strong and that it was time for Tanner to bring his vision for the company to life.

Tanner: Throughout the transition process, there were moments when we had to rethink things and make unexpected accommodations. The fact that everyone on our leadership team was willing to adjust expectations was beneficial. The death of my grandfather in 2013 is a moment that stands out to me. At that time, I knew for sure that I wanted to be part of Kum & Go and cut short a career with E. & J. Gallo Winery. My father shifted his internal timeline at that point.

Communication, even after the transition, is a must

Kyle: The work on the transition doesn’t stop the day the change occurs. There will be things that will happen months and years after the handoff that will require collaboration. Tanner and I will always collaborate closely on shaping the big picture.

Tanner: My father is technically still my boss, and we have weekly one-on-one meetings. He continues to lead me and support me in a similar fashion as when he was CEO of Kum & Go. Now it’s my responsibility to keep him informed about the challenges we are facing and our business strategy. I like to be sure that we are aligned.

DYK? The Kum & Go name is a mash-up of the two founders’ last names (William Krause and Tony Gentle) and the concept of quick service. The name was adopted by the company in 1975, not long after the founders added convenience stores to their gas stations.

This article is in the Summer 2021 edition of Tippie Magazine. Alumni are invited to update their contact information with the college to be placed on the mailing list for future print editions.