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The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle has an fascinating interview with Colleen Wegman, president of the supermarket chain that bears her family’s name.

Some excerpts:

On the company’s philosophy: “(It) was to try to provide more perishable products, more products that were convenient for customers, time-saving, a combination of adding more service to help people. So we have constantly focused on education and training and learning about food and the products that complement food. We've spent a lot of time educating ourselves about how to prepare and serve food and passing it on to our customers. That was when prepared foods started to become more of a focus for us. And now in the new market, people don't seem to want to cook as much. So we're providing more and more prepared foods.

“People don't have the time, so they are looking for things to help them, whether it's prepared foods or even time-saving ingredients. And people don't want to clean up afterwards, so we're even focusing on trying to provide the plates that people put in the oven and they won't even have to do any dishes.”

On her grandfather and father: “They approach things differently, but they are so much alike in terms of their belief system and their values. And I think that's what I've gotten from them. It's really fun to have three generations working together on a daily basis…They've both been very respectful of me and very helpful so that I can feel I can be successful. And it's not just the two of them. But we have an incredible thing here at Wegmans, people that I respect. There's a lot of talent. I never feel alone.”

On being privately held: “I absolutely think that it is a competitive advantage to be a privately held company. This company absolutely is not for sale. I don't know how else I could say it. I can appreciate that people would be interested, but our position still remains the same regardless of the offer.

“And the two reasons to go public are if you need funding for your growth, which we don't, or shareholder liquidity, which is something we wouldn't even consider…

“We will continue to focus on our own strategy and delivering better on that rather than get distracted by other things going on around us. But it's important for us to be aware of all competition out there for a couple of reasons. We want to make sure we're benchmarking best practices so that we can improve and we never want to be out of line with a competitor in terms of price.”
KC's View:
One of Wegmans’ competitive advantages may be that it is privately held, but another one is that the company is absolutely disciplined about its vision, its mission, and its implementation. In an industry where many executive worry about being on the “bleeding edge” and following trends at the right distance, Wegmans leads – listening to customers, being transparent about its products and services, and always, always being about food.