Casey’s General Stores + CyBIZ Lab

Understanding the current state of Casey’s labor force through an outside perspective

CyBIZ Lab student consultant, Allison Harris, takes laps around one of the Casey’s General Stores in Ames to track employee tasks and time allocation. Allison is an MBA and undergraduate student in industrial engineering at Iowa State University.

The Case for Casey’s General Stores

Nearly everyone in the Midwest has had a Casey’s experience. Known for its famous, made-from-scratch pizza, Casey’s is the fifth largest pizza chain in the United States. Food forward, they give a whole new meaning to convenience store food by offering a quality selection of freshly prepared foods.

Changing the Customer Experience

One of the biggest challenges faced by Casey’s and other retailers is monitoring store oversight to ensure a consistent customer experience. The digital age has resulted in consumers craving in-person experiences. If the experience is either terrible or exceptional, consumers will talk openly about it, both online and offline.

In order to keep a pulse on day-to-day operations, store managers and key decision makers depend on understanding how employees allocate their time on tasks. These key measurements directly impact how companies budget schedules, train and develop employees, and retain their labor force.

The need for a line of vision is real because it impacts a company’s bottom-line in a multitude of ways.

CyBIZ Lab team members present their final findings to executives at Casey’s General Stores headquarters in Ankeny, Iowa.

Working with Iowa State’s CyBIZ Lab

Casey’s desire to engage with Iowa State University was sparked from top leadership and a big picture perspective. Terry Handley, president and CEO of Casey’s General Stores, knew they could gain a lot of value from engaging with Iowa State. The partnership was part of Casey’s Cultural Enhancement Program which allows for Casey’s to better understand what they do well and what they can do better.

“Our partnership with CyBIZ is about being even more consistent in who we are and how we make our customers and their community better.  The entire Casey’s team was highly impressed with the knowledge and energy level of the students on the CyBIZ team. They provided a unique insight of our stores which will be useful as we continue to improve efficiencies. Overall, this experience reminds us that our ability to learn and evolve is a key component to our long term success.”  -Jay Soupene, Chief Operations Officer/Sr. VP Store Operations at Casey’s General Stores

The Student Consultant Experience

Just 22, Erik Hammill sat confidently in the executive boardroom at Casey’s headquarters in Ankeny, Iowa. Hammill and the team were well prepared to roll out their recommendation to a table full of Casey’s leaders and key decision makers.

How did he get here? A native of Monticello, Minnesota, Hammill is earning a degree in industrial engineering while completing his MBA at Iowa State. Hammill joined CyBIZ Lab to get a taste for the world of consulting. “I have always seen myself as a problem solver, and business excites me.”

When considering his next CyBIZ project, he chose Casey’s based on the opportunity to work with a Fortune 500 company. “Everyone has been to Casey’s or had a Casey’s pizza. Working with a well-known company was very appealing. I was interested in learning how they operate, and ultimately, I wanted to make a difference.”

With a seat at the table, Hammill recommended the need to have a “current state” for Casey’s labor force. His team’s data, collected from store visits, surveys, and observations, allows decision makers at corporate to see how employees spend time on tasks.

The outside perspective and unique insights from CyBIZ Lab will allow Casey’s managers to improve store oversight. Going forward, the customer experience across its 2,000 convenience stores throughout the Midwest will be more consistent.

The Model for Experiential Learning Programs

Located at the Iowa State University Research Park, CyBIZ Lab is the premier student consulting group, tackling business problem-solving. The lab was launched by the Ivy College of Business in 2013, and is led by Judi Eyles, director of CyBIZ Lab and the Iowa State Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship.

Iowa State’s CyBIZ Lab consultants meet with a client at the ISU Research Park.

At Iowa State, CyBIZ Lab is one of the best examples of an experiential learning program. The model is both unique and challenging. A number of business colleges have faculty members oversee projects in a classroom, where student work is tied to a grade. CyBIZ Lab differs by hiring an interdisciplinary team of dynamic students who are compensated for their consulting work. The model is challenging in that managing projects and budgets requires constant monitoring due to high turnover when students graduate.

Projects are fee-based, starting at $5,000 for companies and organizations. Through the support of the Ivy College of Business and outside sponsors, the CyBIZ Lab model continues to grow.

CyBIZ Lab can help

CyBIZ Lab is one of Iowa State University’s best-kept secrets. Over 120 corporations, new businesses, startups, university departments, and non-profit organizations have worked side-by-side with cross-functional teams of undergraduate and graduate student consultants.

“We have the capacity to scale and invite businesses of all types to partner with us. CyBIZ Lab students gain meaningful work experience while providing innovative solutions to businesses and organizations. Think of it as having a dedicated, high-powered team of interns helping your company — young consultants who may even be potential recruits,” states Judi Eyles, director of CyBIZ Lab. “The collaborative experience we have had with Casey’s has been mutually beneficial, and we look forward to partnering on our next project.”

This article was written by Diana Wright. Diana leads, creates, and markets the programs at the Iowa State Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship. She is a connector in the Iowa startup community, and a guest contributor for Clay & Milk.