2021 Bayou Region Influencers | Ali Rouse Royster

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Rouses Markets

 

From its humble beginning as a single store in Houma in 1960, the family-owned-and-operated  Rouses Markets is one of the largest independent grocery chains in the United States — with over 7,000 employees and 64 stores across Louisiana, Mississippi Gulf Coast and Lower Alabama. Much of the company’s success and continuous growth can be attributed to Ali Rouse Royster, a 3rd Generation owner of Rouses.

 

What is the biggest challenge you have faced over the years and how did you meet it?

“So probably our biggest challenges as a company have been acquisitions. I’ve been involved in some of the bigger ones and more recent ones. In 2007, we doubled the size of our company through acquisition, and that was all hands on deck, going from 15 stores to 32 stores — really getting a presence in New Orleans and the surrounding areas and moving into Mississippi and the Gulf Coast. And we did it all in about a month — not to say that that didn’t have eight months of work behind it. It was a challenge. It was scary. It was hard at times. It was fun at times. Looking back on it, I can smile much more than I did then when I felt chained to my desk while my whole family was across the state getting things done. I was holding down the fort back here.



Then more recently when we took over the LeBlanc stores in Baton Rouge, that was a smaller one, but it was a more local company. It presented its own challenges to try to fit it in while keeping the culture, which was so great, and keeping our culture at the same time and meshing them. Those are challenges, but those are ones that are fun because you’re really growing the company in a unique way — where you’re able to really put your stamp on something that’s already there and see what you can do to better it while keeping the best parts of it. those are challenges that I enjoy.”

 

What’s the one thing you can’t leave your house without each morning?

“Nowadays —  a mask. All the time, I walk out my door and say, ‘Oh no, I forgot my mask.’ Besides that, the usual stuff: my phone, which is an appendage of my body, and my keys — that way I can get there.” 



 

What piece of advice do you share with your employees/coworkers regularly?

“I like to quote my grandfather or my dad. One of the biggest ones that has stuck with me from my grandfather is that he used to always ask, ‘How many customers do you have tomorrow?’ And the answer to that is always zero. So you start out each day with zero customers, and there’s no guarantee that anybody’s going to walk through. And so every day we need to be ready to earn the business from our customers. That’s something that I don’t take lightly. Nobody here does. It’s not guaranteed that people are going to show up and shop with you. They have other places they can easily go to in most cases. But what we want to do is we want to earn the privilege of having people come shop with us every day.”

 

What skill do you feel all successful leaders must possess?



“I think that empathy is a very important trait of a successful leader. It’s probably one of the most important ones that I try myself to be cognizant that I’m being empathetic. I kind of play devil’s advocate, in a way, in discussions about things. I like to remind people — my team members, our vendors, whoever — to look at the other point of the view, which in our business often is a question like, ‘but how does that look or feel to our customer?’ I think that plays into almost every aspect of our business: how does that affect our customer? Really, we’re a customer-centric business as a retail grocery store. That really needs to be in the forefront of our minds as leaders — all the way down to anybody at the store. 

 

Who are your greatest influencers? 

“My greatest influencers would definitely be my parents. My dad and I are in a lot of ways two peas in a pod, and I grew up working very closely with him, talking to him a lot. The same with my grandfather regarding work, he always really pushed me to be my best and to not be boxed in. When I was young, he wanted to make sure that I wasn’t kind of relegated to little tasks. He wanted to make sure I was seeing how things worked. He used to always make sure that I knew that. The grocery industry is a male-dominated industry, always has been. It’s kind of evolved over time and there are more and more female leaders. But it’s still not the norm. Especially 20 years ago when I was starting, he was making sure that I knew that that was not an issue to overcome. So my dad, my grandpa and my uncle Donald through work, of course, are my greatest influences here.” 



 

How are you going to impact the Bayou Region in 2021? 

“We’re gonna keep making groceries. 2021, nobody knows what’s in store. Hopefully, it’s a great year; hopefully, it’s much better than the last. But what I know is that my family and I will always be here to serve the community by providing a good clean place to shop for food — and that’s always been our mission. We want to keep doing what we’re doing in 2021. For me personally, I hope to still be impacting our team, our customers and my personal circles, empowering people to live their best versions of themselves — in all aspects.•