Williams (center) visits with 7-Eleven Franchisee, Brinderjit Dhillion (right), and his store manager, Mohni (left).
Ena Williams is Vice President of 7-Eleven Southwest Division.
By Brian W. Carter, Sentinel Staff Writer
It’s instantly recognizable by the number ‘7’ with its orange and green colors. Founded in Dallas, Texas in 1927, 7-Eleven is a mainstay and an international cornerstone known for its Slurpee drinks, hotdogs and the Big Gulp. Ena Williams is Vice President of the 7-Eleven Southwest Division with about 845 franchised stores in Southern California. Williams is continuing the success of keeping 7-Eleven as a forerunner among convenience store chains.
Williams was born in Baltimore, Maryland where she received her grade and high school education. She later attended the University of Virginia majoring in Economics and African-American studies. Williams received her MBA from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania with a concentration on finance and operations.
She had an extensive career in operations at Mobil Oil and ExxonMobil after college. “After I graduated from U.V.A (University of Virginia), I worked for Mobil about 17 years before I came to 7-Eleven,” said Williams. At Mobil, she was the division manager of the West Coast and Midwest Dealer/Franchise Business Units of ExxonMobil. Williams also held other positions such as Global Financial Analyst, National Category Manager and Operations Manager for corporate stores.
In 2008, she joined 7-Eleven as the southwest division vice president. “We pride ourselves, especially in the southwest, for having a very diverse division,” said Williams. Her division runs from San Luis Obispo to the Mexico border. “It’s a pretty dense geography for 7-Eleven,” said Williams.
At 7-Eleven, Williams is responsible for P&L (Profit and Loss), finance, personnel development, relationships/partnerships with franchisees and overall development. She takes personnel development seriously and considers it a high priority. “My challenge is to walk that fine line,” said Williams, “not to segment anyone, to make sure they are following the right rules, making the best fiscal decisions that they can make.”
“One of the reasons I came on board a little over two years ago, was because of all the opportunities that I saw in this company,” said Williams. “It’s a growth company and I am happy to say that southwest [division] is a huge part of that growth initiative.” As vice president, Williams has contributed to the growth and success of the 7-Eleven franchise. “We’ve added about 80 stores, add another 25 before the end of the year and next year between 50 and 60 more stores will be added within this division.
The opportunity of growth is huge, especially in an economy like this where a lot of companies are cutting back, they’re not expanding. We are expanding in the best way possible, making the most economic decisions and being efficient about it. We’re expanding and bringing in new assets and new people to the business.”
Williams also talked about 7-Eleven’s retailer initiative that allows for 7-Eleven stores to reflect the needs of its community. “The franchisee with our help, with the tools we provide them and with our field consultant…we help them with their product assortment, having the right products in the store, having the right amount of products in the store that appeals to that demographic.”
7-Eleven has maintained a status that many stores can’t match. That may be in fact due to their belief in giving back to the community that it serves. “Our stores pride themselves in giving back to the community for that neighborhood to really feel that we’re a part of that community,” said Williams. 7-Eleven was one of the many sponsors for Sentinel’s annual “Back-To-School” event this year that supplied kids with school equipment, health checks and uniforms.
The franchise has participated in cancer walks, sponsored the Martin Luther King Jr. parade this year, beach clean-ups and support local schools. 7-Eleven recently started a program entitled “Coffee Cup With a Cause” which has celebrities’ create custom made coffee cups with the proceeds going to various organizations. They recently worked with rapper Snoop Dog whose cup proceeds went to his Snoop Youth Football League that provides mentorship for young inner-city kids. They also recently sponsored the MDA (Muscular Dystrophy Association).
“Being the division vice president for southwest is a huge achievement and part of my life’s goal,” said Williams. “I have a passion for finance, for operations, [and] people development. I have a great team and building a great team is extremely important, because you’re only as good as your team that surrounds you. My goal is to be approachable, I command results and have real high standards.”
She wanted the community to know personally that, “anything is possible. If you work for it and plan for it, it’s possible. Live up to you expectations make the choice that’s right for you and embrace that choice. Be realistic with the decisions that you make.”