My Interview with Cindy Cameron, Grocery Star Woman Of the Year

I met Cindy on a beautiful afternoon in the quaint town of Jordon, Ontario. Jordan is her hometown so she suggested that we meet at De La Terre Café and Bakery. The café was bursting with rich coffee smells and decadent looking treats made out of spelt flour.

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We grabbed our goods and sat down on the front patio that was filled with the scent of the huge lilac bush that grows on the side of the café. Once we got settled, I honed in on the questions:

You won woman of the year, can you tell me about this?

Oh! Yeah, it was a co-worker that nominated me for it. It is the Grocery Star Woman Award. Unbeknownst to me, every time I would say something she would log it and she eventually nominated me for the award.

Are you serious? I can’t believe she did that in secret!

Oh ya! And she submitted it and I won and it was quite an honour. I was with a lot of colleagues that are amazing women that have accomplished a lot so it was really an honour.

You know, throughout my career there are a lot of things I have gotten joy out of and it’s not about the awards you win, or the recognition you get but it’s all about the people you touch along the way.

I remember when we had a manager in training program with Sobeys and a department manager in training and I got up and announced some people from my district and there were 6 people from my store or that I had helped along the way. You know so many people think you have to keep your people with you because they help you be successful, but making them successful makes you successful. It takes time to mentor people, but I think back and think if I didn’t have someone mentor me I wouldn’t be where I am.

7583853440_IMG_0292What a great realization that must have been for you.

It is the most important thing for me in business: the people connection. It’s taking the time to work with someone and make them realize their potential. You know a lot of women don’t realize they can do it. I have had a lot of conversations with women who could be a franchisee and they say to me “no, I can’t do this” and I always let them know “you know what, you’re not going to do it on your own.”

I totally hear you, some women are so nervous to rock the boat!

Rock away!

Do you work mostly with men?

Oh yes! I am the only woman on the team.

Do you find that it is difficult to make your voice heard?

Actually I am more outspoken. I would say things that they would never say and I get away with it.

Really? Like what?

Yes, if I disagree I would just say it. That’s why our boss has us—not just to be dogs nodding our heads in the back window of the car—but, to challenge, and have ideas, and do.

Do you think you would have had the confidence to stand up like that when you were 28 years old?

No, but my daughter’s very outspoken and confident. I think it has something to do with your upbringing too.

“I wasn’t happy, but I wasn’t going to fail.”

I heard a story about you and your daughter when you were just starting your career. Can you tell me about that?

Well, I failed a lot and I think people always say “You are so lucky!”. No. I work hard. I remember when she was 4 and I took on a management job. I was eager so I took the job but I was ill-equipped to do it. Instead of delegating I tried to do it all myself. I worked long hours. I wasn’t happy but I was not going to fail. Until I came home one night, my daughter was already in bed and my husband said to me “You know what? You have a little girl upstairs and she won’t know her mum if you continue.” And I quit the next day.

You Did? What a decision!

And I am so glad I did because I wouldn’t have the relationship I have with her today. You have to know your priorities.

So I knew what I had to work on so I spent a few more years getting ready and I didn’t take on a store until years afterwards.

Did this decision to quit make you happy at the time?

I felt relieved! I realized after my husband said what he said to me (which was really courageous of him) that I just felt relief and I reset my priorities and I moved on.

Looking back at this story today, would you still make the same decision?

Yes. Well, I wouldn’t take on the management job. I just wanted to succeed so badly.

How would you define happiness in the workplace then?

I work with the greatest team ever now. Happiness is when we are all working towards the same end, and I am seeing the success of people. Then their success makes them want to drive to do more and be more successful, and that makes me more successful and happy.

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Outside of work what do you do to make yourself happy?

My grandkids. The engine goes on, I meet my obligations at work, but I make the time to spend with my grandkids. You have to know what really matters.

What happened with your daughter?

My daughter is successful too. She has a bachelors in science and she went and got her

teaching degree and when the teaching jobs didn’t come, I asked her what she loved to do. She said “Well, I really love animals.” At the time, we happen to be walking out of a restaurant together and I ran into a colleague and he said I just got a Pet Valu and it’s going really well. So I told my daughter why don’t we look into that.

You mean looking into becoming a Pet Valu franchisee?

Yes! We went to the interview together and then we opened up a Pet Valu.

Are you serious!?

Yes, and then she got to work with dogs every day and she built the business up. Once she had her third child she decided to give up the PetValu. She is a stay at home mom now, which is very challenging too.

I’ve looked into franchising before, and it really interests me, but it’s scary because it’s a big risk right off the bat.

You know, with my first franchise my husband and I had to go to the bank in order for them to give us all of the funds. So I asked my husband, “Should we really do this?” and he told me, “What do we have to lose? We will start over again if it doesn’t work out!”

I think that’s scary for a lot of people—the idea of starting over.

Sometimes you just don’t know but you just have to do it.

What does the next phase of your life look like to maintain happiness?

Well I have some personal things I want to do. I want to get my Grade 8 in piano. I started a while ago but I couldn’t continue, so this is a goal of mine. I want to take up golfing, kayaking and I would like to do some bucket list trips like the pacific highway and go back up to Calgary and Lake Louise and go to my condo in Florida. I also want to spend time with my grandkids.

Talking to Cindy was like talking to an old friend that goes out of her way to tuck in the hanger straps on my sweater, and who leaves with a big warm hug. She was so sweet, and such an inspirational woman. Since the interview, I have thought back to our conversation often. Specifically her notion, that other’s success is also her success. This sentiment truly moved me and I am trying to implement this practice in my daily life.

Thank you so much, Cindy. You are amazing.

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