Charles Inman named Food Lion’s manager of the year

ajames@newsobserver.comApril 8, 2013 

Store manager Charles Inman discusses produce with employee C.W. Jones.

AMANDA JAMES — AMANDA JAMEs <a href="mailto:ajames@newsobserver.com">ajames@newsobserver.com</a>

— When many other 26-year-olds are still figuring out what they want to do with their lives, Charles Inman is already being recognized for the strides he’s made in his own.

Inman, the store manager of Food Lion on Pritchard Road, has been named the company’s store manager of the year. He was selected from a group of 1,119 store managers.

Inman was one of the top managers in the region for his sales, and his profits were “outstanding,” said Rodney Jackson, the regional director who worked as Inman’s boss during the selection process.

Jackson said he nominated Inman to be the top manager in the region, then Inman was chosen by a committee as the top manager in his district, and he was ultimately named the top store manager for the company for 2012.

“One thing that’s unique about him is how he gets results, not just that he gets results,” said Jackson, who oversees 24 stores. He said Inman has an ability to encourage his employees to work as a team. He is the youngest store manager in the company.

“He’s the first one in my group to ever win the company manager award in my 29 years working for Food Lion,” said Jackson.

Inman grew up with both of his parents working as Food Lion store managers. Before he was a teenager, they left the company and started their own independent grocery store.

“From the age of 10 I worked at a grocery store,” said Inman.

When he was 18 he started working at a Food Lion, bagging people’s groceries, and working as a cashier.

While a full-time student at N.C. State, he worked 40 hours a week at a Food Lion store near the school on Avent Ferry Road. He jokes that he got used to four hours of sleep per night during those four years.

After he graduated in 2009, he became the associate manager of the store. Within six months he was promoted to store manager and served in that role in a Food Lion store in Garner and in Raleigh before coming to Clayton.

“I have the ability to impact over 1,000 people’s lives a day,” said Inman. The best part of his job, Inman says, is working with people. There are 55 employees at the store, and an average of 1,000 customers per day.

“I bet I walk five miles a day here around the store,” said Inman. Though he’s in the top position at the store, he doesn’t spend his time behind a desk. He works 10-hour shifts and only one of those hours is spent doing paperwork. Nine hours a day, he works alongside his employees out in the store.

“You’re always in conversation with somebody,” said Inman. His job includes meeting with customers if there is a problem, and also managing a team of five department managers. It’s also his job to fire employees, which he says is his least favorite part. He’s only had to fire three people in the past two and a half years, though, which he says is relatively low.

Inman acknowledges that a lot of people aren’t happy when they come grocery shopping because it’s a chore.

But he wants to make sure they don’t find something to complain about in his store.

He is honest about his strict work ethic.

“People have got to want to be successful,” said Inman, who expects his employees to take their jobs seriously.

“For a lot of people who work here, this is the first job they’ve ever had, and they are in high school,” said Inman. “Depending on if their parents have taught them, sometimes we have to teach them how to work.” Food Lion employees apparently like working for Inman, too. The company’s average turnover rate, is 57 percent, but the rate for Inman’s store is just 22 percent.

What his employees say

Inman’s employees say his leadership is rare at his age.

“I joke with another friend that when I started at the company, he was probably in kindergarten,” said Tara Spruill, an employee who was recently promoted to serve as customer service manager.

She said she has worked at the store for more than 20 years. She started working at the Pritchard Road store when it opened and was hired by Inman.

Leland Peacock, who works in produce, also started working at the store when it first opened.

“He wants the job done and wants it done right,” said Peacock.

“It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if he became the president of Food Lion,” said Leland.

Another employee, C.W. Jones, who started in December said he thinks Inman is different than most bosses.

“He treats everyone as an individual,” said Jones. “He offers appreciation when it’s warranted and constructive criticism when it’s warranted.”

As nice as the award is, it probably won’t be the highlight of Inman’s year. He’s getting married in May.

James: 919-553-7234

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