Nighat and Rooziman Shah arrived in the U.S. from their native Pakistan with ambition and education, but they had to start over from the ground up. They began their pursuit of the American Dream by managing a service station in Memphis. Their hard work and dedication led to the purchase of their first convenience store / service station, and the beginning of Shah Holdings Group, a recognized leader in the development, leasing, and property management sectors.
We had the opportunity to interview Rooziman to gain some insight into his approach to business.
What makes a convenience store / service station successful?
Anywhere and everywhere you go, customer service is key. With good customer service, your customers will come back to you again and again. The store needs to be clean and have easy access. Convenience is key to a convenience store. Our convenience stores are good for the community because they give easy access to quality goods. Every morning we make fresh food, and every week we restock each location with new products.
Please tell me more about the unique difficulties and challenges in the service station industry. Nighat mentioned that those businesses are fast paced and have a high employee turnover rate. Can you tell us a little more?
Safety issues are a big concern for us, especially in the Memphis area. A lot of people are stealing. Last night, someone just walked into one of our stores, grabbed a bunch of lottery tickets, and ran away. In some areas, we’ve had to put up bulletproof glass. A lot of people don’t want to work in a convenience store or service station because they have to stand all day. It’s a tough job. Everyone is scared because of the safety issue. We try to pay higher wages to overcome these issues. It’s important that the city government takes measures toward these safety issues in, and around, the city. The government needs to fix the infrastructure and give incentives to small businesses to operate in areas that are left out, while making their safety a priority.
What surprised you most about doing business in the U.S.?
I’m always surprised to see perfect looking buildings being demolished to make way for new construction. A big part of what Nighat and I do is go around to different areas that have demolition needs. Instead of razing the buildings, we invest money remodelling and uplifting them. If a property is run down and boarded up, a lot of prospective buyers aren’t interested because they can’t see its potential. After we renovate, everyone is surprised to see what we have turned those properties into. We keep the initial structures of the buildings and restore them. We help these areas by not tearing down the buildings. In a lot of instances, the previous owners haven’t paid the taxes on the buildings, we pay for those as well.
Have you encountered anything that has been disappointing to you?
Crime is not what we had expected. In Memphis, that problem is getting a bit out of control.
What advice would you give to others who want to open a small business such as a convenience store?
If you want to run a successful convenience store you need to have the best customer service, keep it clean, and have easy access.
What is the factor that most contributed to your success?
Being hard working, and being honest with customers, as well as with myself.
When was the most challenging time in your journey, and how did you overcome it?
Challenging times don’t discourage me. I never say any is impossible. Initially, when you are starting a new business, it’s almost impossible to get loans from the bank. It can be slow in the beginning. I’ve learned that if you work hard and smart, you can get what you want. Nothing is impossible for a man or woman who is dedicated to success. America is the land of opportunity.
What has been one of your biggest successes, the one you are most proud of and remember the most?
My whole journey has been a success. I can spend time with my wife and kids, and at the same time have lucrative businesses. Recently, I bought land from Boyle for around $850,000, and then within 6 months someone offered me $4 million for it. An investment like that makes me happy.
If you needed to start it all over again tomorrow what would you do?
I’d go into real estate right away. Land is limited.
What are your goals for the future?
I’m 54, but I’m still going to continue with what I’m doing. Perhaps, I’ll expand my ventures into new areas. Gas stations yield the biggest return. We’ve recently worked on BeeHive Homes, a new senior living project in Collierville. We’ve also expanded to include some ventures in the hotel industry in Dallas. Whenever I invest in anything, my target is to get my return on it in two to three years.
What advice would you give to young people starting out in business?
I would tell them they need to work hard. If you work hard and are honest with yourself and others, you will be successful. Take your time. Don’t rush it.