Family Business: FJ Management Inc.
Crystal Maggelet | CEO | FJ Management Inc. | Salt Lake City, UT | Founded: 1968
Strong traditions, new directions
Crystal Maggelet overcame the sudden death of her CEO father to bring their family business back from the edge of financial collapse.
The family business has always been central to Crystal Maggelet’s life and career. But it was a family tragedy that propelled her along a difficult and unsettling path to the CEO’s office at Flying J Inc., the oil and travel-services business her father started in Salt Lake City in 1968.
Maggelet’s dad, Flying J CEO Jay Call, died in a 2003 plane crash. His sudden death left a void in the family and the business, amid a worsening economy. The non-family executive who stepped into that void at Flying J made questionable decisions that would drive the company into bankruptcy by the end of 2008.
“When the business cratered, it was a huge shock,” recalls Maggelet, who previously ran Flying J’s small hotel operation with her husband, Chuck. “But I was convinced the business was a good business and that the people around me could right the ship.”
The executive who had been leading the company stepped down, ticketed to be replaced by another individual outside the family, who had helped steer Flying J through the bankruptcy process and reorganization. But the employees had other ideas.
I went to them and told them our president had resigned and that our CRO was going to be CEO. They did not like it at all. So the employees came to me and said, ‘Why don’t you become CEO? You’re family.’
Broadening the business
Taking the wheel of a sprawling business that had lost its way, Maggelet moved quickly to repay the organization’s creditors, reassure its employees and execute a reorganization plan built on tough choices: merging Flying J’s trucking business with its fiercest competitor, liquidating non-essential assets and refinancing a Salt Lake oil refinery that was draining capital from the company’s operating budget.
The organization emerged with a new mission statement, “Building Value to Last,” and a new name: FJ Management Inc. (FJM). The rebrand has broadened the business investment and expansion outlook from its previous incarnation as a petroleum-based corporation with related travel enterprises into one continually on the hunt for new industries and opportunities.
The oil industry, Maggelet believes, presents long-term risks and operational challenges, so she has pushed to diversify. In 2012, FJM acquired Maverik, a regional network of convenience stores known for their outdoor and adventure themes. Under FJM’s direction, Maverik has grown to more than 315 stores in 11 states throughout the West and Southwest. In addition, FJM continues to explore retail and real estate development.
The next big thing for FJM, and perhaps the boldest, is the launch of two businesses aimed at serving the country’s senior population: WellQuest Living residential facilities and GPS gerontology psychiatric hospitals.
“We’re 50 years old this year, and it seems timely to go into senior living,” she explains. “We don’t want to go way off the rails with what we do, [but] senior living makes sense for us.”
For Maggelet, branching into senior mental health services and high-quality housing captures her dual ambitions — to combine corporate profits with community outreach and social values. “We need to do something important socially, and working with seniors is huge,” she says. “It’s more than just the money. It’s a question of how I can use our business to benefit society.”
Planning for the long term
Her concern for social well-being extends to the corporate family. Employees whose children earn A’s in school qualify for bonuses, a practice that began years ago for low-income employees of her hotel chain. She hosts regular “campfires” — town halls — with FJM employees across the spectrum (an idea that originated with Maverik) to speak with them about the business, their concerns and where the company is heading. Something is working: annual turnover is less than 5%.
“I want the business to be generational,” she says. “I want people to believe that when they work for our company, that they don’t have to worry that something is going to happen. They can feel comfortable and believe that there is always opportunity.”
Family has always been at the heart of FJM, and Maggelet and her husband, who continues to manage the hotel business, see the next generation as no different. So which of her children might be her heir apparent? She’d like to see all of her kids involved, and two of her daughters, both currently college undergraduates, have admitted to having an interest in one day leading the business.
“There’s room in the business for all of them,” she says. “But for me the definition of family business isn’t just my own children. It’s all the families that work for us and their kids. I want to find the right people who are coming up through the ranks, whether they are family or not, and build our companies into the future so that they last forever.”